A collection of woodblocks printed with Buddhist Sutras was officially listed as world heritage by UNESCO on May 16.
The collection of valuable woodblocks was made in the early 14th
century by monks at the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda in the northern province
of Bac Giang.
The blocks tell a history of woodblock
carving in Vietnam and provide insights into the skilled work of the
pagoda's eminent monks.
The collection of more than 3,000
woodblocks provides a wide range of information on the formation,
development and ideology of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism, founded by King Tran
Nhan Tong in the 11th century.
A UNESCO official visited
Vinh Nghiem Pagoda and worked with provincial authorities in March to
work on the artefacts listing as ‘world documentary heritage'.
During the surveys, researchers noted that these woodblocks were carved
by artisans in Bac Giang, Bac Ninh and Hai Duong provinces during
different periods. They were made of thi wood taken from the pagoda's
This type of wood is soft, smooth, durable and
easy to carve and it rarely distorts or cracks. The woodblocks were
carved in Han Chinese or Nom scripts, using a very difficult and
The quality of the craftsmanship
of each woodblock reflects that the artisans were not only excellent
carvers but also skilled in arranging the documents and fluent in han
Chinese and Nom scripts.
The size of the woodblocks varies
depending on the categories of the sutras. The biggest woodblock is
over 1m in length and 40-50cm in width. The smallest one is only 15 by
20cm. The surface of the woodblocks has a shiny black colour, due to
leftover printing ink.
The UN culture agency launched the
Memory of the World Programme in 1992 to guard against collective
amnesia and to call upon the preservation of valuable archives and
library collections all over the world to ensure their wider