the revival and failure of buddhist translations during the song dynasty - sen - t'oung pao

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The Revival and Failure of Buddhist Translations during the Song Dynasty - Sen - T'oung Pao

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THE REVIVAL AND FAILURE OF BUDDHIST TRANSLATIONS DURING THE SONG DYNASTYBY

Baruch College, The City University of New York A collection of scriptures is worth nothing unless someone puts it to real use. 7D gen

TANSEN SEN

Some scholars have argued that Song Buddhism, faced with internal corruption and doctrinal stagnation, failed to inspire the religious, social, or intellectual life of the Chinese.1 Indeed, the term 3decline4 has commonly been used to describe Chinese Buddhism after the ninth century.2 Nonetheless, much evidence challenges the period (960received wisdom of Buddhism2s decline in the Song 1279). During the tenth and eleventh centuries, about eighty Indian monks arrived in China, one hundred thirty-eight Chinese monks returned after visiting the Indian subcontinent, a total of one thousand twenty-eight Indian texts were procured, and five hundred sixtyfour scrolls of Buddhist stras were translated into Chinese.3 By 1021, there were 397,615 monks and 61,240 nuns, more than at any time in Chinese history.4 Such accomplishments put Song Buddhism close to, if not on a par with, the glory days of the doctrine during the (420-589) and the Tang Northern and Southern Dynasties period (618-907).I would like to thank Daniel Boucher, Hugh Clark, Alan DiGaetano, Toru Funayama, Victor H. Mair, Barend J. ter Haar, and the anonymous reader for their thoughtful suggestions and criticisms on various drafts of this essay. The shortcomings that remain are solely my responsibility. Research for this project was funded by a grant from the Eugene Lang Foundation. For complete citations of sources see the bibliography at the end of this article. 1 See Kenneth Ch2en, 3The Sale of Monk Certificates during the Sung Dynasty.4 2 Ch2en2s Buddhism in China, for example, devotes only twenty pages, in a section titled 3Decline,4 to Buddhism during the Song dynasty. 3 Fozu tongji, T. 2035: 409c.28-410a.3. 4 Fozu tongji, T. 2035: 406c.15-16. These numbers may have to do more with the state2s supervision of the Buddhist community rather than demonstrate the popularity of Buddhism during the Song period.

Brill, Leiden, 2002 Also available online www.brill.nl

T2oung Pao LXXXVIII

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Moreover, Jan Yn-hua, in a series of essays, has explained the significant contribution of Song Buddhist monks to the production and development of religious histories. He points out that between 960 and 1278 at least fifty works of Buddhist history were compiled. For Jan this is important evidence of the Buddhist contribution to Song and Chinese historiography.5 In addition, recent scholarship has trumpeted the intellectual and theoretical achievements of the and Tiantai schools of Buddhism during the Song Chan period. Some scholars have even proposed that 3far from signaling a decline, the Sung (Song) was a period of great efflorescence in Buddhism and that, if any period deserves the epithet of the 1golden age2 of Buddhism, the Sung is the most likely candidate.46 Studies produced in the past two decades have drastically changed our views regarding Chinese Buddhism after the ninth century and the word 3decline4 can no longer be associated with Song Buddhism. Similarly, the notion of the decay of Buddhism in India and its perceived impact on Sino-Indian interactions also requires a reassessment. It is generally accepted that Buddhist exchanges between India and China were terminated in the ninth century. However, as we shall see, Tibetan and Chinese sources testify to the existence of prospering and active monastic centers in the Bengal-Bihar region in eastern India and in Kamr in northern India from the tenth to the twelfth centuries. Tibetan and Chinese records also indicate frequent interaction between members of Indian and foreign monastic communities during the same period. As will be evident from the discussion below, the movement of Buddhist monks between India and China during the tenth and eleventh centuries is not the crucial issue. More perplexing is the fact that despite significant Buddhist traffic between the two countries newly translated Buddhist texts seem to have had little impact on the development of Chinese Buddhism during the Song period. Jan Yn-hua explains that these texts failed to have any influence on Song Buddhism because of the marked 3decline of China2s cultural borrowing from India,4 which, according to him, resulted from a number of internal and external factors.7 3On the Chinese side,4See Jan Yn-hua, 3Buddhist Historiography in Sung China.4 Peter N. Gregory, 3The Vitality of Buddhism in the Sung,4 2. See also T. Griffith Foulk, 3Myth, Ritual, and Monastic Practice in Sung Ch2an Buddhism.4 7 Jan Yn-hua, 3Buddhist Relations between India and Sung China,4 6.2: 135144.5 6

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Jan writes, 3the completion of sectarian growth of Buddhism, shift of intellectual interest, and Buddhist dependence on the government in the translation of Buddhist canons were the main causes. Externally, they were the transformation of Buddhism in India with the rise of Tantrism and the general deterioration of the religion in India and Central Asia due to the spread of Islam.48 Jan has put forth two other explanatory factors for the diminished role of Buddhist translations during the Song dynasty. First, the Chinese Buddhist community objected to the Song court2s dominance over translation activities. Secondly, Jan points out that there arose a strong opposition to foreign monks and new teachings from India among the followers of the burgeoning Chan and Tiantai schools.9 Stylistic and linguistic problems have also been blamed for the failure of the Buddhist texts translated during the Song dynasty. Hajime Nakamura, for example, notes that the translation of ntideva2s (c. 650750) Bodhicaryvatra (Puti xing jing , T. 1662) 3was read very seldom and has left little influence in later Chinese and Japanese Buddhism because of the awkwardness of the style.410 Similarly, Yukei Matsunaga finds 3abundance of mistranslations4 in the Chinese translation of the esoteric texts Guhyasam jatantra (Yiqie rulai jin2gang sanye zuishang mimi dajiaowang jing , T. 885) and Hevajratantra (Foshuo dabeikong zhi jin2gang dajiaowang yigui jing , T. 892).11 In addition, John Brough has, at least in one instance, charged8 Jan, 3Buddhist Relations,4 6.2: 139. 9 Jan, 3Buddhist Relations,4 6.2: 136-38. 10 Hajime Nakamura, Indian Buddhism, 288. 11 Yukei Matsunaga, 3Some Problems of the

Guhyasamja-tantra.4 However, Iyanaga Nobumi, acknowledging the mediocre quality of Song translations, praises Shihu2s translation of Sarvatathgatatattvasagraha (Foshuo yiqie rulai zhenbao she dacheng , T. 882). He xianzheng sanmei dajiaowang jing writes: Je tiens ` souligner ici que, bien qu2on considhre giniralement les traductions de l2ipoque des Sung comme d2une qualiti midiocre, STTS.ch (i.e., T. 882) se rivhle dans l2ensemble tout ` fait digne d2iloges, ` la fois fidhle au texte sk. et d2un style, sinon iligant, du moins le plus comprihensible possible. Il est vrai qu2en dipit des soins ividents, cette traduction reste souvent difficile ` comprendre; mais cela est d, en grande partie, ` la difficulti de l2original lui-mjme, qui est rempli de termes techniques et d2images symboliques propres ` l2isotirisme. See Iyanaga Nobumi, 3Ricits de la soumission de Mahevara par Trailokyavijaya,4 657.

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the Chinese translators with plagiarism.12 According to Brough, the translators of $ryara2s Jtakaml (Pusa benshengman lun , T. 160), the Chinese monks Shaode and Huixun , did not translate the work from an Indian original. Rather, Brough argues that the Chinese text is plagiarized from previous translations and other pre-existing texts 3with or without the addition of some freshly invented material.413 He attributes the problem to the inadequate knowledge of Sanskrit among the Chinese Buddhist community and the corresponding lack of understanding of Chinese among the Indian missionaries. In response to Brough2s article, and to others who have since accepted his assertion,14 Richard Bowring notes that Pusa benshengman lun was translated between 1078 and 1082, after the death of the (Sryakrti?, d. 1078)7the last remaining Indian monk Richeng (960-1127). 15 Bowring expert of Sanskrit in the Northern Song claims that before the death of Richeng, the state-supported Yijing (Institute for the Translation of the Stras, later named yuan [Institute for the Transmission of the Dharma]) Chuanfa yuan and the group of translators working there were well-trained and produced high quality translations. It was only after the death of Richeng and the closure of the Institute that low-quality texts, including Pusa benshengman lun, were produced. Huixun, one of the Chinese translators, Bowring concludes, was only responsible for a 3half-hearted attempt4 to translate $ryara2s work, and should therefore not be accused of plagiarism. This dispute over the extent of plagiarism and the critique of linguistic errors demarcate the breadth of the failings of Song Buddhist translations too narrowly. This essay will demonstrate that a combination of factors, including the dearth of qualified translators and the limited supply of new texts, severely affected the translation (r. 977-997) activity revived by the Song emperor Taizong after a hiatus of one hundred and sixty years. It will be argued that the accepted notion of Buddhist decay in India and China had little, if any, impact on Song translations. Rather, some of the problems associated with the shortage of translators and texts in Song China may have been indirect