Ancient document details making of Seokgatap Pagoda

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A document retrieved nearly 40 years ago from Bulguk-sa Temple in Gyeongju, South Korea has been identified as an 11th or 12th century Goryeo Kingdom record of the restoration work done on the temple's Seokgatap Pagoda, one of the nation's most famous structures, said the National Museum of Korea on Wednesday.

Experts expect the handwritten document, made up of some 100 palm-sized sheets of mulberry paper, will provide a more accurate account of the stone pagoda's history.

The document was first discovered in 1966 along with Mugujeonggwang Daedaranigyeong (Pure Light Dharani Sutra), the world's oldest woodblock printing plate, when historians disassembled the pagoda for restoration purposes. It has since been in possession of the museum.

According to Yi Young-hoon, the museum's director of curatorial affairs, the pages of the document were stuck together when first found. They remained in this state until 1997, when researchers came across the forgotten document and started separating them, a process that took over a year.

“Though further study on the document needs to be done, what we know for sure at this point is when and why it was written,” he said.

The museum said the Chinese name of the era specified in the record indicates that it was written sometime during the 11th or 12th century and the use of the word “chungsugi,” or restoration record, shows why it was written.

Yi said the museum, which is waiting for the Oct. 28 reopening of its new home in Yongsan, will start a thorough examination of the text early next year.

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