Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Exhibition marks 1,000 years of Buddhist scripture

For the Buddhist community, this year has been the year of the millennial anniversary of the Tripitaka Koreana, the world’s oldest Buddhist canons in Chinese script carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks in the 13th century.
UNESCO described the Tripitaka Koreana as “one of the most important and most complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal texts in the world.”

Various museums across the country have been celebrating the landmark year with special exhibitions, the latest of which is being held at the National Palace Museum of Korea until Dec. 18.

Organized by the Cultural Heritage Administration, the exhibition shows rare original copies of texts that served as the basis for the Tripitaka Koreana during the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392).

A little background knowledge of Tripitaka Koreana is key to appreciating the exhibition.

It was believed that the scriptures would be helpful in guarding the country from foreign aggression. So the Goryeo Kingdom started to establish the wooden canons, but they were burned by Mongolian forces in 1232. The Tripitaka Koreana, stored at the Haein Temple in South Gyeongsang Province, was reconstructed as a replacement. Fortunately for posterity, the original texts of the burned canons still survive in various locations here and in Japan.

Excerpts from these texts and related artifacts are being shown at the ongoing exhibition at the National Palace Museum of Korea.
The exhibition is also an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Heritage Administration.

Over 40,000 artifacts from the palaces of Joseon Kingdom (1392-1897) and the Korean Empire (1897-1910) are on display at the museum in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. Admission is free.

For English speakers, there is a guided tour at 3 p.m. The museum is open daily, except for Mondays. For more information, visit www. gogung.go.kr or call 02-3701-7500.

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