“Like drops of dew, or flashes of lightning…”

All conditioned phenomena

Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, or shadows;

Like drops of dew, or flashes of lightning;

Thusly should they be contemplated.

This quote is taken from a wood block printed copy of the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra or Diamond Sutra held in the British Library which is reported to be the earliest example of a mass produced block printed “book” (it is in point of fact a scroll) which mentions the actual date it was published within its pages.

The book apparently shows a real sense of understanding with regards to its design and layout which suggests that the publisher/maker was aware of prior designs and perhaps a rich history of woodblock printing.The British Library copy (purchased by archaeologist M.A. (Aurel) Stein* in 1907 froma monk guarding the walled up Mogao Caves, in northwest China)  has the form of a scroll measuring about 16 feet long.

*Apparently Britain’s “Indiana Jones”, despite being Hungarian by birth, see Alma Tadema and various Tennis Players for more of that (ironically) aquisitional shenaneggans…

The printers mark (or colophon) at the end of the text which mentions the scrolls publishing date reads…
“Reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents on the 15th of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Xiantong [i.e. 11 May 868]”; roughy  587 years before the Gutenberg Bible was first printed.
That’s 600 years there abouts… more than half a millennia.
Anyway… I suppose what the original author of the phrase was getting at was that even six centuries, when looked at in the grand unfolding scheme of things (if it is a scheme I’m not suggesting I believe it is), is really still just a great drop in the ocean… and even those marks and callagraphic strokes will fade in time…

Thanks to @mylittlebigtown on Twitter for peaking my interest and to @CalvinInnes for retweeting it.

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~ by hesir on September 26, 2011.

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