Buddhism in China: Collected Papers of Erik Zurcher.

Author:Benn, James A.
Position:Book review
 
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Buddhism in China: Collected Papers of Erik Zurcher. Edited, with an Introduction, by Jonathan A. Silk. Sinica Leidensia, vol. 112. Leiden: Brill, 2013. Pp. xii + 676. 196 [euro]; $255.

Simon Reynolds' book Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past (Faber & Faber, 2011) comments incisively on the rise of the deluxe CD box set in the last twenty years or so. As he notes, one of the marked features of the contemporary market for recorded music is the repackaging of recordings from the relatively recent past, presenting the tracks known to fans alongside rarities, outtakes, and never-released obscurities. Such collections, often produced in limited editions and aimed at the discerning collector, feature old favorites alongside newly excavated treasures from the vaults, the tracks themselves augmented with high-quality remastering, and supplemented with extensive and detailed liner notes, rare photographs, and new interviews with the artists. The book under review carries echoes of such collections; it reminds one of a deluxe reissue of such seminal works as, say, the Elvis Presley singles originally released on the Sun label. The volume has been lovingly curated and crafted for the connoisseur as an enhanced edition of Erik Zurcher's papers on Buddhism--in this case not remastered from the original tapes, but all completely reset in crystal-clear print. As Reynolds notes with respect to the phenomenon of the CD box set, such collections are often purchased with initial enthusiasm by the fan, but soon filed away only half-listened to. While the serious scholar of medieval Chinese Buddhism may purchase this book under the influence of a combination of desire and obligation, this essential work of scholarship deserves a better fate than to be placed immediately upon the bookshelf unread.

Buddhism in China is designed to be useful as well as comprehensive and aesthetically appealing. Not only is the collection thoroughly indexed, but the papers within it are now supplied with in-line Chinese characters where the originals had only glossaries or no characters at all. The book has continuous pagination, with the original page numbers of the published works indicated in square brackets for ease of reference. The papers have not been edited as such, but typographical errors have been silently corrected, and the romanization throughout standardized to Pinyin. Missing references have been added, and some existing citations to primary sources...

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