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   Age of Famed Woodblock Printing Still a Mystery 2008-09-30 / 13632  

A Buddhist scripture called the "Mugujeonggwang Daedaranigyeong" (Pure Light Dharani Sutra), found in the Seokgatap pagoda of Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, is believed to be the world's oldest woodblock-printed book, but a new study has failed to determine its precise age.
A research committee commissioned by the National Museum of Korea to study relics from Seokgatap said the book's age remains a mystery in an interim report announced on Saturday.

The original text of 'Mugujeonggwang Daedaranigyeong' (Pure Light Dharani Sutra).

The announcement came as a result of the committee's full translation of a document handwritten in Indian ink on 110 sheets of mulberry paper which was discovered in the pagoda along with the book. The document was translated in full for the first time since its discovery 41 years ago.

Seokgatap was repaired twice after earthquakes in 1024 and 1038. After the first repair in 1024, records claim that the book dating from the Shilla Dynasty was returned to the pagoda where it was found. After the second repair a new copy of the book was put inside the pagoda, according to records. During the excavation in 1966 only one copy of the book was found. No one knows whether the recovered version is the original from the Shilla Era or the Goryeo Era copy, the committee said.

The National Museum of Korea's formal position is that there is no evidence denying that the recovered book was made in the eighth century, but on Saturday it refused to comment on when it was made.

The National Museum of Korea formed the committee in April, commissioning scholars such as Ro Myoung-ho, a professor at the Department of Korean History of Seoul National University, and Lee Seung-jae, a professor at the Department of Linguistics of the SNU, to translate the scripture.

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