One of the most famous sights in the land, the eighty-thousand-plus wooden blocks of Buddhist doctrine known as the Tripitaka Koreana were first carved out in the eleventh century, over a 76-year period, in an attempt to curry the favour of the Buddha in a time of perpetual war. Though the originals were destroyed by rampaging Mongol hordes in the thirteenth century, the present set were carved shortly after that, and once again every possible measure was taken to please the Buddha. The best wood in the area was tracked down then soaked for three years in seawater before being cut to shape and boiled. The slabs then spent another three years being sheltered from sun and rain but exposed to wind, until they were finally ready for carving. Incredibly, not a single mistake has yet been found in over fifty million Chinese characters, a fact that led other countries to base their own Tripitaka on the Korean version. A superb feat of craft, patience and devotion, the outer spines of these blocks are still visible today at Haeinsa temple, and the set has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

South Korea features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood

Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood

Itaewon, a neighbourhood in the South Korean capital Seoul, is on the up and food is at the forefront of its renaissance. Here Amy Guttman explores a district u…

14 Jan 2016 • Amy Guttman insert_drive_file Article
Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?

Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?

What once began as a marketing ploy for a therapeutic mud found near Boryeong, a small city on South Korea’s sandy west coast, has since transformed into a un…

17 Jul 2015 • Colt St. George insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook