arrow_back_ios_new Introduction to Jikji

Introduction video to Jikji 1

Introduction video to Jikji 2

The value of Jikji

Jikji is the oldest known book to have been printed using movable metal type. In Korea, there are records that indicate that movable metal type printing was invented and used by the central government of the Goryeo dynasty in the early 1200s. The printing technology continued to develop such that even rural Buddhist temples used movable metal type to print books by the late 14th century.

The records that show the early use of movable metal type to print books show that Korea has a long history and has maintained outstanding cultural traditions.

In Germany, movable metal type was first used in 1355 to print the 42-line Bible in Gutenberg. In China, “宋諸臣奏議 (sòng zhū chén zòu yì)” was printed using movable metal type in the 1490s. The Japanese adopted movable metal type printing technology from the Joseon dynasty during the Hideyoshi Invasions (Imjinwaeran, 1592–1598) at the end of the 16th century.

Many distinguished international media outlets, including the BBC, the Wallstreet Journal, the Washington Post, and Time magazine, have reported that movable metal type printing is the greatest invention in human history. For example, in “The Life Millennium,” a book published by Time magazine, a famous magazine in the U.S., movable metal type printing was included as one of the 100 events that changed the world the most in the past millennium.

Movable metal type printing accelerated the popularization of information, bringing an end to the aristocratic class that had monopolized knowledge and information for all of the rest of history up to that point. This popularization transformed the general public from a consumer of information to a producer and distributor as well. These new roles for the general public triggered many major events in Western history, such as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, and many civil revolutions, all of which have given rise to modern civilization.

Movable metal type printing began to play a significant role in Korean history after the creation of Hangeul in 1446. In 1447, “Worincheongangjigok (Song of the Moon Reflected in the Thousand Rivers)” was published in Hangeul using movable metal type. This book has survived into the present. The invention of movable metal type with Hangeul characters played a significant role in allowing people of various social classes to become literate.

Korea’s movable type printing technology spread to China and Japan. The fact that it spread to Japan is revealed in many records. For example, when the Hideyoshi invasions occurred in 1592, Japanese generals plundered many of Korea’s artifacts, one of which was copper printing blocks. These blocks were delivered to Toyotomi Hideyoshi who presented them to the emperor (後陽成天皇) in 1593. The emperor then ordered that they be used to publish “Ancient Book of Filial Piety (古文孝經).” In August 1597, wooden printing blocks were created to publish the “Book of Studying (勸學文),” the postscript of which states that wooden type printing technology came from Joseon. Just as movable type printing technology invented in Gutenberg influenced all of Europe, historical documents show that the movable type printing technology invented in Korea had a significant influence in East Asia.

Source : Cheongju Early Printing Museum