World’s Largest Buddhist Encyclopedia Completed in Korea

World’s Largest Buddhist Encyclopedia Completed in Korea

The Kasan Institute of Buddhist Culture in Seoul on Tuesday announced the completion of the Kasan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, the world’s largest Buddhist encyclopedia. The final volumes, 17–20, were published this year, concluding a 42-year project that began with Ven. Jikwan’s vision to make Buddhism’s extensive history accessible in standard Korean.

In May 1982, Ven. Jikwan, then 50 years old, prayed at Gyeongguk-sa, a Buddhist temple near Seoul’s Bukhan Mountain. As the dean of Buddhist studies at Korea’s largest Buddhist university, Ven. Jikwan embarked on a mission to compile an encyclopedia that would document Buddhism’s extensive history in a way that was accessible to the general public.

“After all these years, I begin to write an encyclopedia,” he prayed. “May the eight guardians be on my side and the Buddha’s wisdom manifest itself.” (The Korea Herald)

The Kasan Encyclopedia of Buddhism holds the claim of being the world’s most expansive Buddhist encyclopedia, with nearly 120,000 entries and 266,000 pages. It covers major concepts from scriptures, philosophical texts, historical materials, and more, all arranged alphabetically in everyday Korean. The encyclopedia pays particular attention to the cultural adaptations of Buddhism in Korea, with 30 per cent of the entries devoted to Korean Buddhism.

Since Buddhism’s introduction to Korea in the fourth century, the religion has incorporated local folklore, ideas, artistic ideals, and more. The encyclopedia includes primary source references in literary Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit, highlighting a commitment to comparative study.