The Chikji Shimche Yojol's Long Awaited Coming of Age

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The Chikji Shimche Yojol's Long Awaited Coming of Age

The movable metal type was developed to speed up the engraving process used in wooden blocks printing. In 1377 the world's first movable metal type was developed at Hungdok Temple, North Chungchong province, according to Hwang Yin-kyung, a public information officer for the Cheongju International Printing and Publishing Expo 2000. The first annual event whose theme is "Past Millennium & New Millennium of Letter Culture" will be held from Sep. 22 until Oct. 22 at the Cheongju Arts Center, Cheongju City, North Chungchong Province.

The Chikji Shimche Yojol (6.7cm in height and 54cm in length), the first book printed by the Hungdok moveable metal type, is a two-volume set containing the selected sermons of Korean Buddhist sages and Zen masters. These sermons outline the steps to be taken on the path toward Zen enlightenment. Its author was a Buddhist priest named Paegun Hwasang.

"The first volume disappeared with no historical record and the second one, when found, was brought to France by the noted bibliographer Maurice Courant in the late 19th century," Hwang said. "There it was housed in the French National Library."

Mr. Hwang insists that nobody in Korea knew of the second volume's existence and historical significance until its inaugural appearance at the 1972 France World Book Festival. Park Byung-won, a librarian at the French National Library, introduced it to the world.

"At the festival, the Chikji Shimche Yojol attracted a lot of attention from all over the world," Yoo Sung-jong, president of the organization committee, says. He explains that the book did not gain official recognition as the first moveable metal type print as a result of its initial display, and claims to the contrary were simply rumors.

Based on the book "Memory of the World" published by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Gutenberg Bible (1455) is listed as the world's oldest book printed by a movable type.

"In order to correct history, we try to reveal the truth about the world's first movable type printing," Yoo said.

According to the organizers, the Cheongju International Printing and Publishing Expo 2000 will consist of 7 pavilions which include four themes: "Chikji" and old printing, letters and printing/publishing, electronic publishing and telecommunications, and digital and future printing.

"It will be a lot of fun; you will experience many things if you keep an open attitude toward learning. There will be a public contest for Hangul letter type, a cutting-edge multimedia show and a demonstration of old printing techniques," Yoo Sung-jong added.

Cheongju International Printing and Publishing Expo 2000's hidden significance is that it will be held at the birthplace of the world's oldest remaining book printed with wooden blocks, the Darani Sutra (A.D. 751).

For more information, call the Cheongju International Printing and Publishing Expo 2000 organizing committee at 043-220-6859.

by Kim Jae-seon

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