Silla travel journal returns to Korea
By Chung Ah-young
The 8th-century travel journal of a Silla Buddhist monk and owned by the National Library of France will be on exhibition for the first time at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul.
“Wang Ocheonchukguk Jeon or “The Memoir of the Pilgrimage to the Five Kingdoms of India” will be on display at the special exhibition of “Silk Road and Dunhuang” in December.
The Korean museum officially requested the French library in April to loan the journal to Korea and stressed the importance of the exhibition of the artifact when it invited Bruno Racine, library director here on June 14. The museum said that the French counterpart finally informed them of its decision to loan the treasure to Korea on June 24, after some deliberation.
The travel journal was written by Ven. Hyecho (704-787) of the Unified Silla Kingdom in the early 8th century. The existing journal consisting of 5,893 classical Chinese characters in 227 lines is a scroll of manuscript and slightly damaged on the front and back.
The journal is 28.5 centimeters in width and 358.6 centimeters in length and is the first overseas travelogue written by a Korean. It is regarded as one of the best historical travel journals as it provides information about political, cultural and economic customs of India and central Asia at that time. The five Indian kingdoms in the work refer to West, East, North, South and Central India.
The journal had been thought to be lost for many years but was rediscovered by French explorer Paul Pelliot (1878-1945) who purchased it from the Dunhuang grotto on the Silk Road in China in 1908.
The journal will be shown in Korea 1,283 years after the document was first written in 727.
In the “Silk Road and Dunhuang” exhibition, not only the journal but also 200 pieces of relics related to the Silk Road on loan from 10 Chinese museums is part of the exhibit from Dec. 18 to April 3, 2011.