• Translation Issues in the Rapid Transmission of Esoteric Buddhism from India to China to Japan

    Steve McCarty (see profile)
    Buddhist Studies, Digital Humanities East Asia, Global & Transnational Studies, Japanese Studies, Premodern Japanese History
    Tantric Buddhism, Buddhism, Translations, Kūkai, 774-835, Asia
    Item Type:
    Esoteric, asian history, india, Chinese history, japanese history, T'ang, Heian, translation, Sanskrit, Japan
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    Three consecutive patriarchs of Esoteric Buddhism were Amoghavajra of India, Huiguo of China, and Kūkai of Japan. This paper foregrounds the usually taken-for-granted but vital historical role of language education and translation in the international spread of religion and culture. There had to be sufficiently educated bilingual or multilingual priests to translate Buddhist scriptures and to travel internationally before the golden age of East Asia could be realized, with Emperors in T'ang Dynasty China and Heian Period Japan welcoming foreign representatives and patronizing Buddhism. Japan's great saint Kūkai was educated in Chinese and Sanskrit, thus able to contribute to Sino-Japanese relations as well as to systematize Buddhism and other Asian religions. This paper analyzes a biography of Kūkai that also illustrates the issue of voice in translations. A translated work ideally speaks with one voice, that of the original source, with the translator remaining invisible. Yet in this case, the Japanese-English translator has a distinct writing style in her second language, while the biographer alternates between a flowery classical Chinese rhetorical style and blunt intrusions into the story, which in turn reflect the ambivalence in quotations from Kūkai. Disparate voices can therefore be discerned along with the linguistic and cultural issues involved in a Sanskrit-Chinese-Japanese-English chain of communication.
    Original source (APA 7 without italics): McCarty, S. (2023). Translation issues in the rapid transmission of Esoteric Buddhism from India to China to Japan." Gyankosh Journal of Educational Research, 1(1), 1-4. Peer reviewed; backed up in research repositories by permission of the Editor. The reader could also access the author's Mastodon site @SteveMcCarty@hcommons.social where directions to access the paper online are in a pinned post, with comments or questions welcome.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    8 months ago


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