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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 2.1 (2019): 325–370;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Faxian)

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The Biography of Faxian: On the Practice and Spread of Chinese Buddhist Precepts during the Jin and Song Dynasties (Fourth–Fifth Century CE)

ZHANG Xuesong 張雪松
Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Religious Theory, Renmin University of China
English Translation by Gina Yang,

Abstract: This paper discusses the religious importance of Faxian receiving the novice (śrāmaṇera) precepts early in life, his travel to the West in search of Dharma as an adult, his engagement in translating Buddhist scriptures after returning to China, and his relocation to Xin Monastery in later life. The focus of discussion is the significance of Faxian’s search, translation and propagation of Buddhist precepts during his lifetime. Furthermore, the current paper points out potential fallacies of some common claims about Faxian’s biography. From this, it investigates the practice and spread of Chinese Buddhist precepts during the Jin and Song dynasties.

Keywords: Faxian, novice, śrāmaṇera, precepts, Mohe sengqi lü, Mahāsāṅghika Vinaya, Shisong lü, Daśabhāṇavāra Vinaya, Xin Monastery


About the Author: Zhang Xuesong is currently an Associate Professor at School of Philosophy, Renmin University of China. He obtained a B.A. in Philosophy (2002) and a M.Phil. in Religious Studies (2005) from the Renmin University of China, and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies (2008) from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His academic interest focus on the history of Chinese Buddhism and Chinese local religion. His research mainly explores the organizations of Buddhist clergies and the interactions between Buddhism and local society in China. He has published four monographs, including A Study of Master Yinguang in the Historical Progress of Modern Chinese Buddhism (2011), The History of Chinese Buddhism before Tang Dynasty (2013), The History of Chinese Buddhism in Han, Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties (2014), Buddhist Dharma Lineage: The Model of Religious Organizations in China (2015), in addition to numerous journal articles and book chapters.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.