Chinese Buddhist Canon

From Encyclopedia of Buddhism
(Redirected from Chinese Buddhist canon)
Jump to: navigation, search
Editor's note: This article needs attention. Edit for clarity Review-icon.png
The Tripiṭaka Koreana, an early edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon

The Chinese Buddhist Canon, or Chinese Tripitaka, refers to the core texts of East Asian Buddhism.

There have been many different editions of the Chinese canon that have been printed in locations throughout East Asia. According to contemporary scholar Tanya Storch, the catalogues for the various additions have evolved over time.

The modern standard edition of the Chinese Canon is the Taishō Tripiṭaka, which was published in Tokyo between 1924 and 1929.

The Chinese Canon is one of the three principal canonical collections of classical Buddhist literature in the world, the other two being the Tibetan Buddhist Canon, and the Pali Canon.[1]


According to contemporary scholar Tanya Storch:

  • the early transmissions of Buddhist thought from Central Asia to China were transmitted orally, and then written down in the Chinese language
  • these initial texts were followed by later translations of Sanskrit texts
  • due to the influence of Confucian "book culture", the written word was valued more than oral recitation
  • the early Chinese Buddhist bibliographers were influenced by the structure of Confucian bibliographies
  • an important concern for the early catalogers was to validate which texts were "authentic" and which were not[2]


Meaning of "Tripitaka"

The Chinese Canon is traditionally refered to as the Tripitaka (Sanskrit). The term tripitaka literally means "three baskets", and it refers to three different types of teachings:

  • Sutras - the words of the Buddha
  • Vinaya - the codes of conduct and discipline, primarily for monastics
  • Abhidharma - classifications and clarifications of the topics presented in the sutras

In this context, the three "baskets" are broad categories that reflect different types of texts. However, the catalogues for the Chinese Canon also include texts that don't fit into the above categories, such as commentaries and tantras,

When compared to the Pali canon, the Chinese canon includes many sutras (the Mayahana sutras) that are not found in the Pali canon. The Mahayana sutras are considered the authentic "word of the Buddha" within the Chinese/East Asian Buddhist tradition, but they are not considered authentic within the Theravadan Pali tradition.

The Chinese Canon does include a set of sutras (called "Agamas" in Chinese) that corresponds to the sutras of the Pali Canon (called "nikayas" in Pali).

For example, see the catalog of the Taishō Tripiṭaka.


There have been many editions of the Chinese canon that have been printed in locations throughout East Asia, including editions from Korea and Japan.

Some notable editions are:

  • The Taishō Tripiṭaka (Taishō Tripiṭaka, 大正新脩大藏經)[3] is the modern standard edition. It was published in Tokyo between 1924 and 1929.[4]
  • The Tripiṭaka Koreana or Palman Daejanggyeong was carved between 1236 and 1251, during Korea's Goryeo Dynasty, onto 81,340 wooden printing blocks. It is stored at the Haeinsa temple, South Korea.[5]

Works not included in the canon

A number of apocryphal sutras composed in China are excluded in the earlier canons, such as composed stories the Journey to the West and Chinese folk religion texts,[6][7][8][9][10] and High King Avalokiteshvara Sutra. Modern religious and scholarly works are also excluded but they are published in other book series.

Sample pages

See also



  • Storch, Tanya (2015), The History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography: Censorship and Transformation of the Tripitaka, Cambria Press 

External links


Search for videos:

Selected videos:

  • An Interview with Dr. Tanya Storch
    Description: In this video, Dr. Storch discusses her acclaimed book, “ The History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography: Censorship and Transformation of the Tripitaka.” This book examines the history of compiling Chinese Buddhist sacred canon and makes typologically appropriate comparisons between this and the histories of other canonical collections such as Confucian and Christian. It also looks at Chinese scriptural catalogs in comparison with those by Greeks and Romans.
  • 2014 Book Launch: Tanya Storch
    Description: Dr. Tanya Storch (University of the Pacific) speaks about her new book, The History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography: Censorship and Transformation of the Tripitaka, at the AAS 2014 annual conference in Philadelphia. The foreword to this book is by Dr. Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).
  • The Proto-History of Buddhist Translation: From Gāndhārī and Pāli to Han-Dynasty Chinese - Jan Nattier
    Description: Translation & Transmission Conference 2017 – Keynote Lecture by Jan Nattier, June 2, 2017: Discussions of the history of Buddhist translation usually begin with China, where in the middle of the second century Buddhist scriptures were translated into a non-Indian language for the first time. Yet the process of translation itself began many centuries earlier, when the words of the Buddha were rendered into a multitude of Indian vernaculars. Beginning with a brief sketch of these intra-Indian translations, I will then turn to the earliest Chinese Buddhist translations, focusing on the variety of “translation policies” used by their second-century translators and comparing them with the strategies subsequently employed in Tibet and elsewhere. I will conclude with a few remarks on the special challenges posed by translating these foundational works into English, in particular how best to proceed when “translating a translation.”
This article uses material from Chinese Buddhist Canon on Wikipedia (view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikipedia logo