Tripitaka Koreana and Donguibogam

4. Korea, a country of remarkable documentary heritage
 - Our pride of UNESCO world heritage (6 minutes)

Production period: 16 years (1236 ~ 1251)

Total number of workers involved: Over 200 thousand

Total number of lacquer trees used: Around 400 thousand

Made from 15 thousand wild cherry and pear trees

Consisted of 81,258 woodblocks

52 million characters on the woodblocks
A minimal number of typos

Beautiful and consistent style of writing, as if carved by a single skilled craftsman

A weight of 280 tons

If all the woodblocks were stacked up, it would be a height of 3,250 meters.
That is even higher than Mt. Baekdu (2,744 meters)

Palman Daejanggyeong (The Tripitaka Koreana) 

Palman Daejanggyeong is a compilation of 4,700 Buddhist scriptures from all over East Asia.

It is the world’s oldest known and best preserved collection of Buddhist scriptures.

This remarkable documentary heritage set the standard for Buddhist scripture collections in Asia, and is still being used as a foundation for Buddhist research around the world.

Haein Temple, home of Palman Daejanggyeong

Palman Daejanggyeong was an expression of the Goryeo people’s wish for peace and protection from foreign invasions.

These printing woodblocks are a valuable resource not only as a collection of Buddhist scriptures, but also as an encyclopedia that contains the history, folktales, and lifestyles of the time.

Palman Daejanggyeong being preserved
Over 80 thousand woodblocks have been perfectly preserved for nearly 800 years.

The secret to this remarkable preservation was the conservation techniques of Goryeo, which was a leading country in printing technology.

The Janggyeong Panjeon, the depository of Palman Daejanggyeong, was built with precise calculations of the amount of sunlight, humidity, and the direction of the wind.

The upper and lower windows were made in different sizes to ensure the best ventilation and prevent the erosion of the woodblocks.

The floor was built with layers of salt, charcoal, sand and clay.
Such a composition of materials was intended to absorb humidity during the rainy season and maintain humidity during the dry season.

Thanks to these scientific techniques, the Janggyeong Panjeon has suffered no damage from humidity since its construction.

During the Imjin War, the Japanese army advanced toward the Haein Temple.
However, Korean militias fought back desperately and protected Palman Daejanggyeong.

Ancestors also risked their lives to protect Palman Daejanggyeong from 16 large fires.

 The Imjin War

In 2007, Palman Daejanggyeong was listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

 UNESCO Memory of the World Certificate for Palman Daejanggyeong

 In 1596

 King Seonjo, the fourteenth king of the Joseon Dynasty 

 The king gave an order to his physician, Heo Jun.

 “Compile our own medical books!”

 Three duties were attached to the royal order.

First, most diseases come from inadequate eating and bad habits. Take preventive measures first and then use medication.

Second, prescriptions tend to be unnecessarily complicated. Summarize the main points.    

Third, use plain names for medicine to make sure that anyone can understand them.

 Donguibogam (Principles and Practices of Eastern Medicine)

Heo Jun understood the king’s intention to help ordinary people who suffer from diseases.
Soon, he began working on compiling medical books with a talented team of experts.

The process wasn’t easy. He had to move from place to place due to a war and the vicious slanders of his opponents.

However, Heo took the king’s order to heart and continued the compilation work.  

Finally, 14 years later in 1610, he completed Donguibogam, which would later be called “the encyclopedia of Eastern Medicine”

 Donguibogam, the encyclopedia of Eastern Medicine

Treatment techniques were explained in plain language that anyone could easily understand.

Suggested medicines were those that were easily accessible.
Local names were also indicated.

 Heo’s illustration of governing vessel meridian / conception vessel meridian
 Heo’s illustration of spleen / heart
 Heo’s illustration of kidney / lung

Heo Jun didn’t just compile existing medical books.
He also incorporated traditional folk remedies.

Besides, he added his own techniques that he learned from his medical practice.

A silver acupuncture needle and its container used in the Joseon Dynasty
After the completion of Donguibogam, it was exported to China and Japan. It earned a reputation as ‘a treasure of the world’ and ‘an encyclopedia bible of medical knowledge.’

For the last 400 years, Donguibogam has been published all around the world, including in Southeast Asia.

 ‘Treasure of the world’ / ‘Encyclopedia bible of medical knowledge’

Use of medicine that was easily accessible to ordinary people
Use of plain Korean language for descriptions of treatment techniques 

 Donguibogam first edition and its Korean language version

Donguibogam was a result of Heo Jun’s dedication to the well-being of the public.

In 2009, Donguibogam was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register as the seventh Korean entry on the record. 

  UNESCO Memory of the World Certificate for Donguibogam

With the inscription of Donguibogam, Korea has become the country with the highest number of UNESCO-recognized documentary heritages in Asia and the 6th most in the world.

 1997 Hunmin Chongum Manuscript

 1997 Joseon Wangjo Sillok (The Annals of the Choson Dynasty)

 2001 Jikji

 2001 Seungjeongwon Ilgi (The Diaries of the Royal Secretariat)

 2007 Palman Daejanggyeong (The Tripitaka Koreana)

 2007 Uigwe (The Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty)

 2009 Donguibogam (Principles and Practice of Eastern Medicine)

 Where there are paper and printing, there is a revolution.
- Thomas Carlyle (1795 ~ 1881), British historian

In its 5000 years of history, Korea has always valued documentary records.

Throughout its history, Korea has led great revolutions in many areas, such as illiteracy eradication (Hunminjeongeum), information technology (Jikji), medical welfare (Donguibogam), and national unity (Palman Daejanggyeong).




 Palman Daejanggyeong
This documentary heritage inspires young Koreans for the next revolutions. 

Young VANK members will make our history and culture engage in an unending dialogue with the world and with the future of humanity.

 VANK’s various efforts to promote Korean culture

 History is an unending dialogue between the present and the past.
- Edward Hallet Carr (1892 ~ 1982), British historian

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