In 868 AD, Wang Jie commissioned a block printer to create a 17-and-a-half-foot-long scroll of the sacred Buddhist text “The Diamond Sutra”, making it the oldest dated printed book in existence.
The text was originally discovered in 1900 by a monk in Dunhuang, China, an old outpost of the Silk Road on the edge of the Gobi Desert. “The Diamond Sutra”, a Sanskrit text translated into Chinese, was one of 40,000 scrolls and documents hidden in “The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas”, a secret library sealed up around the year 1,000 when the area was threatened by a neighboring kingdom.
“The Diamond Sutra” is relatively short, only 6,000 words and is part of a larger canon of sacred texts in Mahayana Buddhism, the branch of Buddhism most common in China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.
Many practitioners believe that the Mahayana Sutras were dictated directly by the Buddha. “The Diamond Sutra” takes the form of a conversation between the Buddha’s pupil Subhati and his master to cut through our perceptions of this world and its illusion.
This fleeting world is nothing but a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream. A flash of lightning in a summer cloud.
A flickering lamp, a phantom.