Fei Changfang's Treatment of Sengyou's Anonymous Texts.

Author:Radich, Michael


Five extant catalogues of Chinese Buddhist texts date before the Tang dynasty: Dao'an's [phrase omitted] (312/314-385) Zongli zhongjing mulu, [phrase omitted], completed in the early 380s; (1) Sengyou's [phrase omitted] (445-518) Chu sanzang ji ji [phrase omitted] T2145 (CSZJJ), completed in 515; Fajing's [phrase omitted] (d.u.) Zhongjing mulu [phrase omitted] T2146, completed in 594; Fei Chang-fang/Zhangfang's [phrase omitted] (d.u., fl. ca. 562-598 (2)) Lidai sanbao [phrase omitted] T2034 (LDSBJ), completed in 598; (3) and Yancong's [phrase omitted] (557-610) Zhongjing mulu [phrase omitted] T2147, completed in 602. Of these, the catalogues of Dao'an, Sengyou, and Fei Changfang exerted the greatest influence on the shape of the canon as we have received it, to a degree matched only by the later work of Zhisheng [phrase omitted] (669-740) in his Kaiyuan Shijiao lu [phrase omitted] T2154.

However, it is well known (and should be known even better) that the fourth of these extant pre-Tang catalogues, Fei's LDSBJ, is a source of numerous problematic ascriptions and dates that are still carried by texts in modern editions of the Chinese Buddhist canon. Time and again, Fei applied new ascriptions to numerous texts; and time and again, modern scholarship has found that those ascriptions are baseless and misleading. (4) The LDSBJ was already subject to criticism by medieval Chinese bibliographers--especially by Zhisheng. (5) In the modern era, critical studies of the received canon, and the ascriptions it contains, have devoted immense energy and space to general problems with Fei's sources and methods and specific reassessments of individual ascriptions--for example, suggesting that some of his supposed sources may never have existed, or may have been forgeries or otherwise unreliable; or showing, where Fei's information can be checked against other sources, that he contradicts those sources. (6) Notwithstanding these many treacherous shoals lurking within his work, many of Fei's new ascriptions and dates were accepted by subsequent cataloguers, and the canon as it is used today still bears the deep imprint of his influence. It therefore remains as urgent as ever to exercise the sharpest critical awareness that we can bring to bear on the ascriptions we have inherited from Fei's work as a cataloguer.

This paper presents evidence of widespread and troubling patterns in the assignment of new ascriptions in the LDSBJ, and aims thereby to shed new light on Fei Changfang's working method. The findings presented here, I contend, have important implications for how we should assess and use the information in the LDSBJ. Ascriptions usually dictate the dating of our texts, and canonical texts are still, very often, the richest and most basic evidence we draw upon for the study of many historical questions. Our assessment of Fei's ascriptions therefore has potentially fundamental and far-reaching implications.

I first discovered the findings presented here independently and, in an earlier draft of this paper, wrote as if they were entirely new. Subsequently, I discovered at the eleventh hour that more than eighty years ago, Sakaino Koyo [phrase omitted] (1871-1933) had partially stolen my thunder--he had already clearly observed and sharply criticized the first of the two broad patterns in the LDSBJ studied below. (7) The credit for the original discovery of that aspect of Fei's working style, as I analyze it below, should therefore go to Sakaino.

By rights, Sakaino's findings should have immediately become common knowledge and sufficed to thoroughly discredit the LDSBJ as a source of ascriptions. This in turn should have forced a much more profoundly skeptical and thorough reconsideration of all received pre-Tang canonical ascriptions, many of which are fundamentally skewed by Fei Chang-fang's work. Sakaino was himself so horrified by what he had found that he was moved to quite immoderate language. He says, for instance, that Fei's "carelessness is almost beyond words"; and resulting patterns of new ascription in the LDSBJ are "so peculiar as to defy comprehension"; he complains bitterly that scholars have for centuries placed implicit trust in Fei, despite the actual enormity of his "misdeeds"; and he even declares, "Fei Changfang's behavior is so problematic that it demands psychiatric examination." (8)

However, so far as I am aware, Sakaino's discovery in fact made barely any dent in scholarly awareness. His work on this score is cited very rarely, if ever. I have seen no reference to his important work on the precise problem at issue here, even in works directly on Fei Chang-fang and the LDSBJ. This state of affairs surely betrays significant problems of conservatism and imperfect communications in Buddhological scholarship. In presenting my own findings here, which anatomize the problem more systematically and in greater detail than Sakaino, in a venue more visible to the present generation of scholarship, I hope that it will be possible to increase awareness of the large pattern of problems that Sakaino found so troubling.


Nearly a century before the LDSBJ, Sengyou compiled his CSZJJ, which is our earliest extant catalogue of Chinese Buddhist translations, and justly famed as our most reliable source of information about Chinese Buddhist texts down to his time. In fascicle 4 of the CSZJJ, Sengyou supplements the list of anonymous scriptures he had already inherited from Dao'an's earlier catalogue by presenting a list of 1,306 titles of further texts that he also regarded as anonymous--that is to say (and this is key), on the basis of the information available to him, he considered it impossible to say who had translated those texts. (9) (In the following, this list will be called "Sengyou's list of anonymous scriptures" or just "Sengyou's list.") Of the 1,306 texts listed by Sengyou, only 193 (14.8%) can be identified with extant texts with considerable confidence. (10) Of those 193 texts, however, only 30 (15.5%) are regarded as anonymous in the present canon, which means that the remaining 163 (84.5%) have acquired attributions since the time of Sengyou.

Only one surviving catalogue was produced between the CSZJJ and the LDSBJ--Fajing's Zhongjing mulu of 594. In Fajing's catalogue, interlinear notes give new ascriptions to 32 of the surviving texts from Sengyou's list. Ordinarily, this would mean that these ascriptions, to our knowledge, date to Fajing. (11) Subtracting these 32 texts for which Fajing gives ascriptions from the 193 extant texts on Sengyou's original list, there remain 161 titles for which Fajing gives no attribution. However, 8 of Sengyou's titles do not seem to appear in Fajing, or at least, cannot be identified confidently with a title in Fajing. (12) This still leaves 153 titles that are clearly treated as anonymous by Fajing, like Sengyou before him.

We see a striking contrast in the treatment of Sengyou's list in the LDSBJ. As I show in Appendix 1, Fei Changfang gives new ascriptions (that is, ascriptions not found in Fajing either) for 129 of the texts in Sengyou's list that are still extant.

When we expand our scope even further, beyond only extant texts, Fei claims to have found information about the ascriptions and dates for a huge number of previously unattributed texts, and we see a conspicuous and telling pattern: new LDSBJ ascriptions to a single translator or atelier cluster in a way that mysteriously and implausibly parallels portions of Sengyou's list. For example, the LDSBJ ascribes a total of 54 titles to Nie Daozhen [phrase omitted], citing as his basis, in the general note at the end of the list of ascriptions, a/the bie lu [phrase omitted] (in interlinear notes on specific titles in this list, Fei cites no other specific sources). Of these titles, the majority--a total of 41 texts--also appear in a short stretch of Sengyou's list only 65 texts long (among a total of 1,306 titles), though in a different order.

To give the reader a concrete idea of what this pattern of correspondence looks like, I here list the 54 titles ascribed to Nie Daozhen in the LDSBJ, followed by a number indicating the position of the same title in Sengyou's CSZJJ fascicle 4 (where the 41 titles in question fall between #63 and #128 in the overall sequence of 1,306 texts). (13)

  1. [phrase omitted] (no correspondence)

  2. [phrase omitted] (no correspondence)

  3. [phrase omitted] = CSZJJ #63

  4. [phrase omitted] (no correspondence)

  5. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #75

  6. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #70

  7. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #82

  8. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #79

  9. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #71

  10. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #89

  11. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #90

  12. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #104

  13. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #127

  14. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #126

  15. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #119

  16. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #116 = [phrase omitted]

  17. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #117

  18. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #122

  19. [phrase omitted] (no correspondence)

  20. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #110

  21. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #118 = [phrase omitted] [v.1. [phrase omitted] SYM] [phrase omitted]

  22. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #113

  23. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #125

  24. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #114

  25. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #109 = [phrase omitted]

  26. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #96

  27. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #104 = [phrase omitted]

  28. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #98

  29. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #90

  30. [phrase omitted] (no correspondence) (see CSZJJ #100 = [phrase omitted], but this appears below)

  31. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #88

  32. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #86

  33. [phrase omitted] [[phrase omitted] SYM], see CSZJJ #101 [phrase omitted]

  34. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #91

  35. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #95

  36. [phrase omitted] ([phrase omitted][v.1. [phrase omitted] SYMP] [phrase omitted]) = CSZJJ #87 [phrase omitted]

  37. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #97

  38. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #103

  39. [phrase omitted] CSZJJ #94

  40. [phrase omitted] [CSZJJ #288]

  41. [phrase omitted]...

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