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14th-century scripture found inside Buddha statue

Posted May. 25, 2017 07:17,   

Updated May. 25, 2017 07:33

A Goryeo Kingdom Buddhist scripture was found on Wednesday inside a Buddha statue at Silsangsa Temple in Namwon, North Jeolla Province.

The Research Institute of Buddhist Cultural Heritage said that it discovered "Daebanyabaramildagyeong," a foldable scripture written in silver letters, inside the head of a seated Budda statue at the temple. There are only four such scriptures found in Korea. Among them, the one found inside the Vairocana Buddha of Girim Temple in Gyeongju, is designated as national treasure No. 959.

The research institute said it found the scripture while putting the Budda statue through a three-dimensional computer tomography (CT) scan. The sutra was written with silver ink on paper made of mulberry tree.

The scripture, a transcription of Volume 396 of the 600-volume Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra, records that it was donated by a person named Yi Jang-gye and his wife. The institute looked up ancient books to find out about Yi, to no avail. "The scripture was made to honor their ancestors and to ward off bad luck," said Lim Seok-kyu, a researcher of the institute.

The Buddha statue was created in the early Joseon period, or in the 14th century. There are about 20 existing Buddhas made in the same way during the Goryeo and Joseon periods. The statue’s outer appearance changed due to various repairs. The institute discovered the original form under the gild surface through the CT scan.

Sang-Un Kim sukim@donga.com