Tripitaka Festival Showcases Buddhist Marvel

A festival began Thursday celebrating the Tripitaka Koreana, a priceless collection of Buddhist scripture that is currently housed at Haein Temple in South Gyeongsang Province. It will run until Nov. 9.

The collection was carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks in the 13th century seeking divine intervention to ward off an invasion by the Mongols. It also ranks as the world's most comprehensive and oldest preserved version of Buddhist canon written in Chinese characters. It was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995.

Surrounded by the towering Mt. Gaya, the temple has served as the home of the Tripitaka Koreana since 1251. Its Janggyeong Panjeon was specifically built in the 15th century to store the woodblocks, given the beneficial effect of its natural surroundings in helping preserve them. It faces southwest to avoid the damp southeasterly winds from the valley below, while the cold north wind is blocked by the mountain peaks. Meanwhile, differently sized windows on the northern and southern sides provide adequate ventilation.

During the festival, a rock carving of the Buddha will also be unveiled to the public for the first time in 1,200 years.

Near the temple is a six-km road that includes a Buddhist-themed path running beside a mountain stream. The colorful fall foliage adds to its beauty during the fall.

Various pieces of art relating to the Tripitaka Koreana line the path, inspired by the works of artists who spent months meditating at the temple.

Apart from exhibiting some of the oldest wooden blocks, the festival includes a movie theater featuring advanced technology and special effects, and an exhibition about the history of the Koryo Dynasty, which governed the country when the Tripitaka Koreana was created. In addition to historical relics, the main exhibition hall details how the wooden blocks were made and preserved.

Those who purchase tickets can also enjoy discounted meals and accommodation, as well as special promotional prices for local baseball games. Tickets cost W10,000 for adults (US$1=W1,075).

For more details, call 055-211-6251 or access its website at www.tripitaka-festival.com.

englishnews@chosun.com / Sep. 27, 2013 10:47 KST