[KS] Re: Dharani Sutra

Gari Keith Ledyard gkl1 at columbia.edu
Mon Dec 6 17:40:28 EST 1999

Dear Keith,
	In regard to the Dharani sutra that formed the text of the
woodblock-printed scroll of 751, which was found in the So^kka t'ap in the
mid-sixties, I believe the eight characters in question are not ones you
would be likely to find in Mathews, or even in many more comprehensive
dictionaries whether Chinese-Chinese or Chinese-Japanese.  If my memory
serves me right--and it's been decades since I read about this problem--
these were special characters invented by the Empress Wu, generally as
complicated substitutes for more common forms.  During her period of
direct rule under her self-proclaimed Zhou dynasty (684-705), these were
only one of her many innovations.  Some of these characters appear in the
aforesaid "Dharani Sutra" (an abbreviated title).  The issue of how they
might affect the dating of the printed scroll was discussed very much in
the 1960s, so it is hardly new.  If the argument is, could such characters
have appeared in a sutra known in Korea a half century after her reign, I
don't see why not, but it would be for competent bibliographers of the
Buddhist writings of that time to explore the ins and outs of that issue.  
Korea certainly had active relations with China during her period in
power, and her pronouncements were deeply imbued with Buddhism.
	I'm sorry I'm not more up to date, and that even the things I read
about this during the 60s, when the printed scroll was discovered, have
escaped from memory.  But I think most of what I read on the subject was
in newspaper articles in Korean newspapers.  So don't take what I say
without checking it very carefully!

Gari Ledyard

On Mon, 6 Dec 1999, Keith Pratt wrote:

> Dear List
> On 30 October Korea Newsreview reported a seminar held at Yonsei Korean
> Studies Research Institute (19-20 October) at which the provenance of the
> ?751 AD Dharani Sutra text, found in 1966 at Pulguksa, was debated by
> Korean, Chinese and Japanese experts. One of the points they discussed
> concerned eight Chinese characters and whether they would have been used
> in a text printed in either China or Korea at that time. 
> Can anyone tell me, please, where I might find a more detailed report (in
> English, Korean or Chinese)
> that identifies the eight characters? Or ideally (and to help save time),
> if anyone can give me a reference to  the  numbers of the characters in,
> say, Matthews Chinese-English Dictionary, that would be
> even better!
> Thanks in advance,
> Keith Pratt
> University of Durham


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