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How Buddhism Acquired a Soul on the Way to China How Buddhism Acquired a Soul on the Way to China
Jungnok Park

Series: Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies Monographs

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How Buddhism Acquired a Soul on the Way to China tells the story of the spread of Buddhist religious thinking and practice from India to China and how, along the way, a religion was changed. While Indian Buddhists had constructed their ideas of self by means of empiricism, anti-Brahmanism and analytic reasoning, Chinese Buddhists did so by means of non-analytic insights, utilising pre-established epistemology and cosmogony. Furthermore, many specific Buddhist ideas were transformed when exchanged from an Indian to a Chinese context, often through the work of translators concept-matching Buddhist and Daoist terms.

One of the key changes was the Chinese reinterpretation of the concept of shen - originally an agent of thought which died with the body - into an eternal essence of human spirit, a soul. Though the notion of an imperishable soul was later disputed by Chinese Buddhist scholars the idea of a permanent agent of perception flourished in China. This historical analysis of the concept of self as it developed between Indian and Chinese Buddhism will be of interest to readers of Buddhist Philosophy as well as the History of Ideas.


Part I: Chinese Buddhist Translation in its Cultural Context
Chapter 1: The characteristics of Chinese Buddhist translation
Chapter 2: The verification of the traditional attributions of translatorship

Part II: The Development of the Indian Buddhist Concept of Self
Chapter 3: Self in early Buddhist soteriology
Chapter 4: Development of Buddhist self
Chapter 5: Nirvāṇa and a permanent self

Part III: The Development of the Chinese Buddhist Concept of Self
Chapter 6: Chinese ideas about self before the arrival of Buddhism
Chapter 7: Non-self but an imperishable soul in Chinese Buddhist translations
Chapter 8: A survey of interpolations and adaptations of an agent in saṃsāra
Chapter 9: The characteristics of the Chinese Buddhist concept of self


'This book will undoubtedly re-ignite debates about the fidelity of Chinese Buddhism to Early Buddhism, the place of the Chinese canon in the study of Buddhism, and the parameters, if any, by which Buddhism adapts to new contexts. As Buddhism adapts to more and newer contexts in the twentyfirst century, Park’s book is an enduring contribution not only to the scholarship on the sinification of Buddhism, but also to its immense adaptability. His death at a young age is a great loss to academia.'
Religions of South Asia
7, 2013

'Makes a valuable contribution to the field of Buddhist studies in detailing precisely how and why early Buddhist translators interpolated the notion of an imperishable soul, and how subsequent Chinese traditions elaborated this notion.'
Journal of Chinese Religions
, 2013

'Few anthropologists have the linguistic facility and the knowledge of several bodies of literature required to follow Park into the depths of translation and comparison which he attempts here. That is precisely why his work is so worthwhile.'
Anthropology Review Database,
November 2012

ISBN-13 (Hardback)9781845539962
Price (Hardback)£60.00/$99.95
ISBN-13 (Paperback)9781845539979
Price (Paperback)£19.99/$34.95
Publication DateApril 2012
Size234 x 156mm

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