Haeinsa is one of the ‘Three Jewel Temples of Korea’ and a World Heritage Site.
The temple is inside Gayasan National Park, in Gyeongsangnam Province. I was there at 10 am when the monks’ prayer began and filled the temple.
Of the ‘Three Jewels of Korean Buddhism’, it is the one which represents ‘dharma’, that is the Buddha’s teachings.
And that is because Haeinsa stores the woodblocks for the Triptaka Koreana
In the 13th century, the Mongols were invading the Goryeo Kingdom, so they did the obvious thing: they asked the Buddha for help.
Thus, for sixteen years, monks carved the Triptaka Koreana onto woodblocks, which is the complete collection of Buddhist texts today in order to secure the Buddha’s assistance.
They carved 81,258 wood blocks (to learn more about Korean printing, see this post about the Jikji in Cheongju.
I’m guessing that the stone pagoda above dates back to the Silla dynasty, which is when Haeisa was originally constructed.
I like the dragon head on the roof.
During the Japanese invasion of 1592, the temple burned down, yet the building storing the wooden printing blocks was spared. The temple burned down again in 1812, yet the wooden printing blocks again were spared.
During the June 25th War (a.k.a. the Korean War), the UN forces were ordered to bomb Haeinsa, but Kim Young Hwan, who led the pilots, did not obey the command because he did not want to destroy the Triptaka Koreana. Thus the wooden blocks were spared a third time.
The wooden blocks are stored in the Janggyeong Panjeon, which was built in the early Joseon period.
To quote Wikipedia:
The architects also utilized nature to help preserve the Tripitaka. The storage complex was built at the highest point of the temple and is 655 meters above sea level. Janggyeong Panjeon faces southwest to avoid damp southeasterly winds from the valley below and is blocked from the cold north wind by mountain peaks. Different sized windows on the north and south sides of both main halls are used for ventilation, utilizing principles of hydrodynamics. The windows were installed in every hall to maximize ventilation and regulate temperature. The clay floors were filled with charcoal, calcium oxide, salt, lime, and sand, which reduce humidity when it rains by absorbing excess moisture which is then retained during the dry winter months. The roof is also made with clay and the bracketing and wood rafters prevent sudden changes in temperature. Additionally, no part of the complex is exposed to sun. Apparently, animals, insects, and birds avoid the complex but the reason for this is unknown. These sophisticated preservation measures are widely credited as the reason the woodblocks have survived in such fantastic condition to this day.
Visitors are not allowed inside the Janggyeong Panjeon, but I was allowed to walk outside and see the woodblocks of the Triptaka Koreana through the windows.
Photography of the windows of the Janggyeong Panjeon not permitted … for regular visitors. However, you can find photos of the woodblocks in storage on the internet.
I only stayed at Haeinsa Temple for a few hours, but this visitor stayed there overnight.
Ah, it was a beautiful day when I went. I didn’t remember how lovely it was until I looked through these photos again.