Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 15:53:55

UNESCO recognises Buddhist woodblocks


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 garden.

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 sophisticated technique.

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 dissemination./.
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