From Woodblocks to the Internet

This postcard intends to deal with the general printing history which has progressed down to the present age of information technology (IT). It covers not only Jikji but also Japanese Hyakumanto Darani, Chinese Diamond Sutra, and Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible. We want to introduce friends from all around the world to the development of printing technique and IT.


751 Darani Sutra Printed with Woodblocks in Korea
The Mugujeonggwang daedaranigyeong (Pure Light Darani Sutra) is the oldest extant printed document in the world. It was published in Korea before the year 751 A.D. during the Silla Kingdom. This scroll of Buddhist scriptures is printed from woodblocks. This Darani Sutra was found inside the Seokga Pagoda of the Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, Korea.

770 Hyakumanto Darani Printed with Woodblocks in Japan
The Hyakumanto Darani (One Million Pagodas and Darani Prayers) is a woodblock printing completed around the year 770 A.D. Empress Shotoku of Japan had one million wooden pagodas constructed to enshrine the Darani Sutra inside to restore peace in the country. The prayers were then enshrined in ten major temples.

868 Diamond Sutra Printed with Woodblocks in China
The Diamond Sutra (Diamond Cutter Sutra) is a scroll, published with woodblocks by Wang Jie to pray for the souls of his parents. A central text of Indian Buddhism, the Diamond Sutra was first translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in about 400 A.D. and is still widely read. This Diamond Sutra is now on display in the British Library.

1377 Jikji Printed with the Movable
In Korea, the movable metal type printing technique was invented in the early thirteenth century during the Goryeo Dynasty. One of its notable works, Baekunhwasangchorok Buljo jikjisimcheyojeol, usually abbreviated to Jikji (the Selected Sermons of Buddhist Sages and Seon Masters), was printed at the Heungdeok Temple in Cheongju in 1377 and is now kept in the French National Library. It is the oldest extant movable metal type printing in the world.

1040 Movable Type Printing invented by Bi Sheng
Supposedly during the years between 1041 and 1048, the first known movable type printing was created in China by Bi Sheng, a commoner, out of baked clay. Nevertheless, because it was made of clay, they faced difficulties in typesetting and printing. This prevented it from being widely used and further developed.

etc. Different Kinds of Books Produced Following Jikji
During the Joseon Dynasty, movable metal type was relentlessly developed. Following Gyemi characters in 1403, various sets of books were published with other characters, including Gyeongja characters in 1420, Gabin characters in 1434, and Byeongjin characters in 1436. After the promulgation of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, in 1446, the ‘Wolincheongangjigok’ was printed in Hangeul movable type.

1443 Hangeul, the Korean Alphabet, Created by King Sejong
Hangeul was promulgated by the fourth King of the Joseon Dynasty, Sejong the Great (1394-1450). Aware of difficulties people had faced using Chinese characters, King Sejong created the new script so that commoners could easily read and write. It is now acclaimed to be one of the most sophisticated and scientific languages in the world.

1455 Gutenberg’s Bible Printed with the Movable Metal Type
Gutenberg was the first in the Western world to invent the printing press by developing screw-type presses that had been in use for squeezing grapes and olive oil. He printed copies of the 42-line Bible between 1453 and 1455. His invention of the movable metal type technique was the motive of the Renaissance spread, The Religious Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, and the transformation into modern capitalism.

2001 Jikji, Inscribed on Memory of the World Register, UNESCO
The significant contributions of Jikji as the oldest existing metal printed book and its spreading influence on printing technology was recognized at the 5th International Advisory Committee of UNESCO on Memory of the World Register held in 2001. At that time, Jikji was finally inscribed in the Memory of the World Register. UNESCO awards the UNESCO/Jikji Memory of the World Prize to individuals or groups who make significant contributions to the preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage.

21st century IT Korea!
Korea is one of the world’s leading IT countries. Behind this success lies the development of diverse preconditions for printing techniques including papermaking technique, casting technique, stationery making and bookbinding, which paved the way for the emergence of Korea as the world’s IT power. Indeed, Korea has topped the global ‘digital opportunity index’ out of 180 countries for two consecutive years. This index measures a country’s degree of information technology advancement.

IT in Our Life!
It has been a daily routine for Koreans to listen to music flowing from MP3 players, use navigators, watch movies, and surf the Internet on notebooks and mobile phones with wireless Internet connections at any time, at any place. Also, it is common for students to take online courses, not to mention playing computer games. Information Technology is all around us!