By Yun Suh-young
A renowned American scholar called for the renaming of the ''Tripitaka Koreana,'' a 13th-century collection of Buddhist texts engraved on 80,000 woodblocks and kept at the Haeinsa temple in North Gyeongsang Province. He said that the name misrepresents one of Korea's most significant cultural assets, now on the UNESCO cultural heritage list, because it doesn't properly represent the scale of the collection.
''Tripitaka Koreana is a misnomer and doesn't give a sense of the real scope and range of the materials found in Goryeo Daejanggyeong," said Robert Buswell, a distinguished professor of Buddhist Studies at UCLA, during a symposium on the Tripitaka Koreana in Seoul, Tuesday. The meeting was a build-up event for the annual Tripitaka Koreana Festival, scheduled from Sept. 27 to Nov. 10 this year.
''Tripitaka means the three divisions of the canon based on the old Indian model. The reality is that Goryeo Daejanggyeong is much bigger and broader in scale than is the nomenclature used for the Tripitaka Koreana,'' Buswell said.
He explained that the Tripitaka Koreana also includes travelogues, Sanskrit and Chinese dictionaries, biographies of monks and nuns, comprising a wider range of material than that kept in an Indian tripitaka.
''The term ‘tripitaka' is not an English term either. We use it in English but it's a term introduced into English from Sanskrit,'' said Buswell.
''The best is to call this the Korean Buddhist Canon, which will be the correct English translation of it or to simply call it the Goryeo Daejanggyeong as pronounced in Korean. We can transcribe the term so that the Korean term itself becomes part of the English nomenclature. We can introduce this into English as a standard term.''
While the official Korean name of the Tripitaka Koreana is Goryeo Daejanggyeong, it's more commonly called the ''Palman Daejanggyeong'' among locals. ''Palman'' means ''80,000'' in Korean.
Tripitaka Koreana was created over 16 years during the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392). It consists of 81,258 wooden blocks of Buddhist scriptures written with 52 million characters and considered the world's oldest and most complete version of the Buddhist canon. It was designated as Korea's National Treasure No. 32 in 1962 and as UNESCO's Memory of the World in 2007.