No Ordinary Stamps

1

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.

Advertisements

One thought on “No Ordinary Stamps

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s