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International forum on ancient Buddhist texts due in Seoul

Yonhap News, Aug 29, 2013

SEOUL, South Korea -- An international conference will be held next week in Seoul to discuss and promote the historic value of the Tripitaka Koreana, one of the world's oldest Buddhist scriptures, organizers said Thursday.

The forum, scheduled for Tuesday and organized as a preliminary event for a global Tripitaka festival kicking off next month, will bring together scholars and experts from the United States, Japan and South Korea at Plaza Hotel in central Seoul to explore the messages and structures of the 750-year-old Buddhist canon, they said.

It comes three weeks ahead of the 2013 Tripitaka Koreana Festival, which will be held in Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, 354 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from Sept. 27 through Nov. 10 to celebrate the creation of the historic scriptures.

The Tripitaka Koreana is a collection of Buddhist teachings and laws carved on more than 80,000 wooden printing blocks, created in the 13th century. It is considered as the most comprehensive set of Buddhist scriptures found to date, and the Haein Temple, where the texts are kept, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Speakers at the conference include Lewis Lancaster, an East Asian Studies professor at UC Berkeley, and Robert Buswell, a Korean and Chinese Buddhist Studies professor at UCLA, whose presentations will be followed by a panel discussion, according to the organizers.

A photo exhibition and an interactive session will also take place on the sidelines of the festival, they said.

The Tripitaka Koreana Festival was first held in 2011 to celebrate the millennial anniversary of the canon's creation. Around 2.2 million tourists visited the event during the 45-day run, according to the organizers.

This year's festival will offer a wider range of exhibitions and interactive sessions, the organizers said. Five exhibition halls, each with a different theme, will feature historic, cultural and entertainment programs on various topics related to the Tripitaka, they added.

"The Tripitaka Koreana Festival garnered attention as traditional cultural content and an iconic asset in the 21st century," South Gyeongsang Province Governor Hong Joon-pyo said. "We plan to prepare and organize the festival with an aim to promote a harmonious encounter and solidarity of mankind through wisdom and harmony."

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