Speakers: Rostilav Berezkin (Fudan University) and Lan To Nguyen (Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences)
In China, the initial development of woodblock printing technology was associated with the multiplication of Buddhist scriptures and images. In the very early period, starting in the eighth century, printing was also used for these purposes in Korea and Japan; later it spread from China to Vietnam as well, where significant number of Buddhist texts were printed locally, starting around the fourteenth century. While the early printed copies of major Mahayana scriptures and even Chinese Buddhist canon (Tripitaka) in several countries of East Asia are well known (especially famous in the Koryo Tripitaka of the thirteenth century, which preserved many features of the earliest printed Chinese Buddhist canon), this talk focuses on the printing of so-called “apocryphal” (or “indigenous”) Buddhist scriptures that presumably were composed in China in the medieval period (they don’t have Sanskrit originals). Despite their non-orthodox status in the eyes of elite clergy in China, they played important role in transmission of Buddhist cults and ideas among masses not only in China, but also in other countries of East Asia, where Chinese forms of Buddhism became dominant. Some of these Chinese Buddhist texts were lost in China in the later period, but survived in Japan, Vietnam, and Korea, where they were transmitted in the pre-modern period, also in the printed form. Here we focus on one example of the Mulian Sutra, which was composed around the twelfth century in China, based on the vernacular amplification of a scriptural subject: monk Mulian rescuing his mother’s soul from hell. This apocryphal scripture did not survive in China, but its reprints were made in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam in 1368, 1557 and 1762 respectively.