“Polishing a brick to make a mirror”: editorial policies and literary strategies in the Zǔtáng jí 祖堂集 and the Jǐngdé chuándēng lù 景德傳燈錄.

Start - End 
2015 - 2021 (ongoing)
Type 
Department(s) 
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Methodology 
Additional tags 
Buddhism
Chinese Buddhism
Chán Buddhism
Zen Buddhism

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Abstract

This research project investigates the nature and development of early “Records of the Transmission of the Lamp” (ch. chuándēnglù 傳燈錄) of the Chán tradition during the late Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms 五代十國 period (907-960) and early Sòng 宋 (960-1279). The two texts under examination are: (1) the Zǔtáng jí 祖堂集 (The Collection of the Hall of Patriarchs, c. 952, B25n0144), and (2) the Jǐngdé chuándēng lù 景德傳燈錄 (The Jǐngdé Era Record of the Transmission of the Lamp, c. 1004, T51n2076).

Through a comparative analysis of selected excerpts from these two chuándēnglù, my main objectives are:

  1. to enhance our understanding of the relation between the ZTJ and the JDCDL and get a better grasp of their respective editorial policies.
  2. to investigate and evaluate the shift in rhetoric of the Chán tradition across the 10th and 11th centuries, presumably marked by a gradual detachment from the scholastic tradition of earlier Chinese Buddhist traditions.
  3. to assess how this evolution in rhetoric and self-representation of a newly conceived rhizomatic Chán tradition impacted how Chán circles of the 10th and 11th centuries “thought and wrote" (cf. McRae 2000: 53) about Mahāyāna doctrinal concepts, such as buddha-nature (fóxìng 佛性).

I am particularly interested in how the evolution in Chán rhetoric and discourse relates to the complex interplay between historical developments, regional/local aspects, as well as socio-religious factors and sectarian considerations regarding the Chán circles of Mǐn 閩, Nán Táng 南唐, and Wúyuè 吳越 kingdoms and early Sòng China.

 

The corpus analyzed is as follows:

1. The prefaces of the Zǔtáng jí and the Jǐngdé Chuándēng lù.
2. Selected entries in both the Zǔtáng jí and the Jǐngdé Chuándēng lù from:

- The seven Buddhas of the past and patriarchs of India.
- The lineage of Niútóu Fǎróng 牛頭法融 (all entries of the ZTJ and the corresponding entries in the JDCDL).
- The lineage of the "Northern School" (ch. běizōng 北宗) (all entries of the ZTJ and the corresponding entries in the JDCDL).
- Major and minor Chán masters from the lineage of Qīngyuán Xíngsī 青原行思.
- Major and minor Chán masters from the lineage of Nányuè Huáiràng 南嶽懷讓.

3. Selected passages related to buddha-nature (search terms: 佛性, 如來藏, 如來藏性).

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