Zen woodblocks considered for UNESCO designation

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Woodblocks from a Zen pagoda located in northern Vietnam have passed the first round of scrutiny in a bid to gain official UNESCO World Heritage recognition.

The more than 3,000 preserved woodblocks feature scriptures, doctrines, literary works and medical scripts.

The panels were fashioned over the course of generations under the Truc Lam (Zhu lin) Zen masters at the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda in Bac Giang Province. The pagoda became a Zen monastery in the late 13th century under the Emperor and Zen Master Tran Nhan Tong.

At the end of March, the wooden documents were sent to the United Nations' Education, Science and Children's Organization for consideration.

The last remaining texts of the Truc Lam Zen monks of Vietnam contain a great deal of history concerning the religious practices and daily life of the sect. The blocks contain many pieces authored by the Tran Emperor and other valued cultural and historical figures from Vietnam's past.

The panels also offer precious source material for scholars attempting to understand the evolution of Vietnam's writing system. The panels shift from Han (Chinese characters) to Nom, Vietnam's system of language coined by Chinese characters but read in Vietnamese.

Each woodblock is considered a piece of fine art due to the delicately rendered lettering.

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