East Asian apocryphal texts

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East Asian apocryphal texts refers to works that proport to be sutras that were translated from Sanskrit into Chinese, but are believed to have been actually written and China. In these texts, it is beleived that colophons indicating that the text was translated from Sanskrit may have been added to give the text authenticity.

Charles Muller writes:

...the term [apocryphal] has been applied to those texts which were actually written in China (and possibly other East Asian regions), for which claims of authenticity were made by offering the appearance of being Indian creations. These claims were made in the form of colophons attached to the texts, which indicated translatorship (and sometimes authorship) as well as time and place of attributed provenance.
The apocryphal East Asian Buddhist texts were traditionally categorized into two types, known in Chinese as i-ching (疑經 "scriptures of doubtful authenticity") and wei-ching (僞教 "spurious scriptures"). The latter term is a disparaging one, as it refers to texts which are judged to espouse doctrines not in accordance with the Buddhist dispensation, while the former term is ambivalent, indicating a doubt about whether the attributed author or translator indeed played a part in the production of the text. Some of the "doubtful" works would also eventually be considered spurious, while others would later be accepted into the canon as authentic, either because their contents were adjudged as being in accord with the Buddhist doctrine, or because the proper circumstances prevailed which allowed for their inclusion.
For example, the scripture might have been relevant to a popular position within a certain current doctrinal controversy, or political exigency. Works which entered the canon due to doctrinal validity or their skillful presentation of an important Buddhist problematik are represented by such texts as the Ta-sheng ch'i-hsin lun (大乘起信論; Treatise on Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith) or Yüan chüeh ching (圓覺經; Sūtra of Perfect Enlightenment). Other texts such as the Lao-tzu Hua-hu ching (老子化胡經; Sūtra on the Conversion of the Barbarians), which was written to establish the primacy of Taoism, were eventually rejected.[1]


Some texts that have been considered apocraphyl are:

  • Innumerable Meanings Sutra
  • Sutra of the Original Acts which Adorn the Bodhisattvas (菩薩本業瓔珞經, P'u-sa ying-lo pen-yeh ching)[2]
  • Sutra of Adamantine Absorption (金剛三昧經, Kŭmgang sammaegyŏng)[3]
  • Sutra on the Conversion of the Barbarians (老子化胡經, Lao-tzu Hua-hu ching)[4]

See also


  1. Muller 1998, pp. 63-64.
  2. Muller 1998, pp. 68–9.
  3. Muller 1998, p. 69.
  4. Muller 1998, p. 64.


Further reading

  • Arai, K.; Bando, S.; Cleary, J.C.; Gregory, P.N.; Shih, H. (2005). Apocryphal Scriptures, Berkeley, Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, ISBN 1-886439-29-X. (Translations of the Bequeathed Teaching Sutra, the Ullambana Sutra, the Sutra of Forty-two Sections, The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, and the Sutra on the Profundity of Filial Love)
  • Buswell, Robert E.; ed. (1990). Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 0585349630
  • Buswell, Robert E.; ed. (2003). Encyclopedia of Buddhism, New York: Macmillan Reference Lib. ISBN 0028657187
  • Epstein, Ron (1976). The Shurangama-Sutra (T. 945): A Reappraisal of its Authenticity, presented at the annual meeting of the American Oriental Society, March 16–18, 1976, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Harada Waso 原田和宗 (2010). 「般若心経」の成立史論 (title tr into English - History of the Establishment of Prajñaparamitahrdayasūtram). 東京: Daizo-shuppan 大蔵出版. ISBN 9784804305776 (in Japanese)
  • Harada Waso (2010), An Annotated Translation of The Prajñaparamitahrdaya, Association of Esoteric Buddhist Studies, Vol.2002, No.209, pp. L17-L62 (in Japanese)
  • Harada Waso (2017) 'A Partial English Summary of Harada Waso's works on The Heart Sūtra -- courtesy of Pat457'
  • Karashima Seishi (2013). "The Meaning of 'Yulanpen 盂蘭盆' - 'Rice Bowl' on Pravāraṇā Day, Annual Report of The International Research Institute for Advance Buddhology at Soka University for the Academic Year 2012, Volume XVI, March 2013, pp 289-304.
  • Li Xuezhu 李学竹 (2010). 中国梵文贝叶概况. (title tr to English: The State of Sanskrit Language Palm Leaf Manuscripts in China). 中国藏学 (journal title tr to English: China Tibetan Studies), pp 55-56 [1](in Chinese)
  • Mizuno, Kogen (1982). Buddhist Sūtras: Origin, Development, Transmission. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing,
  • Mochizuki, Shinko, Pruden, Leo M.; trans.; Pure Land Buddhism in China: A Doctrinal History, The Translation of Texts-Spurious Scriptures. In: Pacific World Journal, Third Series Number 3, Fall 2001, pp. 271-275
  • Nadeau, Randall L. (1987). The "Decline of the Dharma" in Early Chinese Buddhism, Asian Review volume 1 (transl. of the "Scripture Preached by the Buddha on the Total Extinction of the Dharma")
  • Nattier, Jan (1992). 'The Heart Sūtra: A Chinese Apocryphal Text?', Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Vol. 15 (2), pp. 153-223
  • Swanson, Paul (1998). Apocryphal Texts in Chinese Buddhism. T'ien-t'ai Chih-i's Use of Apocryphal Scriptures: In: Arie Van Debeek, Karel Van Der Toorn (eds.), Canonization and Decanonization, Leiden; Boston: Brill, ISBN 9004112464
  • Skilling, Peter (2010). 'Scriptural Authenticity and the Śrāvaka Schools: An Essay towards an Indian Perspective, The Eastern Buddhist Vol. 41. No. 2, 1-48'
  • Yamabe, Nobuyoshi (2002). 'Practice of Visualization and the Visualization Sutra : An Examination of Mural Paintings at Toyok, Turfan, Pacific World Third Series No. 4 Fall 2002, pp 123-152.
  • Yang, Weizhong (2016). 《仁王般若经》的汉译及其“疑伪”之争 (title tr. to English: The Chinese Translation of "The Humane King Perfection of Wisdom Sutra" and Arguments Regarding its Suspicious or Apocryphal [Origins] 西南大学学报-人文社会科学版 (trans to English : Journal of Southwest University - Humanities and Social Science Edition), pp 81-86. [2] (in Chinese)
  • Yang, Weizhong (2016). 《圆觉经》的真伪之争新辨(title tr. to English: The New Analysis of the Authenticity of the 'Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment') 西北大学学报-哲学社会科学版 (trans to English : Journal of Northwest University - Philosophy and Social Science Edition), pp 35-40. [3] (in Chinese)
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