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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 3.1 (2020): 1–46;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Manuscript Studies and Xuanzang Studies)

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An Investigation of the Relationship between Prince Shōtoku’s Shōmangyō-gisho and Two Dunhuang Buddhist Manuscripts: A Debate over Originality and Canonical Value

Texas Christian University

Abstract: This article examines the relationship between Nai 93 and Tama 24—two manuscript fragments discovered at Dunhuang—and the Shōmangyō-gisho, a Buddhist text written in classical Chinese that scholars traditionally attributed to Japan’s Prince Shōtoku (574–622). This discussion focuses on Fujieda Akira’s discovery that these Dunhuang manuscripts predate and closely resemble the text attributed to Shōtoku.

Fujieda’s research caused heated scholarly debate by questioning the Shōmangyō-gisho’s authorship and value, leading to the production of a substantial body of research in the late 1960s and 1970s seeking to clarify the relationship between the Shōmangyō-gisho and the Dunhuang manuscripts. Specialists in Shōtoku Studies saw these efforts as crucial because assertions of the Shōmangyō-gisho’s originality are central to its perceived value. One can view this research as part of the broader search for the ‘true record’, a goal that informed much of the scholarship on the Shōmangyō-gisho and two other Buddhist commentaries attributed to the prince. After discussing Fujieda’s work, the article examines how those who accept Shōtoku’s authorship of the Shōmangyō-gisho tried to respond to Fujieda’s key findings, focusing on how they address the Dunhuang discoveries in modern translations and critical editions of the text attributed to the prince. It concludes by offering an alternative angle of critical vision on the relationship between these texts that differs in key ways from this received body of scholarship.

Keywords: Dunhuang manuscripts, false-composition-hypothesis, Fujieda Akira, Prince Shōtoku, Sangyō-gisho, Shōmangyō-gisho, true-composition-hypothesis


About the Author: Mark Dennis is Professor of East Asian Religions at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas where he teaches courses in Buddhism, mindfulness, Daoism and Confucianism, religion and violence, and world religious traditions. He also directs the university’s Contemplative Studies program. Mark earned his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin in 2006, focusing on early Japanese Buddhism, and has a Ph.D. minor in Japanese literature. He lived in Japan and India for eight years where he studied Buddhism and Hinduism, and has traveled widely in Asia. His first book was a 2011 English translation of the Shōmangyō-gisho, a Buddhist text written in classical Chinese attributed to Japan’s Prince Shōtoku. Mark is co-editor, with Darren J. N. Middleton, of Approaching Silence: New Perspectives on Shusaku Endo’s Classic Novel (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015) and Navigating Deep River: New Perspectives on Shūsaku Endō’s Final Novel (SUNY Press, 2020).


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.