Archives for the 80 000 Blocks of the Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures

In Korea there are old books printed with 80 000 blocks. They are the Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures which were compiled during the Koryo dynasty (918–1392). They are a library of Buddhist literature comprising a colossal amount of books in classification. The engraving of the blocks began in 1011 and ended in 1087, and the scriptures consist of over 6 000 volumes.

Later, in the latter half of the 12th century, 4 769 volumes of over 1 000 kinds of Buddhist Scriptures compiled by the famous monk Uichon known as Taegakguksa were printed with wooden blocks for the second time by the Buddhist books publishing organ Kyojongdogam. However, all of them were burnt down by foreign aggressors in 1231. So, the third carving of Buddhist Scriptures in wooden blocks started in 1236 and ended in 1251. The complete Buddhist literature was printed in 6 793 volumes of over 1 530 kinds and carved in 80 000 wooden blocks. This is The 80 000 Blocks of the Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures handed down to this day as the world’s oldest and most complete Buddhist literature. It is also called Koryo Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures.

The wooden blocks were made of Machilus thunbergii, oak and white birch. Each block 69.6 cm long, 24 cm wide and 3.7 cm thick has 22 lines and 14 letters I n each line. The four corners of the block are protected with brass belts fixed with nails and wood bars are attached to both ends to prevent twist. The surface is lacquered to prevent rotting and moth-eating. It is now kept in the Pohyon Temple, Hyangsan County, North Phyongan Province. Thanks to the state policy on preserving legacy of national culture, it is kept at the storehouse equipped with modern facilities in Mt. Myohyang well-known as a scenic spot. In 1988 the National Classics Research Institute of the Academy of Social Sciences published the bibliographical introduction of the complete Buddhist literature in 25 volumes.

The 80 000 Blocks of the Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures comprises Buddhist doctrines and their interpretation, biographies of well-known monks and other contents absolutizing Buddhism, but still they remain a valuable cultural legacy of the Korean nation showing high printing techniques.

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