Studies in the textual history and editorial practices of the Zǔtáng jí 祖堂集 and the Jǐngdé chuándēng lù 景德傳燈錄.

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



This project explores the textual history and the literary features of the two earliest extant multi-lineal Chán lamp records: (1) the Zǔtáng jí 祖堂集 (Patriarchs’ Hall Collection, K.1503; henceforth ZTJ), and (2) the Jǐngdé chuándēng lù 景德傳燈錄 (Record of the Transmission of the Lamp of the Jǐngdé era, T51n2076; henceforth JDCDL). More specifically, I investigate how editorial policies and practices (i.e. narrative framework, structure, language) have shaped the literary characteristics of the two records and I examine how variations and successive reformulations of shared textual units have impacted the representations of Chán figures and lineages in the texts.

Previous scholarship on the topic (e.g., Shiina 1979; Ishii 1987) has generally held the view that the compiler and editors of the JDCDL did not use the ZTJ as a source for the compilation of the JDCDL. Consequently, it has been assumed that shared textual units which are not cited from known records (e.g., Bǎolín zhuàn 寶林傳, Xù gāosēng zhuàn 續高僧傳) were probably borrowed from identical sources, such as the Bǎolín zhuàn 續寶林傳 of Nányuè Wéijìng 南嶽惟勁 and other lost records of the Táng (xíngzhuàng 行狀, biélù 別錄, etc.) (see Féng Guódòng 2014). This being the case, to date, no attempt has been made to provide a systematic comparative philological analysis of these shared textual units and show how editorial policies have in turn impacted the ZTJ and JDCDL as literary objects. The present study aims to fill this gap.

Taking the ZTJ as my primary object of study, I conduct a philological analysis of selected shared textual units in corresponding entries of Chinese Chán masters in the ZTJ and JDCDL. In addition, I examine sources which were used - although likely through other witnesses - in the ZTJ such as various Dūnhuáng 敦煌 manuscripts (e.g., S.1635 or P.2074), stelae inscriptions and other texts such as the Xù gāosēng zhuàn. Combining approaches from linguistics, literary studies and textual criticism, the study aims to shed light on the developments of Chán lamp records as literary objects. In the process, I demonstrate how editorial policies and practices worked as a tool in fashioning representations of Chán figures and lineages by focusing on the relatively little studied line of transmission from Qīngyuán Xíngsī 青原行思 (671-741) to Xuěfēng Yìcún 雪峰義存 (822-908), as well as the latter’s dharma-heirs in Quánzhōu 泉州.

In terms of methodology, my analysis is grounded in traditional philology and literary criticism. I also integrate approaches from Digital Humanities, namely by producing XML/TEI-based diplomatic and regularized editions of selected fragments of the ZTJ as well as Social Network Analysis TEI-based markup so as to present visualizations through Gephi. These will be made available on the website of the Database of Medieval Chinese Texts (Ghent University & Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts).

The general structure of the Ph.D. thesis is as follows:

Chapter 1: Prefaces as keys to understanding editorial policies, intents and nature of the Zǔtáng jí and the Jǐngdé Chuándēng lù, with insights from the Quánzhōu Qiānfó xīnzhù zhū zǔshī sòng 泉州千佛新著諸祖師頌 (Eulogies for the Patriarchs newly composed by Qiānfó [Dēng] of Quánzhōu; Or.8210/S.1635).

Chapter 2: From theory to practice: editorial policies and literary strategies in the sections of the Niútóu School 牛頭宗 and the Northern School 北宗.

  • Entries for the Niútóu School: Niútóu Fǎróng 牛頭法融, Hèlín Xuánsù 鶴林玄素, Jìngshān Dàoqīn 徑山道欽, Niǎokē Dàolín 鳥窠道林.
  • Entries for the Northern School: Sōngyuè Huì'ān 嵩嶽慧安, Lǎnzàn 懶瓚, Fúxiān Rénjiǎn 福先仁儉, Pòzàoduò 破灶墮.

Chapter 3: From Xíngsī 行思 to Xuěfēng 雪峰: delineating and shaping the patriarchs in the ZTJ and the JDCDL.

  • Entries: Qīngyuán Xíngsī 青原行思, Shítóu Xīqiān 石頭希遷, Tiānhuáng Dàowù 天皇道悟, Lóngtán Chóngxìn 龍潭崇信, Déshān Xuānjiàn 德山宣鑑, Xuěfēng Yìcún 雪峰義存.

Chapter 4: Depicting regional flourishing: disciples of Xuěfēng 雪峰 in Fújiàn 福建 province, with a focus on Quánzhōu 泉州 and the Zhāoqìng monastery 招慶寺.

  • Entries: Chángqìng Huìléng 長慶慧稜, Bǎofú Cóngzhǎn 保福從展, Zhāoqìng Dàokuāng 招慶道匡, Zhāoqìng Shěngdēng 招慶省僜.


Phd Student(s)