The Janggyeong Panjeon at Haeinsa Temple was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, along with Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto and Jongmyo Shrine.
Located in Hapcheon, South Gyeongsangdo Province, the cultural relic contains wooden printing blocks of the Tripitaka Koreana, a collection of the world’s most comprehensive and oldest intact Buddhist scriptures.
Tripitaka is known as the compilation of all Buddhist canons. The Tripitaka Koreana was created in the 13th century during the Goryeo Kingdom in the hopes of fending off Mongol invaders through Buddha’s spiritual help.
I hear hundreds of thousands of Mongol troops have crossed the border again. Our soldiers are exhausted and the people’s pain is only growing due to constant wars. What are we going do?
Your Majesty, you know that Taejo, the founder of the Goryeo Kingdom, adopted Buddhism as the state religion and told people to rely on Buddha’s words.
Are you suggesting that we create the Tripitaka with Buddhist scriptures carved on it? I heard that the Chojo Tripitaka was made 200 years ago when the Khitans attacked, and the invaders eventually retreated.
Right, but unfortunately, the Chojo Tripitaka was lost to fire during a Mongol invasion. But this time again, I believe we should defeat the foreign enemy through the power of Buddha.
In 1236, King Gojong of the Goryeo Dynasty instructed his officials to carve Buddhist scriptures on wooden blocks in order to protect the nation from repeated Mongol invasions.
Sixteen years later, in 1251, the Tripitaka Koreana was completed at last.
To prevent wood from being distorted, wood was cut during the winter and was soaked in seawater for two years before being dried for another one year. The wood was then cut into blocks and the carving work began.
Carpenters, calligraphers and monks selected from all around the nation made a deep bow three times before carving each single letter.
644 letters were engraved on each wooden block that is 70 centimeters wide, 25 centimeters long and about 3.5 centimeters thick.
That means the craftsmen bowed more than 1,900 times to complete one single block. With utmost respect and sincerity, they created more than 80,000 wooden blocks.
That is why it is called “Palman Daejanggyeong” in Korean, which means “Eighty-Thousand Tripitaka.” It is the world’s oldest Tripitaka in existence, representing the pinnacle of woodblock printing technology. The Tripitaka Koreana was added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World list in 2007.
But this invaluable relic, which is dubbed “A Thousand Years of Wisdom,” would not have been preserved properly without the Janggyeong Panjeon Hall at Haeinsa Temple.
Monk, the building in the front has larger windows in the lower part than those in the upper part, while the building in the rear has larger windows in the upper rows than those at the bottom. Is that right?
Right. It’s an important job, so please do the work with all your heart.
I will. But it’s the very first time for me to make windows like these, although I’ve been working as a carpenter for half a century. Is there any special reason for that?
The wooden blocks would easily rot if it is too humid. If the air is too dry, on the other hand, they would crack. It is necessary to make lattice windows with different sizes on the outer walls of the buildings to improve ventilation.
The Tripitaka Koreana was kept at Seonwonsa Temple on Ganghwado Island during the Goryeo era. It was moved to Haeinsa Temple in 1398, the seventh year of King Taejo of the Joseon Dynasty.
The temple was entrusted with a grave mission to preserve the precious heritage. In 1488, the temple completed a structure that would embrace the wind.
The Janggyeong Panjeon comprises two long wooden buildings facing each other. Both measure 15 kans across the front and two kans across the side. “Kan” is the traditional unit of measurement, referring to a length between two supporting pillars.
Each building has two rows of windows with different sizes, so the outside air coming into the building can circulate inside the hall and then exit the building in the opposite direction.
The floors are filled with salt, charcoal and red clay to help adjust the temperature and humidity.
For adequate ventilation, the storage hall was built at the highest point of the temple on the hillside of Mt. Gayasan, 655 meters above sea level.
Thanks to the astonishing natural ventilation system, the Tripitaka Koreana has remained intact 700 years after its creation.
The Janggyeong Panjeon makes the most of nature and science to conserve the Tripitaka Koreana, a great masterpiece of humankind.
With its amazing design, it earned UNESCO World Heritage status. The structure is indeed the space of wisdom that has protected the ancient Korean relic so well for so long.