The Study on 'characters made by Empress Wu Zetian' through The Avatamsaka-Sutra in ink on the white paper of the Shilla Period

신라(新羅) 백지묵서(白紙墨書) 화엄경(華嚴經)과 칙천무후자(則天武后字) 고찰(考察)

  • 박상국 (국립문화재연구소 예능민속연구실)
  • Published : 2004.12.20


The Avatamsaka Sutra copied in ink on the white paper of Shilla Period is the oldest manuscript in korea. This Avatamsaka Sutra is volume 1-10 and 44-50 of the 80 volume's transcription. According to the postscript, written with 528 letters at the end of the volume 10 and 50, this sutra is made during A.D. 754-755, for six months by the order Master Yon-gi(綠起 法師) who founded Hwaumsa Temple(華嚴寺.) It explains the procedure of the ritual and production method of the sutra-copying, and also shows the 19 participants with their name, address, official title, and etc. When the sutra was founded, volume 1-10 were so congealed that we could not open the volumes. And volume 44-50 was prohibited to take photograph for preservation. According to the recent examination, it proved that this sutra is the treasure for the study of the characters made by Empress Wu Zetian(則天武后.) The characters made by Empress Wu Zetian(A.D. 625-705) are new shape of chinese characters which is different from the traditional characters. After the demise of the Queen, the characters were not used any more officially, but privately some people used the characters for personal tastes and interest. The characters in the sutra includes 512 characters of 13 kinds of Empress We Zetians'. Compared to the Tun-huang version of the sutra, this is far better treasure for the study of Empress We Zetians' characters in terms of the number of the character and the their use of frequency. The Avatamsaka Sutra of Shoso-in(正倉院) in japan copied in A.D. 768 does not use the Empress We Zetians' characters. In this respect, this Shilla Avatamsaka-Sutra is a unique one preserves the original forms of Chinese translation at that time.