Early Chinese Buddhist Translations

  • Datum: 18 - 21 Apr 2007
  • Ort: Austrian Academy of Sciences "Clubraum"
  • Dr. Ignaz Seipl Platz 2, 1010 Vienna
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  • Organisation: Max Deeg, Cynthia Peck-Kubaczek



Buddhist Studies, now in its second century, has achieved high research standards, especially in some areas of specialization, despite the relatively small number of scholars working in the field. However there are still areas that have been neglected. While Buddhist texts in Indian languages have been meticulously studied and the Tibetan translations of Buddhist texts have been used to investigate texts no longer available in the original Indian language(s), Chinese Buddhist texts and translations, especially early ones, have not been as intensively examined in the West. This has not only been due to the difficulty of the language, but certainly also due to the biased view that these texts are corrupt results of mediocre translation efforts, efforts that were not comparable to those undertaken by Indian pandits and Tibetan Buddhist scholars from the 8th century onwards. The translations oscillated between using vernacular standards, coining completely new terminology and attempts to remain true to the Indian original. Sinologists were deterred by the non-classical and unintelligible language and Indologists struggled with a language that they did not consider an accurate means for translating the Indian Buddhist religious literature.

In the last two decades or so, Western and Asian Buddhologists have begun efforts to study Buddhist texts in truly comparative ways. The study of early Chinese translations has developed fruitful new approaches and provided new insights into the emergence and the formation of Buddhist texts as well as the means of their transmission into East Asia.

The symposium will convene Western and Asian scholars working in the field of early Buddhist Chinese texts (2nd until early 5th century). It will represent various aspects of the research done in this field during the last two decades: the comparison of Indian and Chinese texts; the study of the translation techniques of individual translators or groups or of complete sets of texts; and the texts’ impact on the receiving culture (indianisation vs. sinisation). By engaging the few scholars working in this field in a broader discourse, the symposium will also look at more general topics and address tasks that should be undertaken in the future.