Photograph by Per-Andre Hoffmann
Hoping the word would prove mightier than the sword, King Gojong sought divine aid against a Mongol invasion by ordering his subjects to carve the entire Buddhist canon into wooden blocks. The task took 16 years (1236-1251). Today the 81,258 woodblocks, the Tripitaka Koreana, are in remarkable condition. They’re stored in special buildings at Haeinsa, or “temple of a vast sea of meditation,” which is perched on the flanks of Mount Gayasan.