Revolving Scriptures Library Pillar – Yunjangdae (윤장대)

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 Inside the Daejang-jeon Hall at Yongmunsa Temple. The Yunjangdae is to the left with the oldest main altar relief to the right.

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The Yunjangdae is one of the rarer things to see, or even find, at a temple or hermitage in Korea. So what exactly is its purpose? And what does it look like? In English, the Yunjangdae (윤장대) is known as the Revolving Scriptures Library Pillar. The Yunjandae is colourfully painted. It’s rooted into the ground with a rotating base. It can also be fastened to the ceiling with a spindle pole, as well. The design goes from slim to large from the base of the library pillar to the top. In the body of the Yunjangdae are multiple florally designed doors. And at the top of the Yunjangdae rests a colourful red canopy. In addition to all this, the Yunjangdae can also be adorned with dragons, Nathwi, or flowers.

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 A closer look at perhaps the oldest Yunjangdae in all of Korea at Yongmunsa Temple.

So what exactly is the purpose behind the Yunjangdae? Well, the Yunjangdae is a spinning bookcase used in Buddhist ceremonies. It enshrines Buddhist scriptures and sutras inside. It’s believed by Buddhists that if you turn the Yunjangdae while attempting to gain positive karma that you’ll attain it without having to study all the Buddhist sutras. The reason you won’t have to read all the Buddhist texts is that by spinning the Yunjangdae, it’s like you’ve read through all of the sutras. This idea is similar to many Vajrayana (Tantric or Esoteric) Buddhist practices such as the prayer wheels in Tibet and Mongolian Buddhist beliefs.

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 The colourful Yunjangdae at Gapsa Temple.

There are a couple great examples of the Yunjangdae. One such example can be found in the Myeongbu-jeon Hall at Gapsa Temple in Gonju, Chungcheongnam-do. Another, and perhaps the oldest in Korea, is the Yunjangdae found at Yongmunsa Temple in Yecheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do, which dates back to 1173 A.D.

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