The History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography
Censorship and Transformation of the Tripitaka
Cambria Press 2014
New Books in Buddhist StudiesNew Books in East Asian StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network March 18, 2015 Luke Thompson
Tanya Storch‘s recent book, The History of Chinese Buddhist Bibliography: Censorship and Transformation of the Tripitaka (Cambria, 2014), focuses on the development of Chinese Buddhist catalogs from their first appearance in the third century to the eighth century, when printed editions of the canon took over the catalog’s role of identifying and delimiting the Chinese Buddhist canon. Storch has written this work with two goals in mind, which correspond to two different audiences she is targeting.
On the one hand, she aims to present the first-ever English-language overview of Chinese Buddhist bibliography, a feat she accomplishes through an examination of catalogs in their chronological order of appearance (chapters 2-5). Along the way she highlights a number of important points and developments: the way in which Sengyou (445-518) was indebted to earlier catalogs other than Daoan’s, Buddhist appropriation of the organizing principles used in catalogs of Confucian texts, the unprecedented production of catalogs of Buddhist texts during the short-lived Sui dynasty (581-618), the growth of the sutra section of the canon and simultaneous shrinking of the Vinaya section, and the reasons for the eventual decline of the catalog’s authority, to name but a few to name but a few of the issues that Storch addresses. The extraordinary number of names of people and texts appearing in these chapters would be overwhelming for readers not prepared for such detail were it not for the tables that Storch has thoughtfully included at the end of each of these four chapters, in which she lays out the contents and structure of the various catalogs discussed therein. This is in addition to a very helpful seventeen-page table appended to the end of the book that provides in table format an overview of the first five centuries of Chinese Buddhist bibliography.
Storch’s second goal is to make Chinese Buddhist bibliography accessible to non-specialists. Because discussions of the Chinese Buddhist canon are written in Japanese or Chinese, or, if in a Western language, they are written for other Sinologists or scholars of Chinese Buddhism, the Chinese Buddhist canon has been consistently absent from academic treatments of canon formation and sacred scripture in comparative perspective. (Incidentally, scholarship on the corpus of Confucian classics has been more accessible, and thus this body of texts has not suffered the same fate.) Lamenting this fact, Storch hopes to make the Chinese tripikakaa “household name.” To this end, she devotes chapter 7 to a comparison of the Chinese canon and Chinese Buddhist canonical authority to the development of the New Testament and Hellenistic catalogs of texts. She considers, for example, the way in which both Chinese catalogers and those attempting to delimit the boundaries of the New Testament both attempted to verify the authenticity of a given text by verifying the authenticity of the transmitter of that text, the transmitter being the translator in the case of Chinese Buddhism and the apostle in the case of the New Testament.
In this way, Storch’s book will be of great value not only to those attempting to understand the notions of canon, orthodoxy, and religious authority in the context of Chinese Buddhism (and Chinese textual culture more generally) but also to those examining these concepts in cross cultural perspective, particularly with regard to the past evaluations of sacred scripture and corpora of such texts.