This project aims to investigate the development of Chan hagiographic literature from mid-Tang (ca. 750) to early Northern Song (960–1127) China, concentrating on the emergence of the so-called “lamp records” (denglu 燈錄) which were formative in establishing Chan/Zen Buddhism as an integrated tradition.
The study examines lamp records as a literary genre through the two earliest extant witnesses: the locally produced Zutang ji 祖堂集 (Collection of the Patriarchal Hall; ca. 952) and the imperially sanctioned Jingde chuandeng lu 景德傳燈錄 (Jingde-Era Record of the Transmission of the Lamp; originally compiled ca. 1004).
This research projects aims to explore hitherto neglected aspects of textual history, literary motifs, and editorial practices. The study’s primary objectives are to: (1) identify and describe literary and structural characteristics of early lamp records to contribute to a much-needed literary history of Chan Buddhism, (2) survey historical testimonies on the nature, functions, and uses of lamp records from the perspective of Chan monastics and scholar-officials, and (3) clarify the relationship between the emergence of lamp records and the formation of Chan as a distinct “school” within the Chinese Buddhist landscape.