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The Neglected Pilgrim: How Faxian’s Record Was Used (and Was Not Used) in Buddhist Studies
Keywords: Faxian, Foguo ji, Buddhist Studies, Research History
Abstract: This paper focuses on the role of Faxian’s Foguo ji, Record of the Buddhist Kingdoms (a.k.a Gaoseng Faxian zhuan) in the formation of Buddhist Studies as a discipline in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It will contextualize the text in the emulating historicist approach of the time which, I would claim and hope to show, led to a certain marginalization of the Record due to the typical ideological parameters inherent in the positivist and historicist interpretation of sources, such as the idea of authenticity and reliability through authorship and through the information given in the source. In this context, Faxian’s Record had the disadvantage of being relatively short, restricted in terms of geographical range, and being linked to an author about whom not much was known. As a consequence, Faxian’s Record was and is mostly used in a complementary way to either corroborate pieces of information from other sources—mainly from Xuanzang’s Da Tang Xiyu ji which had become the main authority—hence establishing it as the earliest text of its ‘genre’ a historical terminus ad quem, or it has to fill gaps of information in those other sources (e.g. the report on Siṃhala/Śrī Laṅkā).
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