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

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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 3.1 (2020): 47–69;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Manuscript Studies and Xuanzang Studies)

Full text PDF forthcoming


Colophons by the Tōdaiji monk Sōshō (1202–1278): The Threshold between Text and Paratext

Carleton College

Keywords: Colophon, debate, medieval Japanese Buddhism, scholar monks, shōgyō, Sōshō, Tōdaiji

Abstract: Scholar monks of medieval Japan produced a vast body of manuscripts called shōgyō. This paper focuses on shōgyō of the Tōdaiji monk Sōshō (1202–1278), especially his colophons (okugaki). In examining medieval shōgyō manuscripts in general and Sōshō’s in particular, modern scholars have tended to concentrate on what Markus Schiegg calls the ‘assertive’ aspect of a colophon, that is, a colophon that ‘tells us something about the scribe and the scribal context’. Although this scholarship has contributed greatly to advancing a material-cultural approach to Sōshō’s texts by situating them in their original contexts of production, little attempt has been made to explore the ‘expressive’ aspect of his colophons, that is, colophons expressing Sōshō’s own feelings and wishes. Therefore, I compare Sōshō’s assertive colophons with his expressive colophons, with an emphasis on the latter. In so doing I reveal the rich textual universe of Sōshō’s colophons that defies our assumed distinction between a text and a paratext, or between the main text and its colophon that supplies information about the main text, the author, or the scribe. Sōshō’s colophons often exceed these expected functions in their eloquent expression of feelings and wishes that are largely irrelevant to the main text.


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