Avatamsaka Sutra (The Flower Garland Sutra), Zhou Version, the First Tripitaka Koreana Edition, Volumes 2 and 75

UnknownGoryeo Dynasty, 12th century

Horim Museum

Horim Museum
Seoul, South Korea

The Flower Ornament Sutra (大方廣弗華嚴經, Kor. Daebanggwangbulhwaeomgyeong, or Hwaeomgyeong in short, Ch.Dafangguangfohuayanjing, Skt. Avatamsaka Sutra)is one of the most influential scriptures ofMahāvāna Buddhism.Mainly featuring the Vairocana Buddha, the scripture details the Buddhist path to full enlightenment. In the Korean Buddhist tradition, it is also one of the sutras studied in Buddhist seminaries. There have been three translations of the Sanskrit text to Classical Chinese to this date: the 60-fascicle Qin Dynasty translation; the 80-fascicle Zhou Dynasty (of Empress Wu) translation, to which this current text belongs; and the 40-fascicle Tang Dynasty Zhenyuan Era translation.
The 80-fascicle Zhou Dynasty translation was made by Śiksānanda (實叉難陀, 652-710), during the reign of Empress Wu of the Zhou Dynasty(695-699). It is widely considered the most complete, detailed, and eloquent translation of the three full-length translations of the Flower Ornament Sutra. Fascicles 2 and 75 are currently housed in the Horim Museum. These prints are of the first edition Tripitaka Koreana, or the Korean-printed Tripitaka. Its printing wood blocks were commissioned in the reign of the Goryeo Dynasty King Hyeonjong (1101-1031 C.E.), in order to invoke the power of the Buddha in repelling Mongolian Khitan invaders. Its original woodblocks have since been lost, but scattered prints such as these remain. These are significant as examples of the technological shift from manuscripts to printing that spread rapidly across East Asia between the tenth and eleventh centuries. The second edition of the Tripitaka Koreana is better known as “PalmanDaejanggyeong.” Its woodblocks were made a century later due to the first edition’s loss and the entire woodblocks are still extant.
Neither fascicle possesses scroll headers or cover illustrations, instead beginning directly with the fascicle title. Underneath the fascicle title is the index character su (垂) for fascicle 2, and su(首) for fascicle 75, as part of a system of indexing books using characters from the Thousand Character Classic (Ch. Qian zi wen, 千字文), similar to alphabetization. A thick line of ink is present at the head of fascicle 75, which has been trimmed out on fascicle 2. Above this line of ink are the words zhou (周), indicating the Zhou Dynasty Translation, and Jihyeon(智賢), the name of the scribe who carved the woodblock for fascicle 75.
As the Song dynasty Tripitaka served as the model for this script, its style bears resemblances to the script of Chinese Tang Dynasty Calligrapher Ouyang Xun. The printing paper is a typical early to middle Goryeo Dynasty paper, with excellent smoothing. There are variant characters written to avoid mention of royalty, as shown by missing strokes in the character Jing(敬), the posthumous title of the grandfather of the Song Dynasty Emperor Taizu, as well as the homophone Jing(竟).


  • Title: Avatamsaka Sutra (The Flower Garland Sutra), Zhou Version, the First Tripitaka Koreana Edition, Volumes 2 and 75
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: Goryeo Dynasty, 12th century
  • Physical Dimensions: w46.1 x d29.8 cm
  • Provenance: Horim Museum
  • Type: Book

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