Indian Elements in Chinese Forms of Buddhist Syste
 [ Dedicated Forum ]

Under this subtheme, five pieces of research are proposed to examine the Indian elements in the formation of Sinitic forms of Buddhism such as Chan, Sanlun, Tientai and Huayen. In “Hunting for Indian Impact on Chinese Chan Buddhism,” John R. McRae will, if anything, subvert the stereotypical image of history, by arguing that there is no Indian element in the early stage of Chinese Chan. He firmly contends that there is nothing known to have been directly transmitted from India to China in the sixth century that contributed to the school’s development. It seems most reasonable to explain the genesis of Chan solely with reference to the preceding centuries of Chinese Buddhism, taking into consideration only those elements of Indian Buddhism that were already known within the Chinese tradition.

On the side of Madhyamaka thought in the sixth century, Chien-hsing Ho turns to Jizang (549-623), the central philosopher in the Sunlun School, to see how and to what extent Chinese Madhyamaka philosophy differs from its Indian archetype. Ho will focus on the problems of language and truth in both Indian and Chinese Madhyamaka. Taking a similar approach, Hans-Rudolf Kantor rather attempts to show the key role played by Yogācāra thought in the formation of Sinitic Buddhism. In his proposed study, “The Transformation of Indian Yogācāra Thought and the Formation of Early Chinese Buddhist Schools,” Kantor will investigate philosophical issues, such as dependent co-arising, consciousness, Tathgātagarbha, and three natures, that were transmitted in the works of the Dilun and Shelun masters. He will also explore the extent to which Indian Yogācāra concepts of mind and consciousness were influential for divergent developments in Chinese Tiantai, Huayan and Sanlun schools.

Unlike the above philosophical and doctrinal approaches, Funayama Toru is rather interested in examining the Chinese adoption and rejection of Indian culture and thought from the viewpoint of the formation and dissemination of Chinese Buddhist apocrypha, such as the Scripture of Brahma’s Net (Fanwang jing), in connection with translated texts. His research begins with the assumption that the formation of apocryphal scriptures in Chinese Buddhism was closely connected to Chinese scholar-monks’ “compilation activities” (bianzuan or bianji; i.e., how they utilized existing sources in the process of making a new text), which were also conducted in the process of translation. In the project, Funayama aims to shed new light on the problem of the formation and the impact of Fanwang jing.

Nattier proposes to re-examine from a philological perspective the “translation policy” of the foremost translators of Buddhist texts in China, such as An Shigao, Zhi Qian, Kumārajīva, Paramârtha, and Xuanzang. Nattier regards it as inadequate to simply characterize the differences and developments among those translators primarily in terms of such categories as “ancient/old/new” or “northern/southern.” Instead, she aims to investigate the devices each translator came up when confronted with challenges in translation, which reveals how they respectively understood the differences between the Indic and the Chinese languages. Nattier believes that such work will allow us to discern in a more nuanced way the distinctive lines of development among the translators, a result which will no doubt contribute to our understanding of the history behind each Chinese translation of a Buddhist text.

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