Yiqiejing Yinyi (Huilin)

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Yiqiejing yinyi (Huilin)
Dunhuang Yiqiejing yinyi.svg
Dunhuang manuscript (c. 8th century) Yiqiejing yinyi section for Mahāsāṃghika Śāriputraparipṛcchā (舍利弗問經)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 一切經音義
Simplified Chinese 一切经音义
Literal meaning Pronunciation and Meaning in all the Sutras
Korean name
Hangul 一切經音義
Hanja 일체경음의
Japanese name
Kanji 一切經音義
Hiragana いっさいきょうおんぎ

The (c. 807) Yiqiejing yinyi 一切經音義 "Pronunciation and Meaning in the Complete Buddhist Canon" was compiled by the Tang dynasty lexicographer monk Huilin 慧琳 as an expanded revision of the original (c. 649) Yiqiejing yinyi compiled by Xuanying 玄應. Collectively, Xuanying's 25-chapter and Huilin's 100-chapter versions constitute the oldest surviving Chinese dictionary of Buddhist technical terminology (for instance, Púsà 菩薩 or Pútísàtuo 菩提薩埵 for Bodhisattva). A recent history of Chinese lexicography (Yong and Peng 2008: 371) call Huilin's Yiqiejing yinyi "a composite collection of all the glossaries of scripture words and expressions compiled in and before the Tang Dynasty" and "the archetype of the Chinese bilingual dictionary".


The dictionary title combines three Chinese words:

  • yị̄qiè 一切 "all; whole; every; everything" for Sanskrit sarva सर्व "whole; entire; all; every"
  • jīng "sutra; scripture; canon; classic" for sūtra सूत्र " string; thread; rule (that holds teachings together)"
  • yīn-yì 音義 "pronunciation and meaning of a text", with yīn "sound; tone; pronunciation" and "meaning; significance", for śabdârtha "sound and meaning (of words)"

The term yīqièjīng 一切經 "all the sutras; complete Buddhist canon; Tripiṭaka" first came into use in the Sui dynasty (581-618), also known as the Dàzàngjīng 大藏經, referring to all the classic scriptures or the entire Buddhist canon (Yong and Peng 2008: 219). The term yīnyì 音義 "pronunciation and meaning", which refers to explaining the phonology and semantics of words, originated in the exegesis of Chinese classics. The Three Kingdoms (220-280) scholar Sun Yan 孫炎 used it in his commentary title Erya yinyi 爾雅音義 "Pronunciation and Meaning in the Erya".

There is no regular English translation of Yiqiejing yinyi, compare these renderings:

  • Sounds and Meanings of all the Buddhist Sacred Books or Sounds and Meanings of the Whole Canon (Watters 1889: 52, 382)
  • The Sound and Meaning of the Tripitaka (Chien and Creamer 1986: 35)
  • Pronunciation and Meaning of all Classics (Harbsmeier 1998: 426)
  • Sounds and Meanings of all the Buddhist Scriptures (Yong and Peng 2008: 110)
  • Glosses of the Buddhist Texts (Malmqvist 2010: 158)
  • Sound and Meaning of All Sutras (Theobald 2011)
  • A Lexicon of Sounds and Meanings in the Tripitaka (Renn 2012: 259)
  • The Sound and the Meaning of All Scriptures (Guang 2012: 235)
  • Pronunciation and Meaning of All the Scriptures (Buswell and Lopez 2013: 1030)
  • Sounds and meanings for all [the words in the] scriptures (Clart and Scott 2015: 125)

Alternate Yiqiejing yinyi titles include the Dazang yinyi 大藏音義 "Pronunciation and Meaning in the Tripiṭaka", and to distinguish it from Xuanying's version, the Huilin yinyi 慧琳音義 "Huilin's Pronunciation and Meaning".


There is more biographical information available for the Kashgar monk Huilin (733-817) than his predecessor Xuanying (d. c. 661).

The (988) Song gaoseng zhuan 宋高僧傳 "Biographies of Eminent Song Dynasty Monks" gives a detailed record. Huilin's surname was Pei 裴, and he was born in Shule 疏勒 "Kashgar" (a city-state in the Tarim Basin, present-day Kashi 喀什, Xinjiang, the westernmost city in China) (Guang 2012: 235). Huilin was a disciple of Master Bukong 不空 or Amoghavajra (705-744), one of the Eight Patriarchs in Shingon Buddhism. He was a monk at the Xi Ming Temple in Chang'an (present-day Xi'an, Shanxi, at the eastern terminus of the Silk Road). Huilin "inwardly strictly observes the regulations and outwardly studies the Confucian Classics. He has a profound knowledge of Indian philology and exegetic studies" (tr. Yong and Peng 2008: 220).

The Chinese Dharma name Huilin 慧琳 (lit. "Wisdom Gem") was first used by another Buddhist monk. Huilin 慧琳 (fl. 421-445), who was favored by Emperor Wen of Liu Song, wrote the controversial (443) Baihei lun 白黑論 "Discourse on White and Black" that expressed doubts about karmic retribution.


In the history of Chinese lexicography, Hulin's Yiqiejing yinyi was an early Buddhist yinyi "pronunciation and meaning" dictionary. This genre originated when Buddhism became a popular Chinese religion in the period between the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 CE) and Tang dynasty (618-907). For example, the Northern Qi (550-577) Buddhist monk Daohui 道慧 compiled the Yiqiejing yin 一切經音 "Pronunciation in the Complete Buddhist Canon", which did not gloss meanings.

Early translators, including both Central Asian Buddhist missionaries and Chinese monks, often had difficulties accurately rendering Buddhist terminology from Sanskrit, Pali, and Middle Indo-Aryan languages into written Chinese (Chien and Creamer 1986: 35). The wide variety of methods, source texts, and exegetical strategies used by different translators of Buddhist texts in the Southern and Northern dynasties period (420-589) gave rise to a large number of neologisms and repurposed Chinese terms (Clart and Scott 2015: 125). For instance, Sanskrit nirvana is usually transcribed with the Chinese characters nièpán < Middle Chinese ngetban 涅槃 (Baxter and Sagart 2014), but also had alternate phonetic transcriptions such as nièpánnà < ngetbannop 涅槃那, and a similarly pronounced term from Daoist internal alchemy níwán < nejhwan 泥丸 ("muddy pellet; one of the Nine Palaces in the head"). With more and more Indian and Central Asian texts being translated into Chinese, the use of Sanskrit and Middle Indo-Aryan transcriptions and technical vocabulary increased, and became progressively more difficult to comprehend. Meanwhile, errors occurred in the copying and circulation of the scriptures, which the scholar of Buddhism Liu Yu 柳豫 describes:

The Buddhist scriptures are voluminous and the argumentations in them are profound. They are afflicted with errors and misspellings, and their phonetic notations and semantic interpretations are often rough and neglectful. Days and months are spent in studying and sorting them. There is some progress, but concerns are inevitable. Reflections on them often come to nothing. All the scholars of good will would be troubled by them. (tr. Yong and Peng 2008: 207)

Xuanying's purpose in writing the original Yiqiejing yinyi was to standardize the diverse Chinese Buddhist technical terminology used in the Buddhist canon, gloss correct pronunciation, note variant transcriptions, and give semantic explanations.

Huilin started to compile the Yiqiejing yinyi in 788 and finished it in 810 (or, according to another account, started in 783 and finished in 807) (Yong and Peng 2008: 220). The text has two prefaces by Tang scholars, one written by the monk Gu Qizhi 顧齊之 and one by the poet Jing Fan 景審 (Theobald 2011). The preface says Huilin's wordbook "is as vast as the sea, embracing numerous streams and therefore profound, and is as bright as a mirror, reflecting tirelessly the objects in the world" (tr. Yong and Peng 2008: 222). In 851, during the reign of Emperor Xuānzong of Tang, Huilin's book was officially included into the Buddhist Canon.

Huilin's dictionary was supplemented by the (987) Xu yiqiejing yinyi 續一切経音義 "Extended Pronunciation and Meaning in the Complete Buddhist Canon", compiled by the Liao dynasty monk Xilin 希麟. This 10-chapter dictionary had entries taken from 226 Buddhist scriptures. Each entry gave the phonetic notation, definition, and citations from dictionaries, rime dictionaries, histories, and other classic literature (Yong and Peng 2008: 220). In addition to their value in establishing the Chinese interpretation of Buddhist technical terms, these "pronunciation and meaning" glossaries also serve as important sources for studying the Chinese phonology of their times (Buswell and Lopez 2013: 1031).

Copies of the Yiqiejing yinyi were later transmitted to Korea and Japan. In 1737, it was first printed in Japan, and those copies were reprinted by Qing dynasty scholars (Theobald 2011). The Japanese (1924-1934) Taishō Tripiṭaka edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon included the Yiqiejing yinyi (T 54, no. 2128).


Huilin spent over 20 years editing the Yiqiejing yinyi, and the resultant dictionary is huge. It comprises 100 chapters/volumes (juan ), with a total of about 600,000 characters. There are 31,000 headword entries for difficult terms excerpted from over 1,300 different Buddhist scriptures (Yong and Peng 2008: 220).

Huilin compiled his magnum opus as an expanded version of Xuanying's (c. 649) Yiqiejing yinyi. He incorporated all of Xuanying's definitions, with some corrections (Buswell and Lopez 2013: 1031). For the collation of entries, Huilin copied Xuanying's arrangement by provenance in individual scripture, which in turn was copied from Lu Deming's (583) Jingdian Shiwen exegetical dictionary of the Confucian Thirteen Classics. At the beginning of each chapter, Huilin listed the sutras and chapters from which the headwords are selected. This user-unfriendly method of collating headwords is comparable to the (c. 800) Leiden Glossary (Yong and Peng 2008: 370).

Each Yiqiejing yinyi entry first gives any variant transcriptions of the headword, the fanqie pronunciation of rare or difficult characters, Chinese translation, and comments (Buswell and Lopez 2013: 1030). The entry for wúfù < Middle Chinese mjubjuwH 無復 "never again" (Sanskrit apunar "not again; only once"; Muller 2005) exemplifies Huilin's use of fanqie 反切 glosses for pronunciation.

無復 [wúfù < mju-bjuwH]: The second character in the Wú 吳 pronunciation is 扶救切 [b(ju) + (k)juwH = bjuwH]; in the Qín 秦 pronunciation it is 切 [b(juwng) + (m)juwk = bjuwk]. (tr. Baxter 1992: 319)

The Tang period states of Wu and Qin correspond to present day Jiangsu-Zhejiang and Shaanxi.

Huilin's preface says the pronunciation glosses were based on "Qinyun" 秦韻 "Qin pronunciation", that is, the koiné language spoken in the capital Chang'an. Pronunciations in the (c. 807) Yiqiejing yinyi document diachronic simplification in Chinese phonology, and more closely correlate with the 106 rimes of the (c. 780) Yunhai jingyuan rime dictionary than the 193 of the (601) Qieyun (Malmqvist 2010: 159).

In order to explain the pronunciations and meanings of difficult words used in Buddhist scriptures, Huilin cited from over 750 lexicographical and commentarial works, including rime dictionaries, Chinese character dictionaries, yinyi commentaries to Buddhist scriptures, and commentaries to the Chinese classics. Many of these are now lost, but have been partly reconstructed on the basis of Huilin's "ample and carefully attributed" quotations (Harbsmeier 1998: 78).

First, Huilin cited early rime dictionaries, such as the Yunquian 韻詮 "Rime Interpretation", Yunying 韻英 "Rime Essentials", and Kaosheng qieyun 考聲切韻 "Examining Pronunciation in the Qieyun". These three exemplify the numerous lost works that were primarily reassembled from Yiqiejing yinyi citations.

Second, the Yiqiejing yinyi quotes linguistic information from Chinese dictionaries and glossaries. Some are familiar lexicons like the Shuowen Jiezi, Yupian, and Zilin; others are little known like the Zitong 字統 "All Characters", Gujin zhengzi 古今正字 "The Rectification of Ancient and Contemporary Characters", and Kaiyuan yinyi 開元音義 "Pronunciations and Meanings of Kaiyuan [era 713-741] Characters".

Third, Huilin cited from phonetic-semantic commentaries for Buddhist sutras, such as Huiyuan's Huayanjing shu 華嚴經疏 "Commentary to the Garland Sutra", and Kuiji's Miàofǎ liánhuá jīng yīnyì 妙法蓮華經音義 "Pronunciation and Meaning in the Lotus Sutra" (Yong and Peng 2008: 219). Hulin's dictionary was the first to comment on many Buddhist works.

Fourth, when Buddhist terminology was not included previous dictionaries or commentaries, Huilin quoted commentaries for the Chinese classics, both Confucian and Daoist. For instance, Zheng Zhong's commentary to the Kaogongji, Jia Kui's (賈逵, 30-101) to the Guoyu, Xu Shen's commentary to the Huainanzi, and Sima Biao's to the Zhuangzi.

The Yiqiejing yinyi is not strictly a bilingual dictionary in the modern meaning of Sanskrit headwords and Chinese translation equivalents, it is technically a monolingual dictionary of Chinese Buddhist terms. Although early yinyi glossaries and dictionaries have some basic features of modern bilingual dictionaries, they can be considered as the "most distant forerunners of modern Chinese bilingual dictionaries" (Yong and Peng 2008: 371).

Within the Chinese "pronunciation and meaning" tradition, Huilin's Yiqiejing yinyi became the definitive glossary (Buswell and Lopez 2013: 1030). Scholars value it for having accurately recorded the pronunciations and understandings of Buddhist technical terms during the Tang dynasty. Yong and Peng (2008: 220) call it a "huge masterpiece of notation and interpretation of the sounds and meanings of characters in Buddhist scriptures – exhaustively embracing the ancient exegetic interpretations, phonetically notating the Sanskrit classics – and it is broad in collection and rich in content".

Huilin's Yiqiejing yinyi is valuable for three reasons. It is extremely useful for studying Buddhist scriptures. It is significant to exegesis for providing the pronunciations and meanings of ancient words. And it is the main sourcebook for textual reconstructions, citing many classic works that would otherwise be unknown (Guang 2012: 235). According to the Qing scholar of Buddhism Yang Shoujing 楊守敬 (1835-1915) (tr. Yong and Peng 2008: 222), Huilin's Yiqiejing yinyi "is where philological studies reside and a diamond in the academic forest".


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  • Buswell, Robert E. and Donald S. Lopez (2013), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University Press.
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  • Clart, Philip and Gregory Adam Scott (2015), Religious Publishing and Print Culture in Modern China: 1800-2012, Walter de Gruyter.
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  • Harbsmeier, Christoph (1998), Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 7, Part 1: Language and Logic, ed. by Kenneth Robinson, Cambridge University Press.
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  • Theobald, Ulrich (2011), Yiqiejing yinyi 一切經音義 "Sound and Meaning of All Sutras", Chinaknowledge
  • Watters, T. (1889), Essays on the Chinese Language, Presbyterian Mission Press.
  • Yong, Heming and Jing Peng (2008), Chinese Lexicography: A History from 1046 BC to AD 1911, Oxford University Press.

External links

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