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Reviewed by:
  • Translating Buddhist Chinese: Problems and Prospects
  • Ann Heirman (bio)
Konrad Meisig , editor. Translating Buddhist Chinese: Problems and Prospects. East Asian Intercultural Studies 3. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2010. vii, 166 pp. Paperback €36, ISBN 978-3-447-06267-1.

The present volume collects papers of a workshop held in July 2008 at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. A few additional contributions have also been included. The workshop focused on Chinese Buddhist philosophy, linguistics, history of redactions, and history of literature. It is presented in a collective volume on translating Buddhist Chinese. However, the book rather reads like an issue of a journal, with contributions that are sometimes only loosely connected. In this sense, it is not surprising that the articles have been arranged alphabetically.

Despite the rather loose connections, some articles still discuss similar phenomena. This case is particularly true for two papers studying the āgamas (Discourses) in the sense that they each approach the Chinese Buddhist Discourses from a totally different viewpoint, leading to what at first might be conflicting hypotheses, but which, in fact, might just be two compatible outcomes of the same (translation) process. The first article is a study of Bhikkhu Anālayo on the influence of commentarial exegesis on the transmission of āgama literature (pp. 1-20). The second article is a contribution by Bhikkhu Pāsādika on the Chinese Ekottarāgama and its Indic source text (pp. 87-96). Bhikkhu Anālayo studies a number of Chinese āgama passages that differ from their Pāli parallels. Such differences often gave rise to discussion on the nature of the original Indic texts. Are these differences the result of a translation process, or are they due to the existence of several Indian āgama versions? In other words, did the translator alter or interpret the original text by adding comments and ideas, or did he just faithfully translate the original text at his disposal? Relying on an extensive philological reading of sūtra literature, Bhikkhu Anālayo compares a relevant number of Chinese āgama passages to the Pāli (and, when available, Sanskrit) commentarial tradition, and aptly shows how ideas of the ancient Indian commentarial tradition influenced the Indic original texts and introduced changes to the āgamas, which could have occurred during their oral transmission. Anālayo's study also shows that this function of early commentarial notes is, in fact, not limited to the Chinese āgamas, but can also be found in, for instance, Tibetan texts, in jātaka literature, or even in the Pāli Discourses themselves. Thus, Anālayo's article underscores that, in all probability, discourses and commentary were transmitted together, even at the very early times of the Buddhist tradition. This hypothesis, which conflicts with K. R. Norman's former suggestion of a separate transmission of discourse and commentary (A Philological Approach to Buddhism, the Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai Lectures 1994, The Buddhist Forum 5 [London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1997]), offers original and very useful insight into how commentarial remarks could influence a basic discourse. Still, as acknowledged by Bhikkhu Anālayo, while early commentarial exegesis had a distinct influence on the wording of Indic āgama literature, not all differences can be attributed to early Indian exegesis, and translators certainly can have had some significant influence.1 Bhikkhu Pāsādika focuses particularly upon this latter aspect. [End Page 152]

In his contribution, Bhikkhu Pāsādikā launches an appeal for the translation of the Chinese Ekottarāgama. He mainly argues that the text is important for the study of school affiliation and that it can provide interesting information on the formative phase of the history of Chinese Buddhism. In addition, he shows how the Ekottarāgama can be identified as the unknown source drawn upon by the author(s) of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, one of the most popular sutras of East Asian Buddhism. On the school affiliation of the Ekottarāgama, Bhikkhu Pāsādikā points out how, through a comparison with Pāli sutta literature, the general claim that the Ekottarāgama belongs to the Māhāsām. ghika tradition can be substantiated. However, more interesting in the framework...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 151-156
Launched on MUSE
2012-03-01
Open Access
No
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