Jikji (Korean pronunciation: [tɕiktɕ͈i]) is the abbreviated title of a Korean Buddhist document, whose title can be translated "Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests' Zen Teachings". Printed during the Goryeo Dynasty in 1377, it is the world's oldest extant book printed with movable metal type. UNESCO confirmed Jikji as the world's oldest metalloid type in September 2001 and includes it in the Memory of the World Programme.
Jikji was published in Heungdeok Temple in 1377, 78 years prior to Johannes Gutenberg's acclaimed "42-Line Bible" printed during the years 1452–1455. The greater part of the Jikji is now lost, and today only the last volume survives, and is kept at the Manuscrits Orientaux division of the National Library of France.
The Jikji was written by the Buddhist monk Baegun (1298–1374, Buddhist name Gyeonghan), who served as the chief priest of Anguk and Shingwang temples in Haeju, and was published in two volumes in Seongbulsan in 1372. Baegun died in Chwiam Temple in Yeoju in 1374.
The Jikji comprises a collection of excerpts from the analects of the most revered Buddhist monks throughout successive generations. Gyeonghan compiled it as a guide for students of Buddhism, then Korea's national religion under the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392).
The Jikji consists of two volumes. The metal-print Jikji that was published in Heungdeok Temple is kept in the Manuscrits Orientaux division of the National Library of France, with the first page of the last volume (Book 1 in Chapter 38) torn off. A wood-carving print of Jikji published in Chwiamsa Temple contains the complete two volumes. This is kept in the National Library of Korea and Jangsagak and Bulgap temples as well as in the Academy of Korean Studies.
On the last page of Jikji is recorded details of its publication, indicating that it was published in the 3rd Year of King U (July 1377) by metal type at Heungdeok temple in Cheongju. The Jikji originally consisted of two volumes totaling 307 chapters, but the first volume of the metal printed version is no longer extant.
There is a record indicating that in 1377 Baegun's students, priests Seoksan and Daldam, helped in the publication of Jikji by using moveable metal type and the priestess Myodeok contributed her efforts as well.
The surviving metal type's dimensions are 24.6 x 17.0 cm. Its paper is very slight and white. The whole text is doubly folded very slightly. The cover looks re-made. The title of Jikji also seems to be written with an Indian ink after the original. The cover on the surviving volume of the metal type edition records in French "The oldest known Korean book printed with molded type, with 1377 as date", written by Maurice Courant.
The lines are not straight, but askew. The difference of the thickness of ink color shown on drawn letter paper is large, and spots often occur. Even some characters, such as 'day' (日) or 'one' (一), are written reversely, while other letters are not printed out completely. The same typed letters are not shown on the same paper, but the same typed letters appear on other leaves.[clarification needed] There are also blurs and spots around the characters.
According to UNESCO records, the Jikji “had been in the collection of Victor Emile Marie Joseph Collin de Plancy, a chargé d'affaires with the French Embassy in Seoul in 1887 during the reign of King Gojong. The book then passed into the hands of Henri Véver, a collector of classics, in an auction at Hotel Drouot in 1911, and when he died in 1950, it was donated to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, where it has been ever since.” Today only 38 sheets of the second volume of the metal print edition are extant.
In May 1886, Korea and France concluded a treaty of defense and commerce, and as a result in 1887 official diplomatic relations were entered into by the treaty's official ratification by Kim Yunsik (1835–1922) and Victor Emile Marie Joseph Collin de Plancy (1853–1924). Plancy, who had majored in law in France and went on to study Chinese, had served for six years as translator at the French Legation in China, between 1877 and 1883. In 1888 he went to Seoul as the first French consul to Korea, staying until 1891. During his extended residence in Korea, first as consul and then again as full diplomatic minister from 1896–1906, Victor Collin de Plancy collected Korean ceramics and old books. He let Kulang, who had moved to Seoul as his official secretary, classify them.
Although the channels through which Plancy collected his works are not clearly known, he seems to have collected them primarily from the early 1900s. Most of the old books Plancy collected in Korea went to the National Library of France at an auction in 1911, while the metal-printed Jikji was purchased in that same year for 180 francs by Henri Véver (1854–1943), a well-known jewel merchant and old book collector, who in turn donated it to the French National Library in his will.
The metal-printed Jikji became known to the world in 1901 through its inclusion in the appendix of the Hanguk Seoji, compiled by the French Sinologist and scholar of Korea, Maurice Courant (1865–1935). In 1972 the Jikji was displayed in Paris during the "International Book Year" hosted by the National Library of France, gaining it worldwide attention for the first time. The book was "rediscovered" by Dr. Park Byeongseon who was working as a librarian in the National Library of France. Dr. Park died in 2011.
The Jikji was printed using metal print in Heungdeok Temple outside Cheongjumok in July 1377, a fact recorded in its postscript. The fact that it was printed in Heungdeok Temple in Uncheondong, Cheongju, was confirmed when Cheongju University excavated the Heungdeok Temple site in 1985.
Heungdeok Temple was rebuilt in March 1992. In 1992, the Early Printing Museum of Cheongju was opened, and it took the Jikji as its central theme from 2000.
Only the final volume of the Jikji is preserved by the Manuscrits Orientaux department of the National Library of France.
The right of ownership remains disputed, with the French National Library maintaining that the Jikji should remain in France, while Korean activists argue it should belong to Korea. The National Library of France says that as an important historical artifact of all mankind, the Jikji should remain in France as it represents a common, worldwide heritage, and does not belong to any one country. In addition, they claim the Jikji would be better preserved and displayed in France because of the prestige and resources the Library possesses. On the other hand, Korean organizations claim that it should belong to its country of origin and that it carries historical significance for the Korean people. The Committee to Bring Jikji Back to Korea led by the American Richard Pennington is one such organization in Seoul, Korea that is working to repatriate the Jikji back to Korea from France. The French President François Mitterrand promised to investigate ways to return various Korean books including the Jikji, should the French high-speed rail technology be exported to Korea. From April to June 2011, 297 volumes with 191 different Uigwes of the Kyujanggak (Oegyujanggak), were shipped back in four separate installments and subsequently kept at the National Museum of Korea. However Jikji was not included, following opposition in France, including a protest lodged by the librarians of the National Library.