Buddhism

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Lecture Nine Buddhist Influence on Chinese Language and Literature 1. Introduction 1. Chinese language and literature have been heavily influenced by Buddhism as there are a large number of new words, new ideas and new concepts introduced into Chinese with the translation of Buddhist scriptures which lasted for more than a thousand years. 2. The history of Buddhist translation traditionally is divided into three periods, first is called the archaic translation from the Han dynasty to the end of third century, second is called the ancient translation from the time of Kumārajīva at the beginning of fourth century to the mid of seventh century, third is called the new translation from the time of Xuanzang in the mid of seventh century to the end of Song dynasty in the twelfth century when the entire translation activity ended. 3. There are more than 200 known translators and 2100 more translated scriptures about 6000 more Chinese scrolls. 4. In the period of archaic translation, the well known early translators are An Shigao 安世高 (148-170) from Parthian and Lokakṣema 支婁迦讖 (168-188) from Scythia who introduced and translated Buddhist scriptures. But their translations were unorganized. 5. Later during Eastern Jin dynasty, Daoan 道安 (312—385), a learned Chinese, who for the first time organized translation committees with the support of King Fujia 苻堅 of Former Qin (前秦 351-394). 6. However, it was only Kumārajīva 鳩 摩 羅 什 (343-413) who standardized the Buddhist terminologies because he knew already Chinese when he came to China in 402. 7. Kumārajīva’s translation committee was not only supported by King Yaoxing 姚興 of Latter Qin 後秦, but also attracted a large number of Chinese literati who were interested in Buddhism and some of them even became Buddhist monks such as Sengzhao 僧肇 who was well versed in Chinese classics. 8. With such learned Chinese people to help him, Kumārajīva was able to translate a large number of Buddhist scriptures and also corrected and retranslated many early translations. 9. Kumārajīva’s translation is smooth and readable and even today we still use his translation of the well known the Lotus Sutra《法華經》, the Diamond Sutra, although there are other

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translations available. 10. During the Northern and Southern dynasties (420-581), because of the emperors and kings were interested in Buddhism and also the chaos of fighting brought suffering to ordinary people so Buddhism flourished in China and many translators came to China and translated a large number of Buddhist scriptures. 11. According to the Kaiyuan Buddhist Catalogue《開元釋教錄》, there were 67 translators who translated 750 texts in 1750 fascicles between 420 to 589. 12. Amongst these translators, Paramārtha 真諦 (499—569) deserves our attention because he introduced the Yogācāra school from India for the first time with many translations. 13. During Sui and Tang dynasties, there were two eminent translators Xuanzang 玄奘 (602-664) and Yijing 義淨 (635-713) who were both Chinese and went to India in search of Buddhist scriptures and stayed in India for many years. 14. Their translations are the most faithful and accurate as they both knew both Sanskrit and Chinese. The above are the four great translators in Chinese Buddhist history. 15. The Buddhist translation lasted for a thousand years in China and ended up by the end of Song dynasty. The amount of Buddhist scriptures translated in Chinese is about more than three thousand texts. 16. As the Indian ways of thinking are different from Chinese, so their ways of expression are also different from Chinese. Therefore, the translators of Buddhist scriptures had to invent and introduce many new words in order to express the highly abstract ideas and concepts in Buddhism apart from finding similar words and concepts in Chinese language. 17. Thus these new words and concepts gradually have been integrated into Chinese language and some of them even become part of our daily conversation. 2. Buddhist influence on...
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