Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies: E-journal Vol 3.1, Keyworth

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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 3.1 (2020): 259–317;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Manuscript Studies and Xuanzang Studies)

Full text PDF forthcoming


On Xuanzang and Manuscripts of the *Mahāprajñāpāramitā-sūtra at Dunhuang and in Early Japanese Buddhism

University of Saskatchewan

Keywords: Mahāprajñāpāramitā-sūtra, Da bore jing, Dai hannya kyō, Xuanzang, Buddhist manuscripts China and Japan, Dunhuang manuscripts, old Japanese manuscript canons, Tang China, Matsuo shrine canon, Nanatsudera canon

Abstract: Xuanzang 玄奘 (Genjō, c. 602–664) is credited with translating some of the largest and most significant scriptures and commentaries in the East Asian Buddhist canons. But his behemoth translation of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā-sūtra 大般若波羅蜜多經 (Z no. 1, T no. 220) in 600 rolls seems to have been particularly important to Buddhist monastics and patrons who produced manuscript editions of the Buddhist canon at Dunhuang during the ninth century, and in Japan from the eighth to twelfth centuries. In this paper, I first survey what made the *Mahāprajñāpāramitā-sūtra an object of exceptional reverence, and why it appears to have been critical to communities from western China to Japan that this colossal work can be connected to Xuanzang. Next, I introduce several colophons to manuscripts from Dunhuang to show how quickly Xuanzang’s Mahāprajñāpāramitā-sūtra seems to have been taken to the temples near Dunhuang to become the key component in manuscript copies of all the scriptures (yiqie jing, issaikyō 一切經). Then I introduce less well known manuscripts from eighth century Japan, along with examples of rolls with colophons from the Nanatsudera 七寺 and Matsuo shrine 松尾社 canons, and archaeological evidence from elsewhere in Heian (794–1185) Japan to demonstrate how and why the Mahāprajñāpāramitā-sūtra was revered above all other scriptures.
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