In This Article Chinese Buddhist Philosophy

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews of Chinese Philosophy
  • Scriptures and Other Canonical Texts
  • Mādhyamika, Yogācāra, and Tathāgata-Garbha Philosophies
  • The Huayan Tradition
  • The Tiantai Tradition
  • The Chan Tradition
  • General Doctrinal and Historical Aspects of Chinese Buddhism
  • Buddhism and Modern Chinese Philosophy

Buddhism Chinese Buddhist Philosophy
by
Mario Poceski
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0049

Introduction

One could argue that philosophy is a uniquely Western concept or discipline, closely tied up with distinctive ways of thinking and systems of thought that originated in ancient Greece and became essential elements of European knowledge and tradition. Some scholars still debate whether China ever developed philosophical traditions along the lines of those that flourished in the Western world, or whether we can talk of Chinese philosophy as a distinct intellectual discipline. Such views and discussions are played out in a variety of intellectual and institutional contexts, including hiring and curriculum decisions made by philosophy departments at various universities. Similar arguments have been made about Buddhism, whose teachings have been labeled in a number of ways, for instance as religion, philosophy, or theology. Notwithstanding the presence of complex systems of doctrine within Buddhism, there is no precise equivalent to the Western term “philosophy” in any of the languages that were used by the various Buddhist traditions. Similarly, in premodern China there was no native term exactly equivalent to the Western term “philosophy.” The present Chinese word for philosophy, zhexue (lit. “study of wisdom,” pronounced tetsugaku in Japanese), was coined by the Japanese philosopher and public intellectual Nishi Amane (b. 1829–d. 1897), in the context of his influential efforts directed toward the introduction and popularization of Western philosophy in Japan. The first Chinese intellectual to appropriate the new Japanese term was the late Qing writer and diplomat Huang Zunxian (b. 1848–d. 1905). Accordingly, only in the first decade of the 20th century did the term zhexue come into vogue within Chinese academic and intellectual circles. On the other hand, once we move beyond Eurocentric suppositions and narrow definitions of disciplinary parameters, in both the Buddhist and the Chinese traditions we can find intricate sets of doctrinal principles and highly sophisticated systems of thought that can be characterized as philosophical. Within the different Buddhist canons, as well as the voluminous bodies of exegetical literature that grew around them, we can locate diverse arrays of systematic analyses of the general features of the universe or the essential nature of reality. We can also identify methodical explorations of the basic categories by which we think or process reality, such as mind, freedom, truth, and causality—which have been major topics of intellectual inquiry throughout the history of Western philosophy—as well as multifaceted reflections on the meaning of human life, the ethical principles that should guide everyday conduct, or the processes of personal transformation. Accordingly, this entry adopts a broad definition of philosophy, with the understanding that within the Chinese Buddhist context one can also use other terms, such as teaching, doctrine, or dharma, which in their native variants are often used interchangeably. Moreover, in Chinese Buddhism the various forms of philosophizing were (and still are) typically situated within broader religious and institutional contexts, which inevitably incorporated other issues and concerns, such as contemplative cultivation, devotional practice, ritual performance, or ideological contestation. The philosophical insights or arguments of Buddhist traditions such as Yogācāra (practice of yoga) and Chan consequently cannot be properly understood without consideration of their comprehensive soteriological templates, especially their views about spiritual practice.

Introductory Works

The study of Chinese Buddhist philosophy must be approached against the broad background of Buddhist philosophy, especially the main philosophical systems that developed in ancient India. Within the Chinese context, especially important are the main systematizations of Buddhist doctrine that were produced within the general confines of the Mahayana or Great Vehicle movement (see Williams 2009 and Garfield 2002). Moreover, notwithstanding the dominance of Mahayana doctrines and ideals in China, students of Chinese Buddhist philosophy will also benefit from general knowledge of the early or mainstream traditions of Indian Buddhism (see Gethin 1998 and Williams and Tribe 2000). In traditional Chinese contexts, these are often lumped into a general category, which in common parlance is pejoratively designated as Hinayana, or Small Vehicle, Buddhism. Canonical texts of Indian provenance, which were translated into Chinese, provided the basic philosophical vocabulary, defined the parameters of orthodoxy, and demarcated the central issues that came to shape the evolution of mature forms of Buddhist philosophy in China. Some of the basic elements of this shared Buddhist tradition include the central notions or teachings about no-self, impermanence, suffering (or imperfection), causality, ethics, and ultimate truth. This section lists publications that provide broad coverage of Buddhist philosophy. It also includes a few introductory volumes on Buddhism, which present major philosophical concepts, tenets, and traditions within the context of general discussions of Buddhist history, practice, and the like (see Williams and Tribe 2000, Harvey 1990, and Laumakis 2008). A common characteristic of many general books of this kind is their tendency to emphasize the history and teachings of Indian or South Asian Buddhism—examples include Gethin 1998, Siderits 2007, and Harvey 1990—which typically translates into inadequate coverage of Chinese Buddhism. On the other hand, Edelglass and Garfield 2009 provides a few chapters specifically on Chinese Buddhist philosophy.

  • Edelglass, William, and Jay Garfield, eds. Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Primarily intended as a textbook for courses on Buddhist philosophy. Its structure follows the main branches of Western philosophy, such as metaphysics, ontology, hermeneutics, and epistemology. Each translation of a primary text is accompanied by a short introduction. The coverage of Chinese texts is on the whole unsatisfactory, both random and burdened by obscure selections, but there are a few chapters that deal with Chinese Buddhist philosophy.

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    • Garfield, Jay L. Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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      Concerned with the philosophical systems of the Mādhyamika and Yogācāra traditions of Mahayana Buddhism; examines select themes such as causality, subjectivity, and the limits of thought and language. Also delves into some contemporary issues, for instance the links between Buddhist ethics and liberal democracy, and the problems that arise in cross-cultural studies.

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      • Gethin, Rupert. The Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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        Introductory volume on Buddhism often used in college courses. Eminently readable with solid scholarship. The author’s stated aim is to focus on ideas and practices that constitute a common Buddhist heritage, although there is a tendency to put more emphasis on Theravada sources and perspectives.

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        • Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History, and Practices. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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          Fairly comprehensive survey of Buddhism, which can be used as a primary textbook for introductory courses on Buddhism. There is some coverage of Chinese Buddhism, but for the most part the author approaches the materials from the perspectives of South and Southeast Asian Buddhism.

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          • Laumakis, Stephen J. An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy. Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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            Primarily written as a textbook for undergraduate courses, the book introduces basic concepts and key arguments, with focus on select texts and thinkers, including Bodhidharma and Huineng.

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            • Siderits, Mark. Buddhism as Philosophy: An Introduction. Ashgate World Philosophy Series. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2007.

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              Deals with South Asian Buddhism only, so perhaps the title is a bit misleading. The author tries to present Buddhist concepts and doctrines in relation to theoretical and methodological issues dominant in Western philosophical discussions.

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              • Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. 2d ed. Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices. New York: Routledge, 2009.

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                Fairly comprehensive volume, a standard reading on Mahayana doctrines, often used in college courses. Attempts to map the historical development of Mahayana and to cover the whole spectrum of its doctrines, although coverage of Chinese developments is not as good as the more copious discussions of Indian and Tibetan texts and philosophies. Updated edition encompasses more recent scholarship.

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                • Williams, Paul, and Anthony Tribe. Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition. London: Routledge, 2000.

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                  Wide-ranging introduction to the main traditions of Buddhist thought that developed in India, primarily for college students and general readers. Covers the doctrinal traditions of early Buddhism, the various schools of “mainstream” Buddhism, and the tantric or Vajrayāna tradition that developed during later stages of Indian Buddhist history.

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                  General Overviews of Chinese Philosophy

                  Besides the broader Buddhist context noted under Introductory Works, the study of Chinese Buddhist philosophy must also encompass the other philosophical traditions that developed and flourished during the long course of Chinese intellectual and religious history. Among them, especially important are those of Confucianism and Daoism. In China, Buddhist philosophical discourse shares much of its vocabulary with the other major religious and intellectual systems, even if specific terms or tenets might be interpreted somewhat differently among separate philosophical traditions. In the course of its development, which was marked by a protracted process of Sinification, Buddhist philosophy appropriated a number of native philosophical terms and was influenced by deeply ingrained Chinese patterns of thought. In the same vein, it influenced the development of other philosophical traditions, including later strains of Confucian and Daoist philosophy. For example, the concepts of principle (li) and phenomena (shi), which played a central role in the mature system of Huayan philosophy, were also deployed in other philosophical contexts, examples of which can be found in early philosophical texts that document their pre-Buddhist usage, as well as in the writings of noted Neo-Confucian philosophers of the Song era. Furthermore, as Buddhist scholars creatively adapted select elements from indigenous philosophical traditions, and as they responded to the intellectual predilections and the horizons of expectation of their medieval audiences, in their philosophical arguments and analyses these scholars integrated some of the key dichotomies that characterized classical Chinese thought, such as essence (ti; can perhaps also be rendered as “fundamental state”) and function (yong), having [characteristics] (you) and not-having [characteristics] (wu), identity (tong) and difference (yi), fundamental (ben) and peripheral (mo). This section lists general surveys and/or handy references in the study of Chinese philosophy. Unfortunately, the majority of publications of this type are imbalanced in their coverage. They either prioritize Confucianism at the expense of Buddhism and Daoism (such as Chan 1963, De Bary and Bloom 1999, and Fung 1952–1953) or adopt a narrow ideological stance and simply equate Chinese philosophy with Confucian philosophy (such as Cua 2003 and Rošker 2008). Furthermore, the authors of such books are often scholars or proponents of Neo-Confucianism (often both), Chan and De Bary being perhaps the two best-known examples of that trend. Consequently, to some degree they tend to adopt the perspectives or attitudes of a tradition that often represents the most exclusivist strands of classical Chinese thought. Although such ideological commitments often reduce the value of these books to students of Buddhist philosophy, they can still be quite useful for grasping key terminology, as well as for gaining a more nuanced understanding of the broader intellectual milieus and religious contexts that shaped or influenced the philosophical traditions of Chinese Buddhism. Fortunately, some of the new books, such as Liu 2006, adopt a more inclusive approach and justifiably treat Buddhist philosophy as an important part of Chinese philosophy.

                  • Chan, Wing-tsit. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.

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                    A venerable classic, although by now most of its coverage is rather dated. The coverage is heavily slanted toward Confucianism, especially in its Neo-Confucian variants, but there are also a number of translations from Buddhist sources. In many instances the choice of Buddhist texts is fairly good, and some of the materials can still be useful to students of Buddhist philosophy, although the translations are somewhat outdated and at times even inaccurate.

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                    • Cua, A. S., ed. Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy. New York: Routledge, 2003.

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                      The scope of this volume is quite impressive, although its coverage is heavily biased in favor of Confucian philosophy. There are entries on Buddhist history and Chan (pp. 7–24), as well as on noted Buddhist philosophers such as Fazang (b. 643–d. 712), Jizang (b. 549–d. 623), Sengzhao (b. 374?–d. 414), Xuanzang (b. 602–d. 664), and Zhiyi (b. 538– d. 597).

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                      • De Bary, William Theodore, and Irene Bloom, eds. Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol.1, From Earliest Times to 1600. 2d ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

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                        Although not about Chinese philosophy per se, this volume includes excerpts from a wide range of philosophical texts that influenced the long history of Chinese civilization. Though weighted in favor of Neo-Confucian texts and thinkers, coverage of Buddhist sources (pp. 415–536), many of which deal with philosophical themes, is substantial. Used widely in college courses. Quality of individual entries varies widely.

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                        • Fung Yu-lan. A Short History of Chinese Philosophy. Translated by Derk Bodde. New York: Macmillan, 1948.

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                          Abbreviated and adapted version of Fung 1952–1953. Republished in 1997 (New York: Free Press).

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                          • Fung Yu-lan. A Short History of Chinese Philosophy. 2 vols. Translated by Derk Bodde. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1952–1953.

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                            Originally published in Chinese during the 1930s, a seminal study of the history of Chinese philosophy. While some of Fung Yu-lan’s (d. 1895–d. 1990) arguments may be out of date or questionable, in some respects it is still unequaled, especially in its coverage and scope of ambition. Although Buddhism receives much less coverage than Confucianism, there are three chapters on Buddhist philosophy in Volume 2 (pp. 237–405). Reissued in paperback in 1983.

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                            • Liu, JeeLoo. An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy: From Ancient Philosophy to Chinese Buddhism. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

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                              While not a comprehensive introduction to the whole history of Chinese philosophy—this work covers only the ancient and medieval periods—it stands out for its fairly extensive coverage of Buddhist philosophy. The first eight chapters cover major philosophical thinkers of the ancient period, including Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, and Zhuangzi. The last four chapters deal with the philosophies of four major schools of Chinese Buddhism: Weishi, Huayan, Tiantai, and Chan.

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                              • Mou, Bo, ed. History of Chinese Philosophy. Abingdon, UK, and New York: Routledge, 2009.

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                                Compressive volume that offers a broad overview of the history of philosophy in China. Once again, biased toward Confucianism; Buddhist philosophy is allocated just a single chapter, which covers only the first millennium of Chinese Buddhist history.

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                                • Rošker, Jana. Searching for the Way: Theory of Knowledge in Pre-modern and Modern China. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2008.

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                                  Explores both premodern and modern Chinese philosophy, with a focus on the history of epistemology in China. Not much on Buddhist epistemology, although a couple of short chapters deal with Ming-era (1368–1644) thinkers that combined Confucianism with Chan Buddhism (pp. 53–65), and there are also scattered references to Buddhist ideas in other parts of the book.

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                                  Scriptures and Other Canonical Texts

                                  The Buddhist canon—or rather canons, since there is no universally accepted Buddhist canon— is vast in scope, in large part because it remained open over a very long period of time, so new texts were constantly written and added to it. The voluminous scriptures included in the Chinese Buddhist canon elaborate on numerous doctrinal themes and present a variety of philosophical perspectives, even if typically these are combined with other modes of religious narration or symbolic representation (see Gómez 1996 and Watson 1997). Translation and exegesis of canonical texts were immensely important activities in Chinese Buddhism, especially during the medieval period. Some of the canonical texts came to exert a strong influence on the development of Chinese philosophical views and traditions (for instance, see Hakeda 1967), in addition to eliciting a variety of devotional responses and serving as conduits for arrays of cultic practices (here Gómez 1996 is a good example). The Huayan Scripture (Cheng Chien 1993 and Cleary 1993) and the Lotus Scripture (Watson 1993) even inspired the creation of two influential schools of Buddhism, Huayan and Tiantai, whose systematizations of Buddhist doctrines are among the crowning achievements in the history of Chinese Buddhist philosophy. This section lists English-language translations of some of the most influential and popular texts from the Chinese Buddhist canon, which are based on standard Chinese versions of these texts. Also worth noting are Yampolsky 1967 and Cook 1999, both of which include texts written in Chinese. It does not include translations of noted Mahayana texts that are based on Tibetan or Sanskrit sources, for example Edvard Conze’s various translations of texts that belong to the Perfection of Wisdom corpus of scriptures.

                                  • Cheng Chien Bhikshu [Mario Poceski], trans. Manifestation of the Tathāgata: Buddhahood According to the Avataṃsaka Sūtra. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1993.

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                                    Translation of the “Manifestation of the Tathāgata” chapter of the Huayan Scripture, which influenced the development of Huayan philosophy and also made major contributions to the broad diffusion of the tathāgata-garbha and buddha-nature ideas throughout Chinese Buddhism. Not heavily annotated; introduction contains a convenient summary of Huayan history and doctrine.

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                                    • Cleary, Thomas, trans. The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Boston and London: Shambala, 1993.

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                                      Notable contribution to the study of Chinese Buddhism; contains a complete translation of the monumental Huayan Scripture (also referred to as the Flower Ornament Scripture or the Avatamsaka Sūtra). Cleary’s rendering of the scripture is very readable, although not always completely reliable. Pitched toward a general audience and does not contain annotations. Originally published in three volumes in 1984, 1986, and 1987.

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                                      • Cook, Francis Harold, trans. Three Texts on Consciousness Only. BDK English Tripiṭaka 60.1–3. Berkeley, CA: Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 1999.

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                                        Translations of three important Yogācāra texts: Demonstration of Consciousness Only by Xuanzang, Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only by Vasubandhu (fl. 4th century CE?), and Treatise in Twenty Verses on Consciousness Only by Vasubandhu. Part of a series of translations from the Chinese Buddhist canon, which includes a number of other important texts.

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                                        • Gómez, Luis O., trans. Land of Bliss: The Paradise of the Buddha of Measureless Light: Sanskrit and Chinese Versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutras. Studies in the Buddhist Traditions. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996.

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                                          Translations of two versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra, usually referred to as the long and short versions, which are primary canonical sources for the Pure Land tradition of Chinese Buddhism. Each text is translated twice, from the extant Sanskrit and Chinese versions of the scripture.

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                                          • Hakeda, Yoshito S., trans. The Awakening of Faith: Attributed to Aśvaghosha. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967.

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                                            Widely considered by modern scholarship to be an apocryphal text composed in China, the Awakening of Faith exerted enormous influence on the evolution of Buddhist philosophy in China and the rest of East Asia. This (perhaps a bit dated) scholarly translation aims to make the text’s creative amalgamation of tathāgata-garbha and Yogācāra philosophies accessible to contemporary readers.

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                                            • Watson, Burton, trans. The Lotus Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

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                                              Complete translation of the immensely influential Lotus Scripture, by one of the most prolific translators of classical Chinese and Japanese texts. Clear idiomatic English, accessible to a general audience.

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                                              • Watson, Burton, trans. The Vimalakīrti Sūtra. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

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                                                Another translation of an important canonical text that influenced a wide range of philosophical discussions within Chinese Buddhism.

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                                                • Yampolsky, Philip B., trans. The Platform Sūtra of the Sixth Patriarch. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967.

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                                                  The only text attributed to a Chinese monk that features the word “scripture” (jing) in its title, the Platform Scripture claims to contain the teachings of Huineng (b. 638–d. 713), the putative sixth patriarch of early Chan. In addition to a reliable translation, Yampolsky’s volume also contains a detailed study of the complex history of this influential text.

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                                                  Mādhyamika, Yogācāra, and Tathāgata-Garbha Philosophies

                                                  As Buddhism was transmitted into China and as it gradually grew into a major religious and intellectual tradition, it assimilated a whole range of philosophical concepts and systems that developed within the broad confines of the Indian Mahayana movement. Central among them were the multifaceted philosophical systems of the Mādhyamika (Middle Way; see Liu 1994 and Robinson 1967) and Yogācāra (Practice of Yoga; see Lusthaus 2002, King 1991, and Paul 1984) traditions. To this we can add philosophical ideas that developed within the context of the tathāgata-garbha (embryo of Buddhahood; see Liu 1982 and King 1991) tradition. Although tathāgata-garbha thought was relatively marginal within the context of Indian Buddhism and never achieved a status of philosophical school along the lines of the other two, its basic premise about the immanence of Buddhahood within each person captured the religious imagination of Chinese Buddhists and became a central doctrine within Chinese Buddhism, as well as a pervasive article of faith. Even as eminent Chinese monks created unique systematizations of Buddhist theory and practice that had no exact counterparts in Indian Buddhism, each of the new Chinese traditions that were formed during the late medieval period incorporated key elements from the viewpoints and vocabularies of the main philosophical traditions of Indian Buddhism. Moreover, Chinese monks responded creatively to the need to apply the philosophical principles of Indic schools of Buddhism such as Yogācāra into the realms of ritual performance and contemplative practice, as discussed in Sponberg 1986.

                                                  • King, Sallie B. Buddha Nature. SUNY Series in Buddhist Studies. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

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                                                    Study of the central concept of buddha-nature, with focus on the Buddha Nature Treatise (Fo xing lun), traditionally attributed to Vasubandhu and translated into Chinese by Paramārtha (b. 499–d. 569), who was among the leading proponents of Yogācāra philosophy in medieval China.

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                                                    • Liu, Ming-Wood. “The Doctrine of the Buddha-Nature in the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa-Sūtra.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 5.2 (1982): 63–94.

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                                                      Surveys the manner in which the central notion of buddha-nature was incorporated and interpreted within the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, which exerted considerable influence on Chinese interpretations of the related concepts of buddha-nature and tathāgata-garbha.

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                                                      • Liu, Ming-Wood. Madhyamaka Thought in China. Sinica Leidensia 30. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994.

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                                                        Among English-language publications, the most comprehensive scholarly treatment of the history of Mādhyamika philosophy in China, although out of print and does not cover all relevant developments. Contains informative discussions of the early transmission of Mādhyamika philosophy into China, especially as represented by the thought of Senzhao (b. 374?–d. 414), and its incorporation into the mature doctrinal systems that were produced by Jizang and Zhiyi, the founding figures of the Sanlun and Tiantai traditions, respectively.

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                                                        • Lusthaus, Dan. Buddhist Phenomenology: A Philosophical Investigation of Yogācāra Buddhism and the Ch’eng Wei-shih lun. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2002.

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                                                          Comprehensive, even if somewhat controversial, study of Yogācāra philosophy. Of special interest to students of Chinese Buddhist philosophy are chapters 13–23, which deal with Cheng weishi lun (Discourse on the perfection of consciousness-only), Xuanzang’s seminal treatise, and with Yogācāra philosophy in China.

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                                                          • Paul, Diana Y. Philosophy of Mind in Sixth-Century China: Paramārtha’s “Evolution of Consciousness.” Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1984.

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                                                            Study of the life and thought of Paramārtha, the leading translator and exponent of Yogācāra philosophy in 6th-century China. Includes analysis of his philosophical theories about language and cognition, as well as a translation of his important treatise, the Evolution of Consciousness. Out of print, but available in many university libraries.

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                                                            • Robinson, Richard H. Early Mādhyamika in India and China. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967.

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                                                              Although dated, at the time of its publication this was a groundbreaking book that established Robinson as one of the leading scholars in the nascent field of Buddhist studies. Given the paucity of more recent studies on early Chinese Mādhyamika, some of Robinson’s discussions of early Chinese engagements with Mādhyamika concepts, as revealed in the writings of Kumārajīva (b. c. 350–d. 409), Huiyuan (b. 334–d. 416), and Sengzhao, are still worth consulting.

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                                                              • Sponberg, Alan. “Meditation in Fa-hsiang Buddhism.” In Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism. Edited by Peter N. Gregory, 15–43. Studies in East Asian Buddhism 4. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

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                                                                Focusing on the practice of meditation in the Faxiang school of Chinese Buddhism, Sponberg highlights the close connections between Yogācāra ideas and specific modes of contemplative praxis. Also draws attention to issues related to the conceptual deployment of the notion of “meditation” and its definition as a basic category of religious experience.

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                                                                The Huayan Tradition

                                                                Along with the Tiantai tradition, the Huayan tradition is widely considered to represent the apex of philosophical development in Chinese Buddhism. Being inspired by the recondite teachings of the Huayan Scripture, the early Huayan patriarchs created a system of Buddhist philosophy that was exceptionally comprehensive in scope and remarkable for the subtlety of its ideas (see Chang 1971 and Cook 1977). Even as they incorporated the key Buddhist philosophies imported from India, they produced an indigenous system of thought that reflected Chinese intellectual concerns and native patterns of thinking (see Gimello 1976). The voluminous writings of Fazang and other early Huayan figures left an indelible mark on the intellectual history of Chinese Buddhism (see Cleary 1983), and they also influenced a range of later doctrinal developments not only in China but also throughout the rest of East Asia (see Hamar 2007). Unfortunately, the academic study of Huayan Buddhism is still fairly underdeveloped in the West, although a few works can serve as points of entry into the abstruse realm of Huayan philosophy, while others explore parallels or similarities between Huayan philosophy and particular systems of Western philosophy (see Odin 1982).

                                                                • Chang, Garma C. C. The Buddhist Teaching of Totality: The Philosophy of Hwa Yen Buddhism. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1971.

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                                                                  An initial effort to introduce Huayan philosophy to a Western audience. It is largely superseded by some of the more recent studies, but still in print and worth consulting, both for its historical value and in light of the limited number of publications that deal with Huayan philosophy.

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                                                                  • Cleary, Thomas F. Entry into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-yen Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983.

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                                                                    Compact and accessible; contains translations of four important texts attributed to or written by four renowned scholar-monks of Tang China, who were among the Huayan tradition’s founding figures: Dushun (b. 557–d. 640), Zhiyan (b. 602–d. 668), Fazang, and Chengguan (b. 738–d. 839).

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                                                                    • Cook, Francis Harold. Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977.

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                                                                      Broad survey of Huayan philosophy that introduces many of the basic concepts and essential themes of the mature system of Huayan philosophy, especially in the classical form that was created by Fazang, arguably the main architect of the Huayan system and the most influential thinker among the Huayan patriarchs.

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                                                                      • Gimello, Robert M. “Apophatic and Kataphatic Discourse in Mahāyāna: A Chinese View.” Philosophy East and West 26.2 (1976): 116–136.

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                                                                        Argues that there was a major shift in the philosophical outlook of medieval Chinese Buddhism, marked by a move away from apophatic (negative) philosophical concepts and rhetorical modes associated with the Mādhyamika tradition, and toward kataphatic (positive) forms of philosophical discourse that were closely linked with the nascent tathāgata-garbha tradition. These broad claims are made on the basis of Fajie guanmen (Discernments of the realm of reality), a seminal treatise attributed to Dushun.

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                                                                        • Hamar, Imre, ed. Reflecting Mirrors: Perspectives on Huayan Buddhism. Asiastische Forschungen. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2007.

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                                                                          Includes five long chapters on key aspects of Huayan Buddhism, including history, doctrine, and art, written by experts in various areas of Huayan studies. The Huayan tradition is treated in a broad, pan–East Asian context. Huayan philosophy in China is covered in chapter 3, which includes contributions by six different scholars.

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                                                                          • Odin, Steve. Process Metaphysics and Hua-Yen Buddhism: A Critical Study of Cumulative Penetration vs. Interpenetration. SUNY Series in Systematic Philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982.

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                                                                            Explores parallels between the process metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead (b. 1861–d. 1947) and the Huayan doctrine of mutual interpenetration.

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                                                                            The Tiantai Tradition

                                                                            Like Huayan, the Tiantai tradition is widely acclaimed for its sophisticated system of Buddhist philosophy (see Swanson 1989). In its classical form, Tiantai philosophy was initially formulated by Zhiyi, the brilliant scholar-monk who is commonly regarded as the Tiantai tradition’s founding patriarch (see Ng 1993 and Shih 1990). Subsequently, Tiantai philosophy was further elaborated by later generations of eminent scholars such as Zhanran (b. 711–d. 782) and Zhili (b. 960–d. 1028), both of whom are discussed in Ziporyn 2000. One of the prominent features of Tiantai thought, especially in its classical formulations, is the dual engagement and close integration of various contemplative practices on the one hand, and philosophical study and reflection on the other (see Donner and Stevenson 1993 and Stevenson 1986). The study of Tiantai philosophy is also not as developed in the West as one might wish or hope, but there are a number of reliable and informative studies, as well as preliminary attempts to relate Tiantai ideas to a variety of issues that are current in contemporary Western philosophy (see Ziporyn 2004).

                                                                            • Donner, Neal Arvid, and Daniel B. Stevenson, trans. The Great Calming and Contemplation: A Study and Annotated Translation of the First Chapter of Chih-I’s Mo-Ho Chih-Kuan. Classics in East Asian Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993.

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                                                                              Partial translation of Mohe Zhiguan (Great calming and contemplation), one of Zhiyi’s magnum opuses, which contains his wide-ranging systematization of meditative theory and praxis. In it Zhiyi formulates a unique scheme of Buddhist practice and realization, which he calls the perfect and sudden approach. In addition to the reliable and heavily annotated translation, three chapters in the first part of the book discuss the text and its position within the Tiantai tradition.

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                                                                              • Ng, Yu-Kwan. T’ien-T’ai Buddhism and Early Mādhyamika. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993.

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                                                                                Explores the influence of early Mādhyamika philosophy, as formulated by Nāgārjuna, on Zhiyi’s thought and his systematization of Tiantai philosophy. It highlights Zhiyi’s indebtedness to Mādhyamika philosophy, as well as the areas in which the Chinese philosopher adopted different theoretical perspectives and moved beyond the philosophical formulations of his illustrious Indian predecessors as he developed his own unique system of philosophy.

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                                                                                • Shih, Heng-ching. “T’ien-t’ai Chih-I’s Theory of Buddha Nature—A Realistic and Humanistic Understanding of the Buddha.” In Buddha Nature: A Festschrift in Honor of Minoru Kiyota. Edited by Paul J. Griffiths and John P. Keenan, 153–169. Buddhist Books International. Reno, NV: Eikyoji Institute of America, 1990.

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                                                                                  Explores the integration of the buddha-nature doctrine into the philosophical system of Tiantai, as it was formulated by Zhiyi.

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                                                                                  • Stevenson, Daniel B. “The Four Kinds of Samādhi in Early T’ien-t’ai Buddhism.” In Traditions of Meditation in Chinese Buddhism. Edited by Peter N. Gregory, 45–97. Kuroda Institute Studies in East Asian Buddhism 4. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

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                                                                                    Explains Zhiyi’s influential systematization of contemplative practice in terms of four kinds of samādhi (meditative absorption or practice). An important point is the close connection between specific contemplative practices and key philosophical formulations advanced by Zhiyi, which supposedly point to the ultimate nature of reality.

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                                                                                    • Swanson, Paul L. Foundations of T’ien-t’ai Philosophy: The Flowering of the Two Truths Theory in Chinese Buddhism. Nanzan Studies in Religion and Culture. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1989.

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                                                                                      Extensive study of Tiantai philosophy, focusing on Zhiyi’s classical formulation of the “three truths”: emptiness, mundane truth, and the middle path. In addition to Swanson’s nuanced discussion of the theory of three truths, which he interprets as an extension or elaboration of the classical Mādhyamika theory of two truths—conventional and ultimate (or supreme)—it also contains valuable information about the initial development of Mādhyamika philosophy in China.

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                                                                                      • Ziporyn, Brook. Evil and/or/as the Good: Omnicentrism, Intersubjectivity, and Value Paradox in Tiantai Buddhist Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2000.

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                                                                                        Starting from the seemingly paradoxical Tiantai notion of the ultimate identity of good and evil, this complex and creative book charts key issues and major stages in the development of Tiantai philosophy. Main portions deal with the thought of Zhili, the leading Tiantai scholar of the Song era. Ziporyn makes extensive use of Western philosophical vocabulary and adopts the perspectives of contemporary philosophical debates.

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                                                                                        • Ziporyn, Brook. Being and Ambiguity: Philosophical Experiments with Tiantai Buddhism. Chicago: Open Court, 2004.

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                                                                                          Adopting a contemporary philosophical approach similar to that of Ziporyn 2000, the author uses traditional Tiantai concepts and perspectives, including the rubric of three truths, to explore a variety of major topics or issues in current Western philosophy. Drawing on the works of numerous Western philosophers, the book can be read as an exercise in contemporary philosophical speculation, as well as a creative study of assorted aspects of Tiantai philosophy.

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                                                                                          The Chan Tradition

                                                                                          The Chan tradition is not generally known for its systemic thought or for its nuanced analyses of philosophical themes and concepts, although such intellectual concerns were in fact by no means absent from the early Chan movement (see Adamek 2007 and McRae 1986). In the popular imagination, Chan is primarily associated with particular forms of meditation practice, as well as with iconic representation of its leading masters as inscrutable iconoclasts and leaders of a unique movement that defied conventional mores and eschewed purposeless philosophizing (Poceski 2007, Wu 2008, and McRae 2003). All the same, Chan texts are replete with canonical quotations and incorporate much of the philosophical vocabularies and doctrinal perspectives of the main traditions of Chinese Buddhist philosophy that were surveyed in the previous sections, even though they are presented in unique idioms and are employed in ways that are distinctive of the Chan tradition (see Broughton 2009 and Poceski 2007). The works listed here include useful information about the philosophical underpinning or implications of Chan texts and teachings (of which a particularly good example is Wright 1999), although in most cases these are integrated into broader academic discussions that also deal with a number of other historical, literary, ideological, and institutional issues, which is especially the case in Faure 1991 and Faure 1993.

                                                                                          • Adamek, Wendi L. The Mystique of Transmission: On an Early Chan History and Its Contexts. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                            The first English-language study and translation of Lidai fabao ji (Record of the dharma jewel through generations), an early Chan text discovered in Dunhuang that alleges to tell the story of the Baotang school of early Chan that flourished in Sichuan during the 8th century. Also broaches a broad array of topics relevant to the study of medieval Buddhism, such as the processes of textual creation and the political and economic circumstances that influenced the course of religious history in medieval China.

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                                                                                            • Broughton, Jeffrey L., trans. Zongmi on Chan. New York: Columbia University, 2009.

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                                                                                              Zongmi (b. 780–d. 841) was one of the leading Buddhist scholars of his time. This book contains annotated translations of three of Zongmi’s best-known works that deal with Chan, which provide a large amount of information about the history and doctrines of Tang Chan. One of the hallmarks of Zongmi’s analysis of Chan was his pairing of the teachings of major Chan lineages with the dominant philosophical traditions of canonical Buddhism.

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                                                                                              • Faure, Bernard. The Rhetoric of Immediacy: A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                Precursor of Faure 1993. The comments for that work are by and large also applicable here.

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                                                                                                • Faure, Bernard. Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                  One of Faure’s many influential books on Chan/Zen and East Asian Buddhism. Exemplifies both the virtues and shortcomings of his approach to the study of Chan, which can be characterized as both undisciplined and creative. The author construes a somewhat vague and contrived subject of study called “the Chan/Zen tradition,” and then he subjects it to a series of critiques from a variety of contemporary—especially European—perspectives, including postmodern thought and literary criticism.

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                                                                                                  • McRae, John R. The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch’an Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

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                                                                                                    McRae’s dependable study of the history, literature, and teachings of the Northern School of early Chan makes valuable contributions to the scholarly reassessment of early Chan history and thought. Includes translations and analyses of a number of early Chan texts that were discovered among the Dunhuang manuscripts, many of which deal with (or touch upon) a variety of philosophical themes and issues.

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                                                                                                    • McRae, John R. Seeing Through Zen: Encounter, Genealogy, and Transformation in Chinese Chan Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                      General survey of Chan history and teachings, from its inception in China until the creation of a conventional Chan paradigm during the Song era, which was then exported to Korea and Japan.

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                                                                                                      • Poceski, Mario. Ordinary Mind as the Way: The Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                        Comprehensive study of the history and doctrines of the Hongzhou school, which came to dominate the Chan movement during the late 8th and early 9th centuries. The analysis of the Hongzhou school’s doctrines, presented in chapters 4–6, shows how leading representatives of the Hongzhou school adapted and reinterpreted the central philosophical insights and soteriological frameworks of mainstream Buddhism as they created a new vision of the Chan path of practice and realization.

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                                                                                                        • Wu, Jiang. Enlightenment in Dispute: The Reinvention of Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                          Detailed historical study of Chan in 17th-century China, a previously little-studied period during which the Chan tradition experienced a notable revival. At the center of Wu’s careful analysis are the various debates and controversies that took place within the Chan tradition and involved reinventing religious ideals and practices, which were linked with a classical tradition deemed to have been lost.

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                                                                                                          • Wright, Dale S. Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism. Cambridge Studies in Religious Traditions 13. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                            Series of engaging philosophical reflections on Chan/Zen Buddhism. Main focus is on the records of Huangbo (d. 850?), one of the best-known Chan masters of the Tang era, and on the transmission and interpretation of those texts in the West. The author confronts deeply ingrained and unduly romanticized views about Zen and questions key truth claims associated with or made about the Zen tradition.

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                                                                                                            General Doctrinal and Historical Aspects of Chinese Buddhism

                                                                                                            This wide-ranging section contains publications on a variety of philosophical or doctrinal themes related to the broader historical patterns of growth and development within Chinese Buddhism. In a way, it consists of books that are not included in any of the previous categories, all of which are primarily concerned with classical texts and thinkers. Here the reader will find a somewhat dated but still useful history of Buddhism in China (Ch’en 1964), a survey of doctrinal taxonomies (Mun 2005), a study of Buddhist-Daoist interactions (Sharf 2002), examinations of the thought of two important medieval thinkers (Gregory 1991 and Lai 1987), and edited volumes that deal with Buddhist hermeneutics (Lopez 1988) and the main traditions and trends of Song Buddhism (Gregory and Getz 1999).

                                                                                                            • Ch’en, Kenneth. Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey. Princeton Studies in the History of Religions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964.

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                                                                                                              Although in many respects outdated and in need of revision in light of recent research, this still remains the most useful one-volume survey of the history of Chinese Buddhism. Coverage of philosophical themes and developments was never Ch’en’s greatest strength, but there are pertinent discussions of the teachings of Huayan, Tiantai, and Chan.

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                                                                                                              • Gregory, Peter N. Tsung-mi and the Sinification of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                Wide-ranging study of the life and thought of the prominent Buddhist thinker and writer Zongmi, who is traditionally linked with both the Chan and the Huayan traditions. Introduces a large amount of relevant information about Tang Buddhism, including major intellectual trends, philosophical debates, and doctrinal classifications.

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                                                                                                                • Gregory, Peter N., and Daniel A. Getz Jr., eds. Buddhism in the Sung. Studies in East Asian Buddhism 13. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                  Articles about various aspects of Buddhism during the Song era. For the philosophical aspects of Song Buddhism, the most useful chapters are by Welter, Borell, Chan, and Ziporyn.

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                                                                                                                  • Lai, Whalen. “Tao-sheng’s Theory of Sudden Enlightenment Re-examined.” In Sudden and Gradual: Approaches to Enlightenment in Chinese Thought. Edited by Peter N. Gregory, 169–200. Studies in East Asian Buddhism 5. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                    Lai’s chapter explores the contents and the contexts of Daosheng’s (b. c. 360–d. 434) influential theory about the sudden experience of enlightenment, as well as the doctrinal debates it provoked within the intellectual circles of medieval Chinese Buddhism.

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                                                                                                                    • Lopez, Donald S., Jr., ed. Buddhist Hermeneutics. Studies in East Asian Buddhism 6. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                                      Collection of studies on Buddhist hermeneutics. For Chinese Buddhist hermeneutics, see the chapters by Chappell, Gregory, and Buswell, the last of whom approaches the subject matter from a Korean perspective.

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                                                                                                                      • Mun, Chanju. The History of Doctrinal Classification in Chinese Buddhism: A Study of the Panjiao System. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005.

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                                                                                                                        The creation of doctrinal taxonomies—also known as panjiao, or classifications of teachings—was an important intellectual endeavor in medieval Chinese Buddhism, which among other things was used to organize and rank various canonical texts and philosophical traditions. This book contains surveys of the major doctrinal taxonomies of Chinese Buddhism, including those developed by leading monastic scholars and thinkers such as Huiguan (b. 468–d. 537), Zhiyi, Jizang, Fazang, and Kuiji (b. 632–d. 682).

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                                                                                                                        • Sharf, Robert H. Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                          Throughout Chinese religious history, in addition to the numerous mutual influences and borrowings among the various Buddhist philosophical systems, there were also multifaceted interactions between Buddhism and other intellectual and religious traditions. This book explores the complex patterns of interaction between mature Buddhist and Daoist systems of thought, with a focus on Bao zang lun (Treasure store treatise), a text composed during the 8th century, which is translated in its entirety.

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                                                                                                                          Buddhism and Modern Chinese Philosophy

                                                                                                                          These works are indicative of current philosophical trends and discussions, as they relate to Chinese Buddhism. They include examples of works that explore the influences of Buddhist philosophical ideas outsides of the confines of Buddhism, including contemporary Confucian philosophy (see Kantor 2006 and Clower 2010), the philosophical reflections of contemporary Buddhist thinkers (Yin-shun 1998), and the comparative studies that are undertaken by scholars trained in Western philosophy (Wang 2001).

                                                                                                                          • Clower, Jason. The Unlikely Buddhologist: Tiantai Buddhism in Mou Zongsan’s New Confucianism. Boston: Brill, 2010.

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                                                                                                                            Mou Zongsan (b. 1909–d. 1995) is widely recognized as a leading representative of the philosophical tradition of New Confucianism, which represents a modern recasting and expansion of Neo-Confucianism. His writings are characterized by far-reaching engagements with and recourse to both Western and Buddhist philosophical traditions. Clower addresses Mou’s studious engagement with Tiantai philosophy.

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                                                                                                                            • Kantor, Hans-Rudolf. “Ontological Indeterminacy and Its Soteriological Relevance: An assessment of Mou Zongsan’s (1909–1995) Interpretation of Zhiyi’s (538–597) Tiantai Buddhism.” Philosophy East and West 56.1 (2006): 16–68.

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                                                                                                                              Among the leading Confucian thinkers of the 20th century, Mou Zongsan, like his teacher Xiong Shili, stands out for his studious engagement with classical forms of Chinese Buddhist philosophy. In this article Kantor explores the manner in which Mou interpreted the ontological aspects of Tiantai philosophy, as formulated by Zhiyi.

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                                                                                                                              • Wang, Youxuan. Buddhism and Deconstruction: Towards a Comparative Semiotics. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                Exemplifies some of the ways in which Western-trained scholars explore philosophical perspectives articulated in classical Buddhist texts. Its central focus is on exploration of semiotic themes of medieval Buddhist texts written by noted Buddhist thinkers and translators such as Kumārajiva, Paramārtha, and Xuanzang. Also explores the applicability of Buddhist semiotic models, especially those articulated within the context of the Mādhyamika and Yogācāra traditions, to the study of Derrida’s deconstruction of Western metaphysics.

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                                                                                                                                • Yin-shun. Way to Buddhahood: Instructions from a Modern Chinese Master. Translated by Wing Yeung. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                  Yin-shun (b. 1905–d. 2005) is arguably the best-known and most inferential Buddhist thinker in modern Taiwan. This survey of Chinese Buddhist doctrine is not as philosophically exacting as his more detailed Chinese-language studies of various aspects of Buddhist philosophy, but it still gives an idea about his basic approach to Buddhism, as well as the broad range of his philosophical interests.

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