Chinese Buddhists urge international cooperation in scripture researches

Xinhua, March 29, 2009

WUXI, Jiangsu (China) -- Buddhist experts attending the World Buddhist Forum here called for international cooperation in researching and protecting the Tripitaka, the encyclopedia of Buddhist culture.

"The Tripitaka is of great importance to the Buddhists, like the Bible to the Christians and the Koran to the Islamists," said Fang Guangchang, a philosophy professor of the Shanghai Normal University.

China started compiling the Chinese Tripitaka, which included translated Buddhist classical texts and selected explanatory or research essays on Buddhism written by historical scholars, during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 A.D.).

Since then, each dynasty in the Chinese history compiled its own version of the Tripitaka. The latest edition of the Tripitaka in Chinese was published in 1997 including close to 2,000 Buddhist classics.

But as each version of the Tripitaka included different explanatory or research essays, those compiled at different times varied from each other.

A full study on the Tripitaka required one to also study Buddhist classics documented in the Tripitaka compiled in previous times, according to Fang.

"It would be very hard to conduct researches on the Tripitaka without copies of the scripture," said Fang.

He said copies of the scribal version of the Tripitaka found in northwestern China's Dunhuang were scattered among people across the world.

"As for those versions engraved on the woodblock, the Tripitaka compiled in China's Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) is better preserved in Japan, while the versions compiled in the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty is mostly kept in China," Fang said.

The two countries must work closely together in order to conduct a full research on the scriptures in the Tripitaka, he said.

Ven. Vinita Tseng, who is conducting her Buddhist research in Austria, said to fully study the Tripitaka, one needed to study other versions of the Tripitaka in different languages such as Japanese and the Tibetan language, translated from the Sanskrit, an ancient language of India. Her mother language is Chinese.

Their views was echoed by Li-SuL. Tan, curator of the Amitabha Buddhist Library in Chicago.

"We should translate the Chinese Tripitaka into English so that people of different cultural backgrounds can conduct researches on the Tripitaka. People would get a better understanding of the Buddhist culture through the scriptures, too," she said.

Du Jiwen, vice editor-in-chief of the Chinese Tripitaka, said more than 200 experts are now working on a continuation of the 1997 edition of the Chinese Tripitaka to include 4,000 Buddhist scriptures by 2010.

The country published a Tibetan version of the Tripitaka in October 2008.

Fang Guangchang noted that China has doubled its efforts to preserve the ancient versions of the Tripitaka. Many museums and libraries in possession of the Tripitaka have started work of repairing the ancient copies of the scriptures, he said.

"That's good news to me," he said.