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Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks print

Haeinsa Temple Janggyeongpanjeon

A Great Legacy Born out of National Crisis

One thousand years ago in Korea, the Goryeo Daejanggyeongpan (Tripitaka Koreana) was crafted, containing the entire Buddhist canon. Among all the collections of Buddhist scriptures translated into classical Chinese, the Tripitaka Koreana is the oldest and most accurate, making it one of the greatest documented heritages of Korea and the world. Even to this day, the Tripitaka Koreana has remained perfectly preserved. The reason that it has remained unchanged and passed down from generation to generation in its entirety is because of the existence of the Janggyeongpanjeon. This building reflects the skills and intelligence of its creators as they built a structure capable of withstanding the test of time and an everchanging envrionment to store the priceless treasures within.

There is a temple in Korea that holds two UNESCO-recognized heritage sites within its walls. This is Haeinsa Temple, located in Hapcheon, Gyeongsangnam-do. Haeinsa Temple was made in AD 802 during the Silla Period, and has remained strong for over 1,200 years. It is home to the Tripitaka Koreana (also known as the Goryeo Tripitaka) – a UNESCO Memory of the World – and Janggyeongpanjeon – a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

The Tripitaka Koreana contains all the teachings of Buddha. Although Buddhist scriptures can be found in any country with Buddhist roots, the Tripitaka Koreana is the oldest Buddhist canon written in classical Chinese, and is said to be of the best quality in the world.

The Buddhist canon is divided into three main sections: Gyeong, the sutras of Buddha's teaching; Yul, the rules and precedents to be kept by Buddhist monks; and Ron, analyses and commentary of the scriptures by revered monks of high learning and virtue. The text also contains the life stories of Buddhist high priests, the history of Buddhism, a dictionary list explaining the tones and meanings of Buddhist terminology, making it a comprehensive collection of all things related to Buddhism.

Recommended Route

Haeinsa Temple Entrance → Iljumun Gate → Gosamok → Bonghwangmun Gate → Haetalmun Gate → Gugwangnu → Beomjonggak → Samcheungseoktap & Seokdeung → Daejeokgwangjeon → Daebirojeon → Janggyeongpanjeon & Koreana Tripitaka (approx. 1 hr, 10 min - 1 hr, 30 min)

Haeinsa Temple is one of Korea's three major Buddhist temples. In addition to the Tripitaka Koreana and the Janggyeongpanjeon, the temple is home to many important Buddhist artifacts. It's important to tour the temple with a plan first, otherwise it is easy to pass by many important sites. If you focus on the central area of the temple, you will be able to experience a more convenient and effective tour. However, if you have enough time, following the mountain trail around Haeinsa's Wondangam and Baeknyeonam hermitages is another good way to see the area.

Goryeo was the dynasty that succeeded Silla and reigned over most of the Korean peninsula from 918-1392. At that time, Buddhism dominated as the universal ideology of the Orient. The Buddhist canon is one of the most important things in Buddhism, and is a cultural asset that cannot be produced without exercising strong cultural, economic, and political power. The fact that such an enormous cultural heritage was made during the Goryeo Period points to the high status of the state as an advanced nation.

Before Goryeo produced the Tripitaka Koreana we know today, the nation had a different set of Buddhist scriptures. In January 1011, the second year of King Hyeonjong of Goryeo, the Khitan of the Chinese Liao Dynasty invaded Goryeo. During the invasion, the capital city of Gaegyeong (now Gaeseong in North Korea) fell to the enemy, and the king fled to Naju, Jeollanam-do, where he rallied national power and public sentiment to inscribe the Buddhist canon. This act of producing a copy of the Buddhist canon was seen as a way to protect the nation and ward off aggression by foreign powers. The copy of the Buddhist scriptures first made by Goryeo was known as the Chojo Daejanggyeong (the First Edition of the Tripitaka Koreana). In 1096, to remedy the parts found lacking in the first edition, materials were gathered from the Song Dynasty, the Liao Dynasty, and Japan in order to produce the Goryeo Sokjanggyeong (an improved and more complete edition of the Buddhist canon). This version was completed over a span of 10 years. Unfortunately, both the Chojo Daejanggyeong and the Goryeo Sokjanggyeong were lost by fire during the Mongolian invasion of January 1232.

The Mongolian invasion left the whole country in ruins and the people trembling with anxiety. In order to evade the Mongolians, who lacked naval battle expertise, the king moved the capital from Gaegyeong to Ganghwado Island, near Incheon. A new set of Buddhist scriptures started to be produced so that the country would be protected from the Mongolian invasions. In order for the country to rise up against its enemies, military forces needed to be trained, but it was seen as more important to rally and unite the hearts of the people.

The Most Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures in the World

Making the Tripitaka Koreana was no easy task. Started in 1236 and completed in 1251, the Tripitaka Koreana took about 16 years to complete. To oversee production of the canon, a temporary administrative office called Daejang Dogam was established on Ganghwado. A branch of the organization was also established on Namhaedo Island, Gyeongsangnam-do. One of the reasons for the establishment of the branch on this island was that the southern part of the island produced a lot of the lumber needed for making the Tripitaka Koreana.

The Tripitaka Koreana is also known as the Palman Daejanggyeong (the Eighty-Thousand Tripitaka). As this name implies, the number of wood printing blocks that make up the Tripitaka Koreana is over 80,000. However, since the blocks are printed on both sides, there are more than 160,000 sides of print. Each side is carved with about 322 characters, making for a total of around 52 million characters in all. If you stack the woodblocks one on top of the other, the pile would be 3,200 m high, taller than that of Baekdusan Mountain (alt. 2,744 m), the tallest mountain on the Korea Peninsula. If you were to lay the woodblocks side by side, they would stretch as long as a staggering 60 km. In short, producing the woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana was no small undertaking.

In order to carve this huge amount of lettering, falling these trees was the first thing needed to be done. Most of the trees used to make the wooden printing blocks were wild cherry trees or wild pear trees. This was because the wood of these trees is smooth and absorbs ink well, making it good for printing. After the trees were felled, they were left to soak in seawater for 3 years. After this, they were boiled in saltwater and left in the shade for a long time to dry. This was done to prevent the wood from warping or cracking and to deter harmful insects and other vermin from destroying the wood. When the wood was boiled in saltwater, the grain of the wood also became softer and it was much easier to carve the letters.

After the lumber was dried, it was cut into planks. Then, each side was sanded flat so that the letters could be carved more easily. Finally, wooden end pieces called maguri, which were made of longer and thicker wood than the plank itself, were placed on both ends of the plank. The addition of maguri kept the wood from warping, stopped the printing surfaces from bumping into each other and getting damaged, and facilitated airflow – all of which were crucial in preservation of the woodblocks.

After the wooden printing blocks had been made, it was time to carve in the text. However, before the text could be engraved on the wooden printing blocks, the contents of the Tripitaka Koreana had to be compiled and checked. The person placed in charge of the proofreading and woodcutting of the Tripitaka Koreana was a Buddhist priest named Sugi. Priest Sugi meticulously compared the contents of Goryeo's Chojo Daejanggyeong with famous Chinese scriptures, checking for any misspellings or missing content. In this way, Priest Sugi put together the most accurate version of the text.

After the contents were arranged, they had to be moved over and written on paper. This work fell to the Sagyeongseung (Buddhist monks at the temple in charge of copying the text). Due to the sheer volume of content, it was said that it took the equivalent of 50,000 days to complete. What is fascinating is that even though the text was written by a team of several people in standardized Chinese Ouyang Xun-style calligraphy, the team inscribed with such adept consistency that it looks much as if it were written all by one person.

All of these preparations had to be completed before the manuscript could be attached to the wooden printing blocks and the carving could begin. After carving one character, the carver would have to stop and perform one jeol (a bow done out of respect or reverence); this process was repeated more than 52 million times, one bow for each character in the text. Since one carver's daily output was only about 40 characters, an staggering number of people would have been needed to carve all 52 million characters. The work was not finished even after all the characters were carved. Next, a printing had to be made using the printing blocks to check the work. If there was a problem with the printing, the corresponding character would be dug out and fixed by attaching a piece of wood carved with the character.

The last step in making the wooden printing blocks was varnishing them with lacquer. This was done to keep the blocks in good condition and prevent the wood from rotting and insects from destroying it.

The wood printing blocks that were made through this process (including the maguri end pieces) were an average of 70 cm in length, 24 cm in width, 2.8 cm in thickness, and 3.25 kg in weight. The surface on which the characters were etched measured an average of 54 cm in length and 22 cm in width. Borderlines were made from top to bottom on each plank. Each line contained about 14 characters, and each side of the board had 23 lines. Combining the two sides, this made for a total of 644 characters. The Tripitaka Koreana, made in this way, consists of a total of 81,137 wooden printing blocks divided into 6,802 volumes and 1511 titles. It is enshrined in the Janggyeongpanjeon of Haeinsa Temple.

Did you know? How Many Trees Were Needed to Make the Tripitaka Koreana?

The woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana are an average of 24 cm in length. The trees felled for production of the woodblocks were cut into planks that had to be at least 30 cm in thickness. Due to the immense amount of wood required, the diameter of the trees had to be at least 50-60 cm. It was said that 6-8 wooden printing plates could be made from a tree measuring 50-60 cm in diameter. If calculations are made according to these criteria, in order to make the over 80,000 wooden blocks of the Tripitaka Koreana, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 trees would have had to have been used.

Must See Haeinsa Seongbo Museum

The Seongbo Museum at Haeinsa Temple is where Haeinsa's Buddhist artifacts have been collected and placed on display. Housed in a modern building, the museum has a variety of artifacts on display, such as the portraits of noteworthy monks, Mokjohuirangjosasang (the oldest wooden sculpture in Korea), paintings of the Buddha's teachings, and more.

  • Within Haeinsa Temple grounds
  • 055-934-3150
  • 09:00-18:00 (Mar-Oct), 10:00-17:00 (Nov-Feb), 1-hr extension on weekends and holidays
    *Closed on Mondays
  • Adults 2,000 won Youth & Children 1,000 won
  • (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

Janggyeongpanjeon: Using the Forces of Nature

Janggyeongpanjeon is the building in which the Tripitaka Koreana is stored. In order to get there, one must first go through Haeinsa's Iljumun Gate, Bonghwangnu, and Gugwangnu, and pass by Daejeokgwangjeon, where the Buddha is enshrined. Janggyeongpanjeon is found on the highest point of Haeinsa Temple. Since it holds the Buddhist canon, it is a symbol of the high status of the temple.

In Korea, there are three large temples known as the Sambosachal. The word Sambo (three treasures) refers to Buddha, the law of Buddha, and the disciples of Buddha (Buddhist monks). Haeinsa Temple is where the second treasure, the law of Buddha (Tripitaka Koreana), is housed. Since the Tripitaka Koreana encompasses the law of Buddha, it is a symbol of Haeinsa Temple's high ranking as the Beopbosachal (the dharma-jewel temple).

The Janggyeongpanjeon is a rectangular building in the shape of an elongated 'ㅁ'. Janggyeongpanjeon consists of long buildings that run parallel to each other in the north and south, with shorter buildings perpendicular at both ends. The smaller buildings are the Dongsaganjeon and Seosaganjeon, where the Goryeo Gakpan is kept. The Goryeo Gakpan, along with the Tripitaka Koreana, is a valuable reference material through which we can learn much about the history of Korean Buddhism and the woodcutting skills of Goryeo.

The two longer buildings are Sudarajang and Beopbojeon, where the Tripitaka Koreana is stored. At first glance, the Janggyeongpanjeon looks like an ordinary structure without any special features. However, what is not visible is the architectural elements that allow for the natural ventilation and temperature and humidity regulation, which are crucial for the preservation of Buddha's words written on the Tripitaka Koreana. Janggyeongpanjeon is also recognized by UNESCO for the architectural prowess displayed in its creation and positioning – which takes full advantage of the natural environment.

Janggyeongpanjeon was built to the southwest on the Jubong Peak of Gayasan Mountain (alt. 1430 m). The terrain is such that it is blocked off to the north and open towards the south. As a result of this, there is a southeastern wind at Haeinsa Temple that comes up from the south and blows north. The reason the two main, longer buildings were built to the southwest in order to deflect the wind from hitting the front of Janggyeongpanjeon directly. Janggyeongpanjeon was built at an altitude of 655 m so that the humid air coming from the bottom of the mountain would be lose its humidity before reaching the top.

The southwestern positioning of the buildings is also related to the amount of sunlight. Since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the building's position in the southwest gives it long hours of daily sun exposure without any shadows directly in the front. These long hours of sun serve to dry out the humid air that blows into the building from the mountain. The temperature and moisture of the interior is automatically maintained by the sun exposure on all sides of the building and the dry air that passes through.

In order to prevent any corruption or changes to the Tripitaka Koreana, it is extremely important to set the climate conditions of the interior. Air must flow smoothly from right to left and top to bottom, and the temperature and humidity must remain fixed, regardless of the season or time of day.

So, what kind of equipment was installed in Janggyeongpanjeon to maintain these ideal standards? First, each wall was installed with several windows from top to bottom. On the front of the building, small windows were placed towards the top, while larger windows were put on the bottom. At the rear of the building, big windows were made on top, and smaller windows on the bottom.

This was to allow the cold air coming up from the mountain to enter in through the large windows in the front. Inside, the air circulates inside the building and gets warmer before exiting through the large windows in the back. This ventilation system may be the work of men, but the steady stream of air that flows through the building is the result of the natural climate.

Even the shelves where the Tripitaka Koreana is housed were scientifically and logically designed. The five-tiered shelves are placed lengthwise in two rows, one in the middle and one parallel to the back wall of the repository. Leaving enough space at the front not only allowed enough sunlight to come in through the large windows there, but was also effective in providing space to use the printing plates for scribing the Buddhist canon onto paper. Unlike the average bookcase in which the backs and sides are closed, the sides of the shelves here remain open, with space between the bottom shelf and the floor of the repository. This space was left so that air could circulate all the way from the top of the ceiling to the bottom of the floor, preventing the wooden printing blocks from retaining moisture. The wooden maguri (end pieces) of the Tripitaka Koreana also play an important role. When the woodblocks were stacked in the shelves, only these wider end pieces would touch, letting air flow in between the thinner printing surfaces of the blocks. The air that came through the windows in the front of the building would hit the horizontally placed shelves and make its way into every corner of the building before exiting out the windows at the back. The same principle applied to the inflow of air from the back. This extremely effective ventilation system is why there is almost no temperature difference between the air in the building near the ceiling and that at the bottom.

The floor of Janggyeongpanjeon is a dirt floor, not a wooden one. The floor as well is an example of scientific knowledge at work. Charcoal, lime powder, salt, and sand were laid down in that order, and packed down. In this way, the floor could absorb moisture during times of high humidity and give off moisture when the air was dry, thus regulating the humidity of the interior. It also served as a means of preventing blight.

The structure of Janggyeongpanjeon lets air continually circulate throughout the interior of building to its farthest corners, naturally maintaining a consistent temperature and moisture level. Thanks to this hidden science, the Tripitaka Koreana has been well-preserved in its entirety for over 1,000 years.

Did you know? The 108 Pillars of the Janggyeongpanjeon

Different from your average building, the Janggyeongpanjeon was not built with any interior walls, only pillars. This was because proper ventilation was extremely important for the preservation of the Tripitaka Koreana. In fact, there is a total of 108 pillars in all. Sudarajang and Beopbojeon halls have 48 pillars each, while Dongsaganjeon and Seosaganjeon halls have 6 pillars each. In Buddhism, the number 108 represents the cares and concerns of mankind. These are called the "108 earthly temptations," or "108 anguishes." It is said that when the six sensory organs (nose, ears, eyes, tongue, body, and mind) perceive an object, each does not have equal feelings of pleasure, pain, and neutrality. This gives rise to 18 different "temptations" or "anguishes." Since each of these 18 temptations include both secular and sacred feelings, this becomes 36 different temptations. Since each of these 36 temptations have a past, present, and future dimensions, this becomes a very sizeable 108 temptations. That Janggyeongpanjeon has 108 pillars is not by chance. It is said that the columns signify overcoming the 108 temptations through the 84,000 sutras and ascending to a state of nirvana.

Subway + Bus (Travel time: approx. 6 hrs, 30 min / Fare 27,950 won)

From Euljiro 1(il)-ga Station, take Subway Line 2 in the direction of Seongsu → At Euljiro 3 (sam)- ga, transfer to Subway Line 3 → Get off at the Nambu Terminal Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 5 (35 min / 1,250 won) → At the Seoul Nambu Terminal, take the intercity bus for Hapcheon (Gyeongbuseon Line) → Get off at the Hapcheon Intercity Bus Terminal (4 hrs, 30 min / 22,000 won) → From Platform No. 5, take the Bus for Haeinsa Temple → Get off at the Haeinsa Intercity Bus Terminal (1 hr / 4,700 won) → Go 2 km to Haeinsa Temple

Subway + Train + Bus (Travel time: approx. 4 hrs, 30 min / Fare 51,750 won)

From Jonggak Station, take Subway Line 1 in the direction of Incheon & Sinchang → Get off at Seoul Station (Subway Line 1), Exit 1 (5 min / 1,150 won) → From Seoul Station, take the KTX for Dongdaegu (Gyeongbuseon Line) → Get off at Dongdaegu Station (1 hr, 42 min / 42,800 won) → From Dongdaegu Station, take Daegu Subway Line 1 in the direction of Daegok → Get off at Seongdangmot Station, Exit 3 (20 min / 1,200 won) → From the Seobu bus stop, take the bus for Haeinsa Temple→ Get off at the Haeinsa Intercity Bus Terminal (1 hr, 30min / 6,600 won) → Go 2 km to Haeinsa Temple

More Info

1330 Korea Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

* Information above was updated as of December 2012.

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