No Ordinary Stamps


May 7, 2013 by travelinggrits

The buildings housing the woodblocks are roped off, with several guards patrolling the perimeter. Pictures are forbidden at close range.

But there are no special climate-controlled glass units or fancy low-energy light bulbs.  Although closely protected, you might be surprised to know that these nearly 800-year-old blocks are exposed to the elements, the winds and rain free to creep through the open shutters.

I stood in reverence, mulling over the miraculous life of those 80,000-plus woodblocks.

P1040363The repository of the oldest and largest collection of Buddhist scriptures, the Tripitaka Koreana, is found at Haeinsa temple, one of the three “jewel” temples of the Korean peninsula and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Despite threats from several natural disasters and fires and the Japanese occupation, the blocks have survived. The building was even spared during the Korean War when an American bomber, defied orders and changed the route, remembering the treasures stored there.

Any mistakes were so carefully carved out of the blocks and replaced that they look as though one man fashioned them all.

The blocks’ longevity can be attributed to both ingenuity and mystery. The buildings were built on a mountain far from the salty bite of the sea wind and the windows positioned to maximize ventilation and minimize the damp and cold. For some reason, bugs and other creatures have never trespassed its hallowed grounds. A modern storage facility was built with the intention of moving the blocks to a more secure location, but when the test blocks mildewed in this updated structure, the experts decided to leave well enough alone.

In a world of digital displays, instant communication and minute computer chips, these ancient print tools still impress.


One thought on “No Ordinary Stamps

  1. […] Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks […]

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