On 30th August, 2016, Soren and I began the twelve hour flight from Melbourne to Incheon airport in Seoul. Here we were welcomed by the Jikji Organising Committee, who directed us to our taxi for the last leg of the journey. It was a surreal two-and-a-half-hour road trip in our jet-lagged state, rushing along the freeway in the drizzling rain, through towering, alien cities. Our destination was the grandiose Hotel Ramada Plaza in Cheongju, the capital and largest city of the North Chungcheong Province.

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Road trip from Seoul to Cheongju
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Hotel Ramada Plaza
View from Ramada
View of Cheongju city from Hotel Ramada (photo courtesy of http://www.aepm.eu/news/aepm-at-the-jijki-festival-in-south-korea/)

We spent our first day recovering from our flight and exploring some of the sights around the hotel. Cheongju is a rapidly-expanding modern city with a population of about 842,000. It is surrounded by agricultural land and mountainous national parks, which we were to visit in the days ahead.

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The streets of Cheongju
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Undeveloped land skirting brand-new development
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Parking in Cheongju: however you like!

Inauguration of the Jikji International Festival

On Thursday September 1st, Soren and I met the sixty other delegates, representatives of printing museums from around the world. Together we set out for the first destination on our program: a visit to Cheongju’s Early Printing Museum. It was on this site in 1377 that Buddhist monks printed the Jikji, the world’s oldest extant book produced with movable metal type.

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Cheongju Early Printing Museum

Guided by the museum’s head curator, Dr Jeong-Ha Hwang, and the director, Heung-Sik Shin, we were given a tour through Korea’s printing history, past displays of engraved stones, bowls and seals; woodblocks used to print Buddhist Sutras; ancient printed documents; and, of course, displays dedicated to the Jikji, including clay moulds and life-sized wax model monks replicating various steps in its creation.

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Replicas of woodblocks containing the Dharani Sutra, printed in 751, during the Tang Dynasty. At 6.5 centimeters by 642, these blocks produced the earliest form of book (the scroll) and comprise the earliest known woodblock printing technology.
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Dhatu-Karanda Dharani Sutra, printed on woodblocks in 1007 during the Goryeo Dynasty, which is considered to be the golden age of xylography (the art of printing texts or illustrations from woodblocks).
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Example of early print (above) made from movable metal type forme (below). Individual type pieces (sorts) are slotted into the frame and fixed in place with beeswax, before being inked-up and used for printing.
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These displays replicate the lost-wax method of casting, which monks used to create the individual pieces of type (sorts). Each sort was carved out of beeswax, then encased in a clay mould, into which the monks poured molten metal. The mould was then broken and the sort removed.
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See the segmented case into which the type is placed after it is extracted from the mould.
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Display wall of facsimile pages of the Jikji
Jikji Delegates
The museum’s head curator, Dr Jeong-Ha Hwang, with the International Association of Printing Museum delegates standing before the Jikji display.

After taking in the museum’s amazing exhibits we were escorted to the Cheongju Arts Center. Many of the displays for the festival were located on its grounds, including book, 3D printing and paper making stalls as well as interactive displays for children.

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We entered the Arts Center for the official opening of the Jikji International Festival. From front row seats we were treated to a performance by a traditional Korean orchestra and violin virtuoso. The inauguration ceremony involved a welcome from the city councilors and the award ceremony of the Unesco/Jikji Memory of the World prize for 2016. The purpose of the prize is to commemorate the Jikji and to reward efforts by organisations that contribute to the preservation and dissemination of documentary heritage to the world. In 2016 it was awarded to the Iberarchivos Programme for the Development of Ibero-Ameran Archives.

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Jikji violinist
(photo courtesy of http://www.aepm.eu/news/aepm-at-the-jijki-festival-in-south-korea/ )
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City councilors counting down and ‘stopping the clock’ for the opening of the Jikji festival.

After the countdown and opening of the festival we were able to wander the sites within proximity of the Arts Center. The highlight for me was a demonstration of traditional type casting (the method used for the Jikji) in the working foundry. If you would like to see a video of the sorts being removed from the sand mould, please see video at:

https://www.facebook.com/Harebrainedpressproject/

Sand Casting
(photo courtesy of http://www.aepm.eu/news/aepm-at-the-jijki-festival-in-south-korea/ )

Our first day of the festival had been action packed. What a wonderful introduction to Korea and its printing heritage!

R.I. Sutton.

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