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Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies

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The Buddhist translation histories of ancient

China (c. 1501276) and Tibet (c. 6171750): a
comparative study
Roberta Raine
To cite this article: Roberta Raine (2016): The Buddhist translation histories of ancient China
(c. 1501276) and Tibet (c. 6171750): a comparative study, Asia Pacific Translation and
Intercultural Studies, DOI: 10.1080/23306343.2015.1131949
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23306343.2015.1131949

Published online: 29 Jan 2016.

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Date: 29 January 2016, At: 18:40

Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies, 2016


The Buddhist translation histories of ancient China

(c. 1501276) and Tibet (c. 6171750): a comparative study
Roberta Raine
Department of Translation, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

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Despite the parallels between the Buddhist translation histories of

ancient China and Tibet where Buddhism was introduced, translated
into the local languages and then proceeded to follow widely divergent
paths no study comparing the two traditions has been published.
In both regions, thousands of Buddhist texts were translated but into
markedly different languages and in different historical and cultural
contexts. What strategies did the translators of ancient China and
Tibet use and how did they carry out their translations? Who were
the translators, and what commonalities and differences can be
found between the two traditions in terms of translation experience?
This study aims to answer these and other questions by employing
Wakabayashis model of comparative translation historiography.
Since Wakabayashis work was published, no scholar of Translation
Studies has utilized or advanced the methodology that she put forth.
It is hoped that this study will help to fill this gap, that progress may
be made toward advancing this methodology within the discipline
of Translation Studies, and that a contribution will be made to
historical studies of these regions. Data gathered in the study will be
presented and analyzed, and the difficulties in carrying out this type
of comparative research will be discussed.


Tibet; ancient China;

comparative translation
historiography; Buddhism

The history of Buddhism is a history of translation, for like most religions, Buddhism could
not have spread and flourished without the vehicle of translation to transmit its message
and, ultimately, transform entire civilizations. Two such civilizations are Tibet and ancient
China, where Buddhism was introduced, translated into the local languages, took root and
then proceeded to follow widely divergent paths. Despite the parallels between these two
religious and translation histories, no comparative study has ever been published.
A comparative socio-historical or socio-religious study would be a massive undertaking,
involving scholars from both traditions, which perhaps explains why it has not yet come to
pass. A more manageable task is to compare the two traditions from the relatively narrow
CONTACT Roberta Raine
Given the time periods being discussed in this paper (ending in the Song Dynasty in ancient China and in the 1700s in Tibet),
Tibet and ancient China may be considered separate regions and juxtaposed for comparative purposes.
2016 Taylor & Francis

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R. Raine

lens of translation history. This approach is both warranted and worthy: warranted due to
the fact that, as the vehicle for transmission to both cultures, translation may be examined
as a discrete phenomenon; and worthy in that such a study could yield insights that may be
useful both to a broader historical comparative work and to translation historians.
This study developed out of a related project undertaken by the present author on the
history of Buddhist translation in Tibet (Raine 2010, 2011, 2014). While working on this project,
the question naturally arose of how the translation of Buddhism in other societies compared to
that in Tibet. The closest correlate to Tibets translation history is that of ancient China, in respect
of three commonalities: Mahayana Buddhism, rather than Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism,
took hold in both regions; hundreds of the same texts were translated; and translation activity
continued for a similar length of time, around 900years. However, the texts in the two regions
were not only translated into, and out of, markedly different languages, but were also translated
in different historical periods (from the Eastern Han to the Song Dynasty in ancient China, and
from c. 6171750 in Tibet; see Table 1) and in vastly different cultural contexts.
Some of the questions that arose in regard to comparing the Buddhist translations in the
two regions were the following: What strategies or methods did the translators of ancient
China and Tibet use, in what manner did they carry out their translations, and what difficulties did they face? Who were the translators, and what commonalities and differences can
be found between the two traditions in terms of translation experience? This study aims to
take a first step toward answering these questions by applying the methodology of comparative translation historiography developed by Judy Wakabayashi (2005, 2007, 2013). Since
Wakabayashis work was published, no scholar of Translation Studies has applied or advanced
the theories, insights, and concepts that she put forth. Further, no other methodologies for
comparatively analyzing multiple translation traditions have been developed apart from hers.
As Wakabayashi notes, comparisons of different translation traditions within Asia have
been even more neglected in the West and in Asia itself than East-West comparisons of translation traditions (2005, 17). By applying this methodology to the two translation traditions of
Tibet and ancient China, it is hoped that this study will help to fill this gap, that progress may
be made toward advancing this methodology within the discipline of Translation Studies,
and that a contribution will be made to religious and historical studies of these regions.

Wakabayashis model of comparative translation historiography was developed as a means
of comparing the historical similarities and differences that shaped translation norms in
Japan, Korea, China and Vietnam, which all adopted Chinese characters as their written
script (2005, 17). Her study examined factors such as indigenous methods of reading Chinese
texts, the selection of texts for translation, the role of non-local translators, attitudes toward
translation as a means of national survival, patronage, and other translational phenomena.
Her study included a brief comparison of Buddhist sutra translation among these countries,
but only insofar as this related to her overall theme of the use of Chinese characters within
each cultural context.
Wakabayashi later published a reflective paper (2007) on the strengths and weaknesses of
theory-driven and case-oriented approaches to comparative historiography, which outlines
the model used in the case study and discusses various theoretical and epistemological
issues. The most recent (2013) paper is an expanded and comprehensive discussion of both

Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies

Table 1.Key events in Tibet and ancient Chinas Buddhist translation histories.

Key translation events

Ancient China
c. 150265 CE
(Eastern Han and
Wei Dynasties)
265420 (Jin

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420587 (Northern and Southern


589617 (Sui

Early diffusion


Later diffusion
period, (c.

Tibetan script developed c. 632

First monks ordained, Samye Monastery built c. 779
Monks go to India to learn Sanskrit,
bring back sutras to translate
Buddhism and translation flourish
under three emperors
Lexicons, catalogs and guidelines
97% of all sutras (1,100 texts) translated by the end of this period
Tibets dark ages, royal dynasty
Buddhism suppressed, translation
activity stops
Buddhist renaissance, local kings
begin supporting translators, journeys
to India begin again
Nearly 3,000 texts translated by
Muslims invade India in the 13th c.,
decline of Buddhism begins there
Flow of texts to Tibet slows, translations end in the 18th c.
Total 4,533 texts translated by 336
Tibetan translators and 371 panditasc

617905 (Tang

907960 (Five
Kingdoms period)
9601276 (Song

Key translation events

Central Asian monks come to
China to spread Buddhism
Sutra translations begin in 148
by An Shigao, a Parthiana
Large-scale translation work
begins by Central Asian monks
By 317, over 1,100 sutras
Period of ge-yi (concept
Large translation forums held
First persecution of Buddhism
Emperor supports Buddhism
Second persecution in 574
Official sutra translation begins
in 582
Sutra translation academy
In 594, 2,257 translations are
In 602, the catalog lists only
688 extant works
Muslims invade Central Asia,
Buddhism there declines
Government control over
Buddhism complete
Kaiyuan catalog in 730 lists
1,076 translated works
176 translators from 148 to 730
Indian monks begin to translate
Third persecution of Buddhism
Translation activity declines,
period of political turmoil
No translations of Buddhist
texts from 810 to 970
Emperor orders compilation of
Chinese canon in 971
Translation forums revived,
systematic state-sponsored
translation process in place
284 tantric texts translated by
Indian monks from 982 to 1111
Translation activity ends in the
13th c.
Total of at least 2,200 texts
translated by 194 translators

Mizuno writes that it is thought that the earliest translations in China were actually done in the reign of Emperor Ming Di
(AD 57-75), at the same time that Buddhism was introduced to China, but the earliest extant translations are from An
Shigaos time (1995, 44-45).
The end date of the later diffusion period is considered by some to be later, and by some to be earlier, but the last translator
listed in the Derge canon is Situ Choekyi Jungney (1699-1774).
Figures are from the Derge canon, which was produced between 1729 and 1744. In addition to the 336 Tibetan translators,
371 Indian (or Nepali) panditas were also involved in translation. See Raine 2014 for further data. Note that other catalogs
will yield different figures, as there is no one complete catalog or definitive canon for Tibetan translations.

R. Raine

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methodological and theoretical issues surrounding comparative translation historiography.

Together, the three papers offer valuable guidance and insights that have been instrumental
in analyzing and presenting the materials for this study.
Regarding the aims for undertaking comparisons of different translation histories,
Wakabayashi initially suggested four, but later expanded the list to nine (2013, 420424).
As the original four aims are more concise and pertinent to this study, they are listed here:
(1)To view local translation phenomena in a broader context in order to distinguish
between aspects specific to that culture and general aspects;
(2)To trace influences and interactions across cultures in regard to theories and practices of translation;
(3)To identify similarities, determine their significance, and ask whether they are due
to coincidence or are inherent in the process of translation; and
(4)To identify differences and determine where divergences occurred, what caused
them, what their significance is, and how they might relate to each other.
(Wakabayashi 2005, 18)
When beginning her case study, Wakabayashi initially theorized that similarities across
traditions might be (a) coincidental, (b) inherent in the nature of translation, or (c) the result
of textual or intellectual transfers (2007, 15). However, in the final analysis, she found that
more specific linguistic, social, and political factors led to similarities (and differences) not
accounted for by these three. This study will draw from and apply Wakabayashis methodology, hypothesize as to what factors led to the similarities and differences in the Buddhist
translation histories in Tibet and ancient China, and discuss the difficulties and practical
constraints involved in carrying out this type of comparative research.

3. Historical background
When carrying out comparative historical studies of any kind, one of the earliest questions
that arises is how much background on each history to provide. In this study, the individual
histories of Buddhism in ancient China and Tibet are exceptionally long and complex. If the
audience of this study consisted only of Buddhist historians, such knowledge would be
assumed; however, for an audience of fellow Translation Studies scholars, a certain amount
of background is necessary. On this point, Wakabayashi emphasizes that in a comparative
study, it is less important to discuss historical regional details and more important to focus
on cross-cultural patterns of similarity and difference (2007, 16).
In Wakabayashis case study, trying to provide historical details on the use of Chinese
characters in Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam, in order to allow her readers a backdrop for
her discussion of translation practices and norms, would have been unwieldy. Similarly, to
outline here the entire religious histories of ancient China and Tibet is both impractical and
unnecessary, since the focus in this study is on translation phenomena. Wakabayashi states
that she created a timeline of the various histories for her own purposes, but ultimately
chose not to include it in her published work (2007, 14). In this study, a comparative timeline
for readers reference has been included, since only two regions are involved and it allows
readers to easily apprehend the key translation events in each history (Table 1).
In regard to periodization, separate columns are provided for each region since ancient
Chinas periodization is most commonly organized by dynasty, while in Tibet, there are, as

Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies

traditionally considered to be, two distinct periods of Buddhist history, the early diffusion
and the later diffusion periods when Buddhism flourished and spread. These two standard
methods of periodization are chosen to be used in this study, as they are seldom contested
and alternate periodizations are less well known to non-specialists.
In Table 1 above, key data on numbers of translators and texts translated are provided,
together with important events that influenced translation history.

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4. Comparative parameters
In organizing and presenting the findings in her case study, Wakabayashi rejected using
a chronological approach and decided instead on a thematic approach based on certain
comparative parameters. Beginning with her own extensive knowledge of Japans translation
history, she formulated an initial hypothesis about translation in the four cultural regions that
use Chinese characters and made a preliminary selection of which comparative parameters to
investigate. This, in turn, led to fact-finding aimed at refining and testing these hypotheses
and modifying the parameters to better represent actual conditions (Wakabayashi 2007, 12).
She then created a mega-chart with a vertical column for each culture and horizontal rows
consisting of points of potential comparison that she later refined and grouped according
to theme.
Like Wakabayashi, the present author began the investigation based on extensive studies
of Tibets translation history and then went on a lengthy fact-finding mission to discover
the data relevant to ancient Chinas translation history. Unlike what she has done, however,
there is not any pre-formulated hypothesis about ancient China in this study. Instead, the
facts are allowed to reveal themselves with no particular expectation of what would be found.
Considering the four reasons above for carrying out comparative translation research,
and following her thematic approach, a chart (Table 2) outlining the major points of comparison between Tibets and ancient Chinas Buddhist histories was created. As for her, this
simple act of juxtaposition was surprisingly revealing (ibid.), and clearly illuminated which
themes to examine more deeply. Like Wakabayashi, as information was accumulated, some
parameters were excluded from the final table because they were less relevant to translation
phenomena or were inconclusive. A total of 11 comparative parameters were eventually
included, with an additional two vertical columns added to the chart, one to indicate the
degree of similarity or difference for each parameter and another to hypothesize about the
reason for the similarity or difference.
Of the 11 parameters listed in Table 2, the eight most pertinent to translation have been
selected for elaboration and analysis, indicated in column 1 by an asterisk. Some of these
are treated separately below, while others are grouped together (e.g., ethnicity, gender, and
number of translators are discussed under the heading Identity and Number of Translators).
Information on three parameters (patronage, the pre-existence of religious traditions in the
target cultures, and training of translators) is mentioned at various points in the sections

4.1. The language of translated texts

A somewhat surprising difference between the two traditions is the source language of translated texts. Due to the way in which Buddhism was introduced to the two regions directly

R. Raine

Table 2.Comparative parameters for Tibetan and ancient Chinese traditions.

Parameter of
Language of source

Ethnicity of
Gender of

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Time periods of
translation activity
No. of texts
No. of translators*

Existing religious
Means of

Tibetan tradition
Sanskrit and Chinese

Tibetans and Indians

Males only, except
for three imperial
princesses in the
early period
7th9th centuries
and 10th18th
At least 4,533
707 (336 Tibetan
translators and 371
panditas, mainly
Yes, especially in
early period
Indigenous Bn
Mainly teamwork
in pairs or small
groups, some individual translations

Training of

Extensive training in
Sanskrit, pilgrimage
and study in India


Use of standardized
lexicon and imperial
guidelines in early
period; more variation in later period

Ancient Chinese
Sanskrit, Prakrit vernaculars, Buddhist
Hybrid Sanskrit, and
various Central Asian
Central Asian, Indian,
and some Chinese
Males only

Degree of similarity
or difference
Some similarity

Possible cause
of similarity or

Some similarity

Linguistic and social

The same


2nd9th centuries
and 10th13th
At least 2,200

Similar duration; different time periods

Great difference

Duration: coincidental; time periods:

political and religious
Religious and social


Great difference


Yes, but intermittent

Some similarity


Taoism and Confucianism

Large translation
forums; institutes
and committees;
teamwork in small
groups only in
earliest period
Little training;
learned on the job
in large committees;
pilgrimages to India
less common
Practices varied
greatly; little
standardization of

Some similarity


Great difference


Great difference

Geographical, religious and political

Great difference

Political, cultural

*indicates the most pertinent parameters to translation.

from India in the case of Tibet, and indirectly via Central Asian nations in the case of ancient
China both the source languages themselves and the number of source languages are
markedly different.
In Tibet, travels to India by monks and translators began in the early period and continued almost unabated up until the Muslim armies invaded India and wiped out Buddhism.
Following in the footsteps of the first translator, Thonmi Sambhota (7th c.), the Tibetans travelled to India in large numbers to learn Sanskrit and study Buddhism. Often they returned to
Tibet laden with texts to translate. After becoming sufficiently fluent in Sanskrit and learned
in Buddhist philosophy, they began translating texts with the aid of an Indian religious
scholar, or pandita. Some Tibetan translators worked with Indian panditas and translated
texts in India; others did their translation work back in Tibet, either with or without the
help of panditas (Raine 2010, 136). In all cases, the language pairs that were translated

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Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies

were SanskritTibetan, except for a small number of texts that only existed in other Asian
The Chinese tradition, on the other hand, is decidedly more complicated. It first must
be noted that the original language that the Buddha taught in was not Sanskrit (a literary
language) but one of a number of possible Indian vernaculars known as Prakrit languages.
For the first two centuries after the Buddha lived, teachings were transmitted orally and
were only written down later in Pali, Sanskrit, and other Indic languages. By the time the
Tibetans began translating Buddhist teachings, many centuries after the ancient Chinese,
Sanskrit had become the dominant language in which Buddhist texts were preserved. The
earliest translated texts in ancient China predate the oldest Sanskrit manuscripts by as many
as four or five centuries (Boucher 1998, 472).The language of the earliest Buddhist texts is
still a topic of some debate in the field of Chinese Buddhist history, and as Hung writes, the
actual languages involved in Chinese sutra translation from the second to the fifth century
could have been half a dozen or more1 (2005b, 84).
Since Buddhism arrived in China via Central Asian states, most early texts were transmitted through relay translation, which involves translating into one language first, then into a
second, and finally into the third language, e.g., PrakritSogdianChinese. St. Andr writes
that relay translation was vital in the transmission of Buddhism to China and was carried
out in a complex process that relied on one or more relay translations of texts (2010, 82).
During the first few centuries of translation in ancient China, virtually all Chinese translations of Buddhist texts were produced from relay translations (St. Andr 2010, 82). At later
stages in ancient China, texts were translated directly into Chinese from a language known
as Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit,2 or from Indian languages including Sanskrit.

4.2. Number of texts translated

One of the greatest differences in data between Tibetan and ancient Chinese translation
histories is the number of texts that were translated, with the Tibetans translating roughly
twice the number of the ancient Chinese. The Tibetans, in their quest for knowledge in all
fields from India, voraciously studied, transmitted, and translated virtually every Buddhist text
that was available during the many centuries that Buddhism was absorbed into Tibetan life
and culture. This included all of the Buddhist sutras (teachings of the Buddha), tantras (esoteric teachings), and shastras (commentaries), as well as secular texts on grammar, poetics,
and other topics. These texts were organized into different editions of a canon beginning in
the fourteenth century. The total number of translations in the eighteenth-century Derge
edition of the canon is 4,533.3
Like the data on the language of texts translated, the number of texts translated in the
ancient Chinese tradition is also considerably more complex than in the Tibetan, in part
because of the much earlier beginnings of Buddhist transmission to China. The Taisho edition
of the Chinese canon,4 the most authoritative and complete canon of Chinese texts, was
published in Japan between 1924 and 1934 and comprises translations of sutras, texts, and
treatises (1,692 still extant), works written in Chinese and Japanese, illustrations on Buddhist
art, and catalogs (Mizuno 1995, 184185).
However, Mizunos figure of 1,692 translated works is only part of the picture, because
many translated sutras were lost. As Table 1 shows, in 594 CE a Sui dynasty catalog listed
2,257 translated works, believed to be the total number of sutras extant at that time in China

R. Raine

Table 3.Number of pages translated in the Chinese and Tibetan canons.

Total pagesa

Chinese (Taisho edition)


Tibetan (combined editions)


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Figures are from Stanley (2011) who compared multiple editions of the Tibetan canon. One of the difficulties in calculating
and comparing numbers of translations in multiple translation traditions is that the unit of measurement may vary. In
ancient China, sutras were divided into juan, or fascicle (long sheets of paper rolled into scrolls), while in Tibet pecha,
loose-leaf books with narrow, horizontal pages, were used. Further, the length of pages varied, with one page in the
Taisho canon equivalent to approximately five pages in the Tibetan canon. Thus, the only reliable parameter to use for
comparing translations is that of texts, as is used in Table 2.

(Mizuno 1995, 104). But just a short eight years later, in 602, a new catalog included 2,109
works, although only 688 works were extant at that time (ibid.), an astounding fact that shows
the extent to which texts were lost or destroyed throughout much of Chinas tumultuous
history. In 730, the Kaiyuan Catalogue contained only 1,076 extant works; more than 1000
translated sutras had been lost by this time. The actual number of texts translated throughout
Chinas history is therefore impossible to verify, but it is known that at least 2,200 sutras were
translated together with more than 200 tantras translated in later periods.
Figures on the types of texts translated in the two traditions are shown in Table 3,
below, calculated in the number of pages. Stanley (2011) classifies text type into Hinayana,
Mahayana, and Tantra(yana), the well-known three vehicles (yana) of Buddhist teachings.
The much larger number of tantras translated by the Tibetans is mainly due to the lack of
receptivity for the more esoteric teachings in ancient China, which were embraced, arduously
practiced, and further developed by the Tibetans.

4.3. Identity and number of translators

For ease of discussion, these themes are treated together, with the question of identity
(including ethnicity and gender) treated first, followed by a discussion of the numbers of
translators. Although, as mentioned above, prior to beginning this study no specific hypotheses have been formulated regarding what data were expected to be found in ancient Chinas
translation history, it was nonetheless very surprising to learn that in all of Chinese history,
the vast majority of its translators of Buddhism were not of Chinese ethnicity. This is in
complete opposition to Tibet, where virtually all of its translators were of Tibetan ethnicity.
What social, cultural, and linguistic factors were at work to result in such ethnically divergent
corps of translators?
In Tibet, the dominant mode of collaboration when carrying out translation (see 4.4,
below) was teamwork between a Tibetan translator (Tib. lotsawa) and an Indian (or sometimes Nepali) pandita, due to the geographical proximity of the two regions and their close
regional and historical ties. In some instances, Tibetans had no choice but to translate on
their own due to a dearth of panditas, and there were some cases of Indian panditas who
were fluent enough in Tibetan to do their own translations. However, the vast majority of
translators were Tibetans who were assisted in their work by panditas, whose job was to
elucidate difficult concepts and clarify questions.5
While in Tibet the lotsawa-pandita model of translation continued for as long as it was
physically possible, as this was considered to be the ideal means for achieving the best

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Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies

translations, in ancient China the situation is again more complex, and altered throughout
the course of Buddhist history. As noted above, Buddhism spread to China via a number
of Inner Central Asian states including Parthia, Kucha, and Sogdia, and the first sutra was
translated in the second century by An Shigao, a Parthian. For the next 300years, monks
from Inner Central Asia were responsible for virtually all translations of Buddhist texts.
An Shigao and his contemporary Lokaksin, for example, two of the most prominent translators of this time, learned the Chinese language after arriving in China as adults and had
bicultural experience of both Sanskrit studies and ancient Chinese classics. However, fully
mastering a language as an adult is difficult, as any language learner knows, and for this
reason, the early translations were less than ideal. Hung writes that this is the main reason
for the roughness of their translation work despite the assistance they received from their
Chinese disciples (2005b, 85). Hung describes the Central Asian monks command of Chinese
as shaky and their disciples understanding of Buddhist concepts as equally lacking; thus,
their translations were often crude and sometimes incomprehensible (2005b, 87).
The next generation of translators was also of Central Asian origins but they grew up in
China; thus, they were both bilingual and bicultural, which made their translations superior
to those before them. In the 4th and 5th centuries, Central Asian monks continued to have
influence, but native Chinese began to take on more of a role in translation work, though
more often as interpreters for foreign monks who did not know Chinese.
The Sui and Tang periods were the first time that Chinese monks established themselves
as authoritative translators. Xuan Zang (602664), perhaps Chinas most famous translator,
studied at Nalanda Monastery in India for many years, which gave him the prestige to
dominate the translation scene from his return to China in 645 until his death (Hung 2005b,
89). However, even at this time, Chinese translators were outnumbered by foreign monks,
now more from India than from Central Asia. By the Tang dynasty, the most eminent foreign
monks were Indians, but only a small number of them took part in translation work.
Overall, in catalogs of translations, the number of foreign monks credited as chief translator far outnumbered Chinese monks at a ratio of ten to one (Hung 2005b, 89). Hung concludes that throughout Chinese Buddhist history, there were only a dozen bilingual Chinese
translators of high caliber (2005b, 95). This is in stark contrast to the Tibetan translators, who
were all fluent or at least well-versed in Sanskrit.
In regard to gender, it is perhaps not surprising that given ancient Chinas traditionally
patriarchal culture all the translators were males. Nattier writes that in the entire history
of ancient China, there is not a single female translator attributed to a Buddhist translation
(2008, 27). In Tibet, the only females known to have engaged in translation were the Chinese
and Nepali wives of Emperor Songtsen Gampo (r. 617649) and the Chinese wife of Emperor
Tri Desuktsen (r. 712755).6 They acted as both patrons and translators and were able to
assist in translation due both to their native linguistic abilities and their royal status. Apart
from these three, no female is listed as a translator of any text in the Tibetan Buddhist canon.
Regarding the number of translators in the two translation traditions, while this may
appear at first to be a simple matter to calculate, in fact this is not so, due in part to the
uneven amount of research carried out into Tibet and ancient Chinas translation histories.
In the case of ancient China, with its wealth of historical data and published research, the
number of translators has been long known. Ikeda reliably cites in his work a total of 194
translators who translated Buddhist texts in China, with 176 individuals in the period up to
730, and another 18 from 730 to 1285 (1997, 34).


R. Raine

In Tibet, due to the dearth of research and reliable data, much less is known about the
number of translators, with no reliable figures7 currently available apart from my own. In my
research using the Derge edition of the Tibetan canon, a total of 336 Tibetan translators (and
371 Indian panditas) were counted, with 51 in the early period and 285 in the later period
(Raine 2014, 286). It should be noted that the Derge is not the only canon that lists translators names, but it is considered the most reliable. Other editions will yield slightly different
figures (see fn. 6). In short, much research has been done on the numbers of translators in
regard to ancient China,8 but in the case of Tibet, further investigation is needed.

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4.4. Means of collaboration

As St. Andr notes, in Translation Studies today there is an assumption, based on European
and Western experiences, that translation is essentially a solitary act (2010, 77), carried out by
an individual for his or her own personal or professional reasons. In contrast, in the translation
of Buddhism in both ancient China and Tibet, this was the exception rather than the rule,
and collaboration played a crucial role in both the process of translation and in the quality
of the work that was produced. However, in each of the two traditions, the manner in which
collaboration took place was markedly different, and in ancient China, the process altered
throughout the course of its translation history.
In ancient China, the most important feature of sutra translation was teamwork of various
kinds. In the early period, this was due to the foreign monks lack of linguistic skills in Chinese,
and the earliest translations were often done in small teams, with one or more foreign monks
working together or asking for assistance from Chinese. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, the
prevailing technique was for the foreign monk to explain the text in Chinese and his Chinese
collaborator to write it down. This technique was, not surprisingly, subject to serious flaws
(Chen 1964, 365). In some cases, the foreign monk did not know the written language and
only spoke a little Chinese; thus, his explanations were based on his limited linguistic skills
and he had no idea what his collaborator was writing down. Further, the collaborator merely
wrote down what he heard, but had no idea of the contents of the original text. Room for
misunderstanding was present in every step of the process.
A variation on this technique was for one foreign monk to recite the source text, another
foreign monk to translate it orally into Chinese, and yet another to write down the Chinese.
A third scenario was for the foreign monk to recite the text, then a Chinese monk would
translate it (orally) into Chinese, and another Chinese would then write it down (Chen 1964,
366). The results of such a circuitous process were hardly accurate, and as Boucher writes,
the oral/aural nature of the translation process in [early] China led to a number of problems
of interpretation for Chinese assistants, such as grammatical mistakes, mistaken division of
words, and semantic misrepresentations (1998, 475).
Translation bureaus were first established in the time of Dao An (312385), and after
Kumarajivas arrival in China in 401, the translation bureau became the accepted organ
to carry out the task of large-scale translations (Chen 1964, 367). Kumarajiva is most well
known for his translation forums at which hundreds, and occasionally thousands, of people
were in attendance, with the Indian master transmitting and explaining the text while others
would take down the teachings in writing and then later edit them into literary Chinese. As
Wright explains, there were corps of specialists at all levels: those who discussed doctrinal

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questions with Kumarajiva; those who checked the new translations against the old and
imperfect ones; hundreds of editors, subeditors, and copyists (1959, 63).
Due to this more structured process, the quality of translation improved together with
the linguistic skills of both the foreign monks and the Chinese. In the following Sui dynasty,
a sutra translation academy was set up at court, and by the Tang dynasty translation forums
were commonplace, although not always as large as during Kumarajivas time. Chinese monks
such as Xuan Zang began traveling to India to study Sanskrit and Buddhism, but even after
his return to China, Xuan Zang worked with a team and continued the translation forums.
However, by this time, Buddhism was in decline in Central Asia, and in China, the Tang
emperors favored Taoism over Buddhism, resulting in less patronage for translation works.
During the ensuing period of persecution of Buddhism, no translations took place for a
span of 160years, and it was not until the Song dynasty that the translation forums were
resumed. For the next 300years, Buddhism flourished for the last time in Chinese history, with
most of the translations carried out in the imperial Song Institute for Canonical Translation
(Yijing Yuan), where Indian and Central Asian monks worked with large teams of assistants
in a nine-step process that involved a chief translator, philological assistant, text appraiser,
transcriber, scribe, composer, proofreader, editor, and stylist (Orzech 2006, 141142). Due
to this systematized process, a great number of works could be translated within a short
space of time and the resulting translations were more literary and accurate than many
early translations (Jan 1966, 33).
Before the end of the Song dynasty, there was an acute shortage of foreign monks left
in China, resulting in the eventual closure of the Song Institute. As one scholar notes, for
the nine-step process to work, at least six of the nine individuals had to be able to read the
source text (Bowring 1992, 91). In a revealing moment in 1078, a member of the institute
petitioned the emperor to close its doors, to which the emperor replied that they had no
choice but to wait until an erudite Indian monk arrived (Bowring 1992, 92). This episode
illustrates the extent to which the Chinese translations were dependent on foreigners. Not
only were many individuals with varied language skills needed, but relay translation was
often still necessary due to the lack of bilingual talent. Even as late as the Song dynasty, texts
written in languages such as Kuchan or Simhalese had to be first translated into Sanskrit
before they could be rendered in Chinese (Jan 1966, 41).
It is clear that throughout Chinese history, the lack of individuals with appropriate linguistic training was the main reason for the often-convoluted translation processes used.
In the early centuries in particular, Indian or Central Asian monks are frequently described
as having little or no skill in Chinese and it is virtually certain that practically no Chinese
commanded any Indian literary language (Boucher 1998, 471). As a result, the translations
were less than satisfactory and only began improving when Chinese monks began traveling
to India to study, though the number of these in ancient Chinas history is remarkably small.
By contrast, the Tibetans went to India in veritable droves, and their fluency in Sanskrit
was without doubt one of the reasons for their consistently excellent translations. Starting
with the first translator, Thonmi Sambhota, who is credited with inventing the Tibetan written language, Tibetans collaborated with Indians even after becoming fluent in Sanskrit.
The training of translators involved first becoming thoroughly versed in Sanskrit language,
grammar, and poetics, which was considered essential for the transmission of Buddhism to
Tibet by the early emperors, followed by in-depth studies of Buddhist philosophy.

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In the early diffusion period in Tibet, Emperor Tri Songdetsen (r. 742797) established
the first Buddhist monastery, Samye Monastery, where he installed a team of translators
to supervise translation work of the texts thus far accumulated. A hall for translation was
set up where the work was divided among translators, editors, and copiers, including chief
editor-translators, second editor-translators, and draft translators (Samten 2005, 87). This
procedure continued under the next emperor, Tri Desongtsen (r. 800815), who is credited
with the creation of the first SanskritTibetan lexicon of Buddhist terminology and the introduction of specific guidelines for translators.
Apart from the translations done by committee at Samye Monastery, the vast majority
of translations were carried out in teams of Tibetan translators and Indian panditas, most
often involving one of each. Whether teams consisted of a pandita and lotsawa only, or also
involved editor-translators, depended upon the location where the translation took place
and the availability of such individuals. In some cases, if the text was especially long and there
were sufficient qualified translators available, the work was divided among a group. One
unusually long text that contained 2,190 chapters has the names of 12 Tibetan translators
attributed to it (Samten 2005, 123).
The quality of translations from the early diffusion period is considered by both Tibetan
and Western scholars to be exceptionally good, due to the close process of collaboration
with learned Indian panditas and the excellent linguistic skills of the Tibetans, who in all
cases translated into their mother tongue, unlike the foreign monks in ancient China. After
the fall of the royal dynasty at the end of the early diffusion period and the dark ages
during which Buddhism in Tibet was suppressed almost entirely, the Tibetans again began
traveling to India in search of teachings, ushering in a renaissance of Buddhism that lasted
for hundreds of years.
The later diffusion translators focused mainly on translating tantras and shastras, and their
method of collaboration was now almost entirely that of teamwork (in pairs or small groups),
since the hall of translators at Samye Monastery was no longer under imperial patronage. By
the early thirteenth century, Muslim forces had invaded parts of northern India, destroying
monasteries and making travels to that land impossible; thus, the number of panditas who
were available to work with translators in Tibet decreased. Due to the conditions in India,
many of the later translators had to study Sanskrit either in Tibet or in Nepal, and some had
no choice but to translate alone. As a result, the quality of their translations was not always as
good as their early predecessors, but by that time, nearly all of the Indian Buddhist texts had
been translated into Tibetan and the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet was almost complete.
As is evident from the above, methods of collaboration in the two traditions varied greatly
and were dependent upon a number of factors, including the nationality of translators, the
language of source texts, the route of religious transmission, linguistic training, and royal
patronage. Although there is some similarity in the use of teamwork in small groups, the large
forums and production line method of translation seen in ancient China never occurred in
Tibet. Another point of departure relates to directionality, with the Tibetans always translating texts into their mother tongue, while in ancient China, the Central Asians and Indians
were translating into a second language, even at times into a language that they barely knew.
These variations in collaboration had a marked impact on the quality of translations, which
in ancient China varied greatly but in Tibet remained high for most of its history.

Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies


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4.5. Translation practices

Of the comparative parameters discussed in this study, it is perhaps in the study of translation
practices that the imbalance of scholarly research of the two traditions is most acute. On
the Chinese side, numerous works examine the difficulties encountered and strategies used
in Buddhist translations, including several in-depth studies of translation practices, most
notably those of Nattier (2008) and Chen (2004). Further, Cheungs anthology of translation
discourse from ancient China presents more than 50 writings by individuals who translated
Buddhist works into Chinese, including discussions on the methods and principles that the
translators employed, the difficulties they encountered, and translation criticism (2006, 5).
By comparison, no comprehensive study of translation techniques used by the Tibetans
has ever been published, nor has anyone ever published writings on translation by Tibetans.
Nonetheless, there are several individual studies of translated works which, together with
the present authors own research into primary materials, are sufficient to piece together a
picture of the practices and strategies used by the Tibetans, though much more work needs
to be done in this regard.
In ancient China, the most commonly studied aspect of early translations is the technique
called ge-yi, often referred to as concept matching. This technique involved choosing a
grouping of Buddhist ideas and matching them with a plausibly analogous grouping of
indigenous ideas (Wright 1959, 37). During the ge-yi period, c. 150402, China had a vast
philosophical literature of Confucianism and Taoism, and terms from these traditions were
well established in peoples minds; therefore, Buddhist terms were often translated using
ge-yi by substituting approximate terms of these two philosophical traditions, in particular
This practice continued until the time of Dao An (312385) who rendered the greatest
service to Chinese Buddhism by ending the use of Taoist terminology and the practice of
ge-yi (Mizuno 1995, 49). Dao Ans writings show that he realized that the meaning of Buddhist
concepts had been distorted, sometimes to an unbearable extent, and he began to criticize
the use of ge-yi, writing that one should follow the original closely and that the only change
a translator should make is to invert word order for grammatical purposes (Liu 2006, 212).
The practice of ge-yi was not entirely abandoned until Kumarajivas time.
In a detailed study of over 70 translations done during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Nattier
found that there was no consistency in translation methods and that several distinct translation styles were already in use simultaneously (2008, 4). She concluded that there were
a number of distinctive translation policies, resulting in strikingly different repertoires of
vocabulary and style being used in the same place at virtually the same time (Nattier 2008,
5). Some translators wrote in a vernacular style, while others used a literary style. In some
translations, there was an exoticizing tendency (foreignization) mainly marked by use of
transcription, while in others, there was an indigenizing tendency (domestication) marked
by translating foreign words directly (Nattier 2008, 1718).
Indeed, the inconsistency of translation techniques noted by Nattier continued for much
of Chinese Buddhist history, and Dao Ans strictures on staying close to the source text and
only altering word order were not followed by all later translators. Kumarajivas approach
was semantic translation, with a main interest in preserving the meaning or central theme
of the sutra, but as Chen writes, Kumarajiva did not follow the original literally and even
made certain changes to the text, such as place names (1964, 371).

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The debate on free versus literal translation, and literary versus vernacular styles, continued for centuries, with apparently no consensus ever reached, although Chen writes
that Kumarajivas viewpoint finally won supremacy, and that the Chinese canon preserves
primarily only the meaning of the important portions of sutras. However, Chen considers
this not a victory for translation, but rather indicative of the limitations of the Chinese canon
(1964, 372). Overall, there appears to have been no standardization imposed on or used
by translators, with each person or group selecting their approach for reasons that are not
entirely clear. Hungs study concludes that some translators leaned toward literal and others
toward refinement (elegance) and that this was not a linear change but rather a zig-zag,
with the work of the last important chief translator, Yijing, showing a decided preference
for the literal approach (Hung 2005b, 91).
By contrast, in Tibet translations were, in the early period, under the supervision of a succession of Buddhist emperors who took an active role in supporting, training, and guiding
translators. Unlike the Chinese, when the early Tibetan translators were deciding how to
translate the terms used in Indian Buddhist literature, they were working in a cultural environment in which there was no preexisting philosophical tradition with its own lexicon of
established terms. As Doboom writes, the remarkable accuracy of the Tibetan translations
of Buddhist texts may be partly due to the fact that in the 8th and 9th centuries, Tibet
hardly had any well-developed or well-defined intellectual tradition of its own and the
new Buddhist concepts were introduced into what was virtually an intellectual vacuum
(2001, 5).9
In addition, clear guidelines for translators to follow were established during the reign of
Emperor Tride Songtsen, who decreed that certain translation principles must be adhered
to in order for the Buddhist teachings to spread without distortion. The emperors overall
principle was one of fidelity to the source text, but he also displayed a sophisticated understanding of translation techniques. Samten summarizes these principles into four quintessential translation methods: transliteration; translation of meaning; direct translation; and
restructured translation (2005, 86).
Moreover, rules were laid down regarding how to translate numbers, how to translate
honorifics, when adjectives should be added, and restrictions on who was allowed to translate tantric texts. These rules were declared universal and were to be followed by all translators, not only those stationed at Samye Monastery but even those in India or elsewhere.
New terms could not be coined by individual translators, who were required to follow the
lexicons that had been compiled by a committee of learned translators and panditas. If a
new term had to be coined, the suggestion had to be made to the emperors assembly and
authorized for use (Samten 2005, 87).
Hahn notes that during the early period, the emperors principles were mostly followed
and the result is a great number of excellent Tibetan translations (2007, 136137). During
the later diffusion period, these rules did not fall into disuse but were still maintained by
many, though not all, translators. Copies of the decree were still carried by translators, but
their translations became more mechanical, and the wise rules of the early emperors were
not always followed (Hahn 2007, 143). Wedemeyers study of a corpus of Tibetan translations
concludes that the translators in the later period did translate terminology according to the
imperial lexicons, but that variability with regard to syntax and morphology is legion and
one sees widespread license being taken with the rendering of verbal forms and other
elements of grammar (2006, 169170).

Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies


This brief comparison of the translation practices employed in the two traditions highlights the vast differences between their translation histories, and may also help us to understand why the quality of Buddhist translations in ancient China and Tibet varied so greatly.
It also brings into clear focus the crucial role that royal patronage played in how translation
work was carried out in the two regions. Without an authority declaring what principles to
follow, translators in ancient China appeared to have made up their own rules somewhat
arbitrarily, resulting in widely divergent styles. Further, the absence of officially sanctioned
lexicons in ancient China, and in particular the use of ge-yi, resulted in inaccurate renderings
of texts for centuries.

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5. Difficulties and practical constraints

Wakabayashi mentions three practical constraints (2013, 459) involved in carrying out
comparative translation historiography, all of which were found to be key difficulties in the
present research:
(1) The lack of reading proficiency in all the languages involved. In this study, as shown
in section 4.1. above, there are at least six languages involved between the two traditions,
some very ancient and archaic. It is difficult to conceive of any translation scholar who would
be proficient in all of these languages. This lack of linguistic proficiency leads to another
problematic issue: the researchers reliance on secondary and translated primary sources
in studying and comparing multiple translation traditions. This is especially problematic in
regard to translated materials, which are necessarily mediated by the translator, who may
not have the same knowledge or interests as the researcher. However, as Wakabayashi points
out, such reliance is common in comparative studies, since researchers seldom have the
linguistic competence needed to examine primary materials in all the regions being studied.
Like Wakabayashis case study, the present work has not involved studies of individual
translations in the corpuses of the two traditions in an attempt to draw conclusions about
translation norms. In Wakabayashis case, this was due to linguistic and practical constraints
(2007, 13), which made it impossible for her to examine texts from multiple societies. In this
study, linguistic constraints were also a factor, together with the tremendously large number
of translated texts that exist in the two traditions. However, given that there are hundreds
of the same texts that were translated in both regions, such studies would be very fruitful
and it is hoped that other scholars may take up this work.
(2) The lack of competence in the range of relevant disciplines. In the case of this study, the
researcher must be knowledgeable about Buddhism and its extremely long and complex histories in both regions. Indeed, this type of cross-disciplinary research creates a fundamental
challenge to translation historians, who may often feel that they are encroaching on aspects
of history that fall beyond their area of expertise. This was certainly true for the present
research, which involved extensive readings on the religious and social histories of the two
traditions that were written by (and for) specialists in Buddhist, Chinese, or Tibetan studies.
Whenever research into comparative translation histories is of an interdisciplinary nature,
the translation history researcher must have sufficient knowledge of the subject matter that
is outside of his/her own field, while at the same time maintain a clear focus on translation
phenomena without getting lost in the mass of historical data available. By focusing their
lens on translation as a distinct though interrelated social, cultural, and linguistic practice,
translation historians may be able to shed light on aspects of history that are overlooked (or

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R. Raine

simply not looked at) by scholars in other fields. Further, by juxtaposing two or more related
translation traditions and then applying that same investigative lens to them, conclusions,
insights, and questions may emerge that would otherwise have been obscured.
(3) Either the limited availability or the over-abundance of historical materials. In fact, the
imbalance in both primary and secondary materials between the two regions is perhaps the
greatest difficulty encountered in the present work.
The history of Buddhism in ancient China has been studied for decades by both Chinese
and non-Chinese scholars and has at its disposal a large number of primary materials (bibliographies, catalogs, historical records, biographies). Many scholarly books and articles discuss,
in various degrees of detail, the role played by translation in Chinas historical development. Numerous individual textual studies of Chinese translations have been carried out
by Buddhist scholars, as have studies of translations from particular time periods. Further,
in Translation Studies, a large number of studies have been published on the translation of
Buddhism in ancient China, such as the anthology of discourse by translators of Buddhism
in Chinese history (Cheung 2006).
In the Tibetan tradition, on the other hand, historical and political events both in ancient
times and more modern periods have resulted in the destruction of unknown numbers
of primary archival materials, and those that do exist are difficult to access. Modern-day
Tibetans, being part of a diaspora community, have only been engaged in research into their
own history for a relatively short time, and few of their works have been studied by non-Tibetan scholars or translated into other languages. English-language materials on Tibetan
history are increasing but are not as numerous as the Chinese tradition, since Tibetan Studies
is a relatively new academic discipline with a small number of researchers. The English materials that do exist tend to only mention translation in passing if at all and it is seldom
examined as a discrete phenomenon. In Translation Studies, there are no researchers apart
from the present author who have published works on the history of translation in Tibet.
This imbalance in historical materials makes the work of comparing the two traditions
not only difficult but also subject to misconstrual due to a lack of precise, statistically comparable data. However, this does not mean that the study should not be performed; it does
mean that one must be vigilant and cognizant of this fact when analyzing data. In her 2007
paper, Wakabayashi remarked that comprehensive individual histories are a prerequisite
and support for comparative studies (2007, 17), but in her later work, she modifies this
stance, stating that it is idealistic to postpone comparisons until the individual histories
are complete (2013, 420). I agree with this point, and in fact hope to see other comparative
studies of Buddhist translation histories, such as between Mongolia and Tibet, between Japan
and Korea, or between Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka. Now that a working methodology
is available for researchers to use, there is no reason not to expect to see such projects in
the future.

This study set out to apply the methodology developed by Wakabayashi to the historical
translation of Buddhism in Tibet and ancient China. Through the process of identifying key
themes and analyzing the comparative data, many intriguing facts made themselves apparent, such as the issue of directionality and the complexity of the language of the source
texts in ancient China. Such points may not have been as apparent had the two traditions

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Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies


been studied separately. Certain aspects specific to the two cultures also emerged, such as
the preexistence of religious traditions in ancient China that affected the use of translation
techniques, and the route that Buddhism took to reach ancient China, which directly influenced the ethnicity of the translators. Neither of these conditions was present in Tibet, and
thus, its translation history evolved very differently from ancient Chinas.
Surprisingly few similarities between the two traditions were found: collaboration (though
its type and manner varied greatly), the existence of imperial patronage (though to varying
degrees), the gender of translators, and the length of translation activity. The differences,
however, were many: the ethnicity and number of translators, the size and content of the
translated canons, the language of the source texts, translation practices, and others. This
study found that specific linguistic, social, and political factors led to some of the divergences
in the two traditions, but that others were coincidental, geographical, religious, or practical
due to textual considerations. As each of these similarities and differences was analyzed, the
effect that they had on the translation process and on the quality of translations became
Regarding the varying quality of translations in the two traditions, several points have
come to light through this study. First, state control was clearly a key factor in both Tibet and
ancient China. In Tibet, early emperors promoted Buddhism and sponsored translations for
the first 200years. In the later period, state sponsorship was largely replaced by translators
own initiative, driven by religious devotion. We see that, as a result, the quality of translations
in the later period is somewhat more variable. In ancient China, state control over religion
and the shifting political concerns of different dynasties caused translations of Buddhist
texts to undergo many ups and downs, which is not seen in Tibet.
Second, and related to the first, human agency seems to have played more of a role in
Tibet. Translators there willingly made countless pilgrimages to India in search of teachings,
and worked closely with panditas and teachers when carrying out actual translations. This
close collaboration and the translators own deep understanding of the teachings clearly
improved the translation quality. In ancient China, large forums and the use of non-local
translators caused a distance between the text and the translator, with many different agents
often involved in one translation.
Third, the way in which Buddhism was transmitted the fact that Buddhism came to
ancient China via Central Asian states, but came to Tibet directly from India seems to have
had a very marked effect on the translation process. In ancient China, this resulted in the
source texts coming from a range of languages, which further complicated the translation
process, such as the use of relay translation. In Tibet, direct contact with Indian Buddhism
and the fact that translators extensively studied Sanskrit grammar, poetics and other related
subjects resulted in higher quality translations.
In addition to these points related to translation quality, certain socio-historical differences also emerged as an outcome of the comparative process. In ancient China, Buddhism
was subject to frequent political upheavals, with imperial patronage uneven. Translation
was intermittent and heavily reliant on foreign monks, with some texts emphasized over
others and tantric teachings largely ignored. Being influenced by Confucianism and Taoism,
a distinctively Chinese religion evolved with its own institutions and practices. In the end,
the Buddhist teachings were only partially transmitted and Buddhism ceased to be a major

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R. Raine

In Tibet, however, Buddhism was sought after actively by the Tibetans, who saw India as
the cradle of civilization, particularly in spiritual matters. Centuries of patronage by emperors
and systematic translation of the Buddhist canon resulted in the entirety of the teachings
being transmitted. With precise translation guidelines and lexicons to follow, and working
in teams of individuals fluent in the two languages, translations were accurate and faithful.
Since there was no indigenous system of religion to compete with, Buddhism was not heavily influenced by other religious beliefs as it was in ancient China, and to this day is still the
religion of Tibetans everywhere.
As Rundle notes, one of the objectives of translation historians should be to introduce the
insights that the study of translation can bring to a wider community of cultural historians,
who do not usually take translation into consideration (2011, 33). Similarly, Wakabayashis
purpose in seeking to identify the macro-characteristics of translation in her case study was
not only to raise some issues concerning translation in this linguistic and cultural milieu, but
also to stimulate those who do have expertise in these languages and cultures to explore
these matters in great detail and depth (2005, 20). In this study, I also hope to have brought
new insights to Buddhist scholars and historians of Tibet and ancient China, and urge such
scholars to use this research to further explore the many differences and similarities in the
two traditions.

Including various Prakrit vernaculars and Central Asian languages such as Parthian, Kuchan,
and Sogdian.
An intermediate language that developed during the process of Sanskritization.
The Derge canon is considered the most reliable edition, although Dharma Publishings Nyingma
Edition of the Kangyur and Tengyur is more comprehensive and includes the Derge. The figures
used in the present authors published research are all taken from the Derge edition, since
Dharma Publishings edition was not available at that time. Later research, as yet unpublished,
includes data from Dharma Publishings edition.
The full title is the Taisho shinshu daizokyo (New Edition of the Buddhist Canon Compiled During
the Taisho Era).
See Raine (2010) for a discussion of the lotsawa-pandita model of collaboration.
These three womens names are not listed in the Derge or other canons, which is not uncommon
for the very earliest translators, but Tibetan historical records state that Princesses Wencheng
and Jincheng of China and Princess Bhrikuti Devi of Nepal translated some early texts on
astrology, medicine, and other subjects (Samten 2005, 121).
Tibetan sources cite widely different figures, and it was this discrepancy that spurred my own
investigation, discussed in detail in Raine 2014.
See, for example, Hungs excellent table of translators from the 1st6th centuries and the
numbers of texts each translated (2005a, 5860).
The indigenous Bn religion did exist in pre-Buddhist Tibet, but it appears to have had relatively
little impact, linguistically or otherwise, on the translation of Buddhism, though no studies have
yet been carried out on this question.

Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

Asia Pacific Translation and Intercultural Studies


Notes on contributor
 oberta Raine, after completing her PhD in Translation Studies at City University of
Hong Kong in 1999, worked for eight years as a ChineseEnglish translator for human
rights organizations in the US and Hong Kong. She began teaching in the Department
of Translation at Lingnan University in Hong Kong in 2007, where she teaches courses
in translation, including History of Translation, Legal Translation (ChineseEnglish),
and others. Her main research interests are the history of translation in Tibet, and the
translation of Tibetan Buddhism in modern times. She has published numerous articles related to Tibet in Translation Studies journals such as Meta, JosTrans, MTM, and
Forum. She has been researching the lives and history of Tibets translators of
Buddhism for the past six years and hopes to publish a monograph on this subject.

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