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Ancient Book of Buddhist Chantings Found

By Han Sang-hee, The Korea Times, Sept 13, 2009

Seoul, South Korea -- A Hangeul copy of an ancient Chinese book that contains the notes of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) scholar Kim Si-seup has been discovered.

The book was originally written by a Buddhist master from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and dates back to the 16th century.

``We discovered the `shiphyeondam eonhaebon' while we were examining the library of Ven. Seong Cheol (1912-1993) at Baekryunam, Haein Temple, in April this year,'' Ven. Won Taek said at a press conference at the Jogye Order, northern Seoul, Tuesday.

``It's a rare book ? perhaps even the only copy ? that is not included in the Natural Treasures list nor on the lists of national libraries and university libraries,'' he said.

An eonhae copy, or eonhaebon, is a book or writing that contains the literal translation of a sentence in Chinese to Hangeul, or Korean. It is different from the normal translation books as it features a word-for-word translation, and is far removed from the Hangeul sentences used today.

"Shiphyeondam'' refers to the 10 songs and poems made to praise Buddha's teachings, written by Tang Dynasty Buddhist master Dongan Sangchal of the Jodong Order of Zen Buddhism, a sect of the religion in China. The songs are comprised of seven Chinese characters and contain the traditions and the practices of the Jodong Order.

When the shiphyeondam came to Korea, it was rewritten in Chinese characters by Kim, along with his own notes in 1475. This was commonly known as the ``shiphyeongdam yohae.'' Kim was deeply interested in the Jodong Order at the time.

The eonhaebon discovered today is the translated version of the shiphyeongdam yohae, which was printed at Jeongsu Temple, Incheon, in 1548, 73 years after Kim's version saw the light of day.

Ven. Won Taek explained that the discovery was meaningful as the book was from the 16th century. Most of the eonhaebons known today are from the 15th century.

"We found many precious ancient books and eonhaebons while examining the library and we will apply these artifacts as Natural Treasures after examining the value of them. We will also make photo prints of the eonhaebons for ancient hangeul and writing experts to use them as research material,'' he added.

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