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Etched in Time
Text by Lei Hu Photographs by Pan Xiaochun

 

 

A calligrapher can write with considerable freedom, but a sutra transcriber must write every character as neatly as possible.

More than a century ago, Yang Renshan founded Jinling Sutra Printing House in hopes of spreading Buddhism in modern China. However, with the development of modern printing technology, traditional block printing is hardly practical anymore. Will the printing studio survive the invasion of modernity? Whatever the answer, its staff of four insists on continuing their etching and printing craft using traditional methods.

In 1862, 26-year-old Yang acquired a copy of Diamond Sutra by chance, which ignited his passion for Buddhism. Later, he realized that the Bible was widely available in China, supplied by Western churches, yet Buddhist sutras were rare even in temples. He became determined to disseminate Buddhist doctrine through printing Buddhist scriptures.

 

 

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