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  • Abstract
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  • Abstract

    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.

    Questo lavoro nasce con l’intenzione di analizzare il fenomeno della traduzione in prospettiva storico-religiosa, prendendo in esame il poema sanscrito Buddhacarita (I-II sec. d. C.), oggi la più nota agiografia del Buddha storico, e la sua unica traduzione cinese, completata all’inizio del V sec. d.C. Lo studio presenta le varie fasi che hanno portato il Buddhacarita a divenire un classico della letteratura buddhista in contesto accademico; ne propone poi la contestualizzazione storica e una rideterminazione del valore della traduzione cinese: spesso criticata come non sufficientemente aderente all’originale, la traduzione cinese è ampiamente citata negli studi accademici come “surrogato” delle parti perdute del poema sanscrito – questo studio intende porre per la prima volta la traduzione cinese al centro dell’analisi filologica e storica, mettendo in luce come essa abbia diffuso un modello di biografia del Buddha storico in tutta l’Asia orientale.

  • Table of Contents


    Chapter 1. The discovery of a classic: the story of the Buddhacarita

    1.1 The discovery of the Buddhacarita
    1.2 From Johnston’s edition onwards: literary, linguistic studies and art history
    1.3 Aśvaghoṣa, the concept of dharma and the epics
    1.4 The fame of the Buddhacarita in China and Japan

    Chapter 2. The history of a translation: the case of the Fo suoxing zan 佛所行讚

    2.1 Clearing the field: the Fo suoxing zan 佛所行讚 and Fo benxing jing 佛本行經 are not different translations of the same text
    2.2 Quotes in the Shijia pu 釋迦譜 and the Dunhuang manuscript
    2.3 Studies and debates on the Fo suoxing zan (T192)
    2.4 A note on the Tibetan translation

    Chapter 3: The history of a translator: Baoyun 寶雲 (376?-449)

    3.1 Sources and historical background
    3.2. Baoyun’s life account and translations in the ChSZJJ
    3.2.1 The role of Baoyun in translation teams
    3.3 References to Baoyun’s collaboration in translation projects from the lives of other monks
    3.3.1 Buddhabhadra
    3.3.2 Zhiyan
    3.3.3 Saṃghavarman
    3.3.4 Guṇabhadra
    3.4 Uncertain attributions
    3.5 List of titles with possible Taishō references
    3.5.1 A preliminary search based on internal evidence: biographies of the Buddha
    3.5.2 A n-gram based search for internal evidence
    3.6 Conclusions
    Appendix to Chapter 3: Faxian and Huiguan

    Chapter 4: The Guoqu xianzai yinguo jing as an adaptation of the Chinese translation of the Buddhacarita

    4.1 On the Guoqu xianzai yinguo jing
    4.2 Historical context
    4.3 Rewriting the life of the Buddha, the night of awakening - comparative reading between the Buddhacarita, T192 and T189
    4.4 On Māra’s sisters *Meghā and *Kālı̄, other proper names and hapax legomena
    4.5 The narrative frame of T189
    4.6 Conclusions

    Chapter 5: The relationship between T192 and T618

    5.1 On the meditation treatise by Buddhabhadra: title and genre
    5.2 The Chanjing 禪經 literature
    5.3 The philological relationship between T192 and T618
    5.4.1 Exclusive occurrences in passages of similar content
    5.4.2 Exclusive and rare occurrences recurring in passages non content-related
    5.5 Starting the transmission of the lamp
    5.6 Conclusion

    Chapter 6: Religion, politics and women: how to represent otherness in translation

    6.1 A Premise on Translation in Early Medieval China
    6.2 Brahmanas, śramanas, ṛṣīs, and munis
    6.3 Perceptions of kingship in the Buddhacarita
    6.3.1 The king does not utter mantras in temples: descriptions of kingship in in T192
    6.3.2 Refutation of kingship
    6.4.1 Descriptions of women: Beautiful courtesans
    6.4.2 Descriptions of women: Rituals for motherhood, childbirth, childhood and marriage
    6.5 Conclusions

    Chapter 7. On the narrative style of the Buddhacarita: some considerations connected with the authorship of Chapters 16-28

    7.1 The narrative structure: the peculiarity of the Buddhacarita
    7.2 The use of canonical references in the second part of the Buddhacarita: an acritical rewriting with some incongruences
    7.3 Authored texts vs oral tradition: All-round characters vs proliferated and collective characters
    7.4 Changing attitude on cogent themes: Renunciation and kingship
    7.5 Some marginal considerations on the translation style of T192
    7.6 Conclusions

    Primary Literature
    Secondary Literature

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