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Chinese Buddhist Canon

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

Within the East Asian tradition, this canon is referred to as The Great Scripture Store (C. 大藏經, dazangjing or ta-ts'ang-ching; J. daizōkyō; K. taejanggyŏng).[1][2] It is also sometimes referred to as the Tripitaka within the tradition.

In the West, the canon is sometimes referred to as the Chinese Tripitaka or the East Asian Buddhist Canon.[3]

There have been many different editions of the Chinese canon that have been printed in locations throughout East Asia. The first complete printing of the canon, known as the Szechuan edition, was completed in 983 C.E.[2][4]

The modern standard edition of the Chinese Canon is the Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō, which was published in Tokyo between 1924 and 1929.[2]

The Chinese Canon is one of the three major Buddhist Canons, the other two being the Tibetan Buddhist Canon, and the Pali Canon.[5]


The Princeton Dictionary states:

The myriad texts of different Indian and Central Asian Buddhist schools were transmitted to China over a millennium, from about the second through the twelfth centuries CE, where they were translated with alacrity into Chinese. Chinese Buddhists texts therefore came to include not only the tripiṭakas of several independent schools of Indian Buddhism, but also different recensions of various Mahayana scriptures and Buddhist tantras, sometimes in multiple translations. As the East Asian tradition developed its own scholarly traditions, indigenous writings by native East Asian authors, composed in literary Chinese, also came to be included in the canon.[1]

According to Tanya Storch:[6]

  • 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
  • in China, 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
  • the catalogues for the various editions have evolved over time

Etymology of dazangjing

The Chinese canon is traditionally referred to as dazangjing (ta-ts'ang-ching, 大藏經), which is translated as "The Great Scripture Store" or "Scriptures of the Great Repository".[1]

The Princeton Dictionary states:

Because the scope of the Buddhist canon in China was therefore substantially broader than the traditional tripartite structure of an Indian tripiṭaka, the Chinese coined alternative terms to refer to their collection of Buddhist materials, including “all the books” (yiqie jing), until eventually settling on the term dazangjing. The term dazangjing seems to derive from a Northern Song-dynasty term for an officially commissioned “great library” (dazang) that was intended to serve as a repository for “books” (jing) sanctioned by the court. Buddhist monasteries were the first places outside the imperial palaces that such officially sanctioned libraries were established.[1]

According to the Princeton Dictionary, rather than cataloguing texts according to the traditional Indian organzation categories of "Vinaya", "Sutra" and "Abhidharma", the Chinese catalogers followed the categorizations that were more common within the Chinese courts.[1] Similarly, Tanya Storch suggests that the Chinese Buddhist bibliographers were influenced by the structure of Confucian bibliographies.[6]


The Tripiṭaka Koreana, an early edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon

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 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.[8]


The Chinese canon contains the following categories of texts (presented as organized in the Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō):[9]

  • (i) Agamas and Jataka tales
  • (ii) Mahayana sutras
  • (iii) Tantras
    • This section includes over 500 texts, including both the Vairocana Sutra of the practical division, and the Diamond Crown Sutra of the Yoga division.[2]
    • The only esoteric scriptures that are missing are those of the Highest Yoga division which, as they arrived in China at a time of national chaos, did not have much chance to circulate widely.[2]
  • (iv) Vinaya texts
    • (a) The Mahasamghika Vinaya of the Mahasamghika school.[2]
    • (b) The five divisions of the Mahisasaka Vinaya, the four divisions of the Dharmagupta Vinaya, the pratimoksa of Mahadasyapiyah, and the Sudarsana Vinaya of Tamrasatiya. All these are rules of the Vibbajyavada school.[2]
    • (c) The old Sravastivada Vinaya and the new Mulasarvasti vadanikaya Vinaya, both of the Sarvastivada school.[2]
    • (d) The Twenty-Two-Points-Of-Elucidation Sastras of the Sammatiya sect of the Vatsiputriyas school.[2]
  • (v) Translations of commentaries on the Agamas and Mahayana sutras
  • (vi) Abhidharma texts[2]
    • (a) From the Sarvastivada school: the Samgitiparyaya, the Dharmaskandha, the Prajnapti, the Vijnanakaya, the Dhatukaya, the Prakaranapada, the Jnanaprasthana, the Mahavibhasa, the Abhidharma-hrdaya-vyakhya, the Abhiraharmananyanyanusara and the Abhidharmasamayapradipika Sastras.
    • (b) Of the works of Vibhajyavadins, it includes the Abhidharma Sastra of Sariputa, which is the only important work that links up the Southern and Northern Abhidharmas.
    • (c) The Vimuttimagga
    • (d) The Sammitiya Sastra of the Vatsiputriya School.
    • (e) The commentaries, the Abhidharma-kosha and the Tattvasiddhi Śāstra.
  • (vii) translations of commentaries on Yogacara and Madhyamaka
  • (viii) Chinese commentaries on the sutras, vinaya, and shastras (Indian commentaries)
  • (ix) Chinese sectarian writings
  • (x) Histories and biographies
  • (xi) Encyclopedias, dictionaries, non-Buddhist doctrines (Hindu, Manichean, and Nestorian Christian) and catalogs of various Chinese Canons

Avaliable texts

Online libraries of Chinese language texts

The following websites contain online libraries of the Chinese canon:

Translations into English

The following websites provide English language translations of selected texts from the Chinese canon:

Works not included in the canon

Types of works not included in the canon are:

Comparison with other canons

The Chinese Canon is traditionally referred to as The Great Scripture Store (C. 大藏經, dazangjing or ta-ts'ang-ching).

Compared to the other Buddhist Canons, the Chinese Canon contains:

  • a section of sutras (called the Agamas) that are referred to as "parallel texts" of the Sutta Pitaka (called Nikayas in Pali) of the Pali Canon
  • major sections on Mahāyāna sūtras and tantras
    • The Mahayana sutras and trantras have no equivalents within the Pali Canon; but many of the same texts are found in the Tibetan Canon
  • many texts that are not found in either the Pali or Tibetan canons, such as Chinese-language commentaries

In addition:

Unlike the Theravadan Pali Canon, the Chinese Canon is not literally divided into three sections or pitakas. However, the term tripitaka (three pitakas) is sometimes used to refer to the Chinese canon.

Sample pages


Search for videos:

Selected videos:

  • An Interview with Dr. Tanya Storch
    Description: In this video, Dr. Tanya Storch discusses her 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.”



External links