Nuovo volume: Buddhist Translation Practices in Medieval China: the Case of the Buddhacarita

Autrice: Laura Lettere
TitoloBuddhist Translation Practices in Medieval China: the Case of the Buddhacarita
Casa editrice: L’Erma di Bretschneider
Luogo e anno: Roma, 2023

The Buddhacarita, composed by Aśvaghoṣa in the late first or early second century CE, is a Sanskrit poem that depicts the life of the Buddha. Its Chinese translation, known as the Fo suoxing zan 佛所行讚, was completed in the first half of the fifth century CE and is attributed to Baoyun 寶雲 (376?-449), a Chinese monk. Since the translation includes several chapters missing in the Sanskrit poem, it stands as the earliest complete hagiography of the historical Buddha.

This study delves into the evolution of academic research on the Buddhacarita, encompassing the process of rediscovery of the Sanskrit manuscript, as well as recent textual interpretations. It also examines the reception of the Chinese translation, drawing insights from the relevant literature. The investigation includes an exploration of the translator’s biography and reconstructs the historical circumstances surrounding the translation process.

Utilizing an n-gram based search, the study uncovers and interprets various intertextual relationships between the Fo suoxing zan and other texts in the Chinese Buddhist Canon, assessing for the first time the influence of the Fo suoxing zan on other coeval translations. The final chapter scrutinizes the narrative and stylistic inconsistencies between the first part of the poem (sarga 1-15), available in Sanskrit, and the second part, only accessible through the Chinese and Tibetan translations, and explores the motivations behind crafting such an extensive and atypical narrative about the life of the Buddha.