The Zutang ji 祖堂集. Aspects of textual history, genealogy, and intertextuality

Start - End 
2015 - 2023 (completed)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Methodology 
Additional tags 
Chinese Buddhism
Chán Buddhism
Zen Buddhism



This research project examines the textual history and literary characteristics of the Zǔtáng jí 祖堂集 (Collection of the Patriarchal Hall , K.1503), i.e., the earliest extant Chán history (chánshǐ 禪史), or "lamp record" (dēnglù 燈錄), of the Chán Buddhist tradition organized around a multi-lineage framework.

The primary objectives of this study are: (1) to explore the layered compilation of the Zǔtáng jí and clarify how it relates to previous Chán records; (2) to investigate the editorial policies and practices (e.g., narrative framework, structure, style, language) discernible in the extant textual witness, determine how these have impacted the literary and religious representations of Chán figures and lineages in the text, and explore how these inform us on the socio-religious context of production of the Zǔtáng jí; and (3) to contribute to our understanding of the development of regional Chán literature in tenth century China.

From a methodological perspective, the study is grounded in traditional philology and literary criticism. However, the project further integrates approaches from Digital Humanities through the production of XML-based TEI diplomatic and critical editions of selected fragments of the Zǔtáng jí and related manuscripts (e.g., S.1635), as well as approaches from Historical Social Network Analysis and graph theory to explore the genealogical framework of the text. These materials are gradually made available on the website of the Database of Medieval Chinese Texts (Ghent University & Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies 中華佛學研究所).

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

  • Chapter 1: Chán master Jìngxiū's 淨修 (d. 972) preface to the "original" Zǔtáng jí in one juàn 卷 (ca. mid-tenth century).
  • Chapter 2: Gwangjun's 匡儁 preface to the Zǔtáng jí in twenty juàn (1245 Goryeo 高麗 edition) and the expansion of the text.
  • Chapter 3: The Quánzhōu Qiānfó xīnzhù zhūzǔshī sòng 泉州千佛新著諸祖師頌 (Eulogies for the Patriarchs newly composed by Qiānfó [Dèng] of Quánzhōu; Or.8210/S.1635) and the integration of Jìngxiū's verses in the Zǔtáng jí.
  • Chapter 4: The Zǔtáng jí and the Bǎolín zhuàn 寶林傳 (ca. 801), with a focus on the hagiographic entry of Huáiràng 懷讓 (d. 744) through the surviving fragments of the Bǎolín zhuàn's tenth juàn quoted in the Keitoku dentō shōroku 景德傳燈抄錄 (ca. after 1316).
  • Chapter 5: The Zǔtáng jí and the Jǐngdé chuándēng lù 景德傳燈錄 (ca. 1009): the Niútóu School 牛頭宗 and Northern School 北宗 sections, with analysis of relevant sources (e.g., Juéguān lùn 絕觀論, Chuándēng yùyīng jí 傳燈玉英集). The hagiographic entries examined are determined based on the Zǔtáng jí.


Phd Student(s)


Christian Wittern

Marcus Bingenheimer

Temple University