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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 3.2 (2020): 162–181;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and Technology, and Epigraphy)

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Against Epigraphy: Once More a Visit to Zen and History

SOAS, London

Abstract: When in 1938 the pioneering Japanese Buddhist historian Ui Hakuju 宇井白寿 extended his research to investigating the lineage of the eighth century Chan master Weiyan of Yaoshan 藥山惟儼, he rejected the evidence contained in the master’s epitaph by Tang Shen 唐伸, on the grounds that this inscription was probably a later forgery. Subsequent scholarship has generally come to the conclusion that the epitaph can only be genuine. Yet even as an indubitable historical document, it still needs to be read carefully with a view to the probable circumstances of its composition, as well as to possible problems in its transmission.

Keywords: Tang Shen, Ui Hakuju, Yaoshan Weiyan, Chinese Buddhist histories, Tang epigraphy


About the Author: Tim H. Barrett is Emeritus Professor of East Asian History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He studied Chinese at Cambridge and Buddhist Studies at Yale, and spent much of his career publishing on the history of the religious traditions of East Asia, primarily with regard to China. His books include Li Ao: Buddhist, Taoist, or Neo-Confucian? (1992), Taoism Under the T’ang (1996), The Woman Who Discovered Printing (2008)and From Religious Ideology to Political Expediency in Early Printing (2012).


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.