Wooden printing blocks for Buddhist scriptures

Among the cultural heritage of the Korean nation is "80 000 Wooden Blocks of Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures" made in the period of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).

The complete collection, known as a Buddhist encyclopedia embracing all Buddhist scriptures and relevant books, consists of 6 793 volumes in over 1 530 kinds in book form. The number of wooden blocks for its printing reaches more than 80 000, hence the name.

Its publication began in the first half of the 11th century in Koryo.

The first printing of the collection by wood blocks was made in 1087, but it was burnt by foreign aggressors in 1231.

Its publication resumed in 1236 and ended in 1251. Wood blocks made in those days are now preserved in their original state in the building of the Pohyon Temple which is used as the archive of the Myohyangsan History Museum.

Machilus thunbergii, Betula schmidtii and Betula platyphylla were used as materials for wooden blocks, and the size of each block is 69.6 centimetres in length, 24 centimetres in width and 3.7 centimetres in thickness. Each block contains 22 lines and each line consists of 14 letters. The letters and blocks remind viewers of sculptures.

Wooden bars were added on both ends of each block and bronze bands were placed on its four corners to prevent it from being twisted and worn out. They were all lacquered to keep them from worms.

And the date of composition, titles of scriptures, names of wood cutters, number of volumes and others were also carved on the blocks.