Practicing Scriptural Economy: Medieval Chinese Buddhist Anthologies and their Literary Imagination

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at 12:00pm to 2:00pm

This is a past event.

Ahmanson Center (ACB), 238
825 Bloom Walk , Los Angeles, CA 90089

A lecture by Alexander Hsu, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Notre Dame

For a scriptural tradition as diverse and voluminous as that of Chinese Buddhism, where does the uninitiated begin?

Which texts are most important to specific Buddhist ideas and practices?

The problems of “scriptural overload” were articulated far earlier in medieval China, when new translations of scriptures “from the West” of increasing size and complexity continually accumulated. Beginning in the sixth century CE, scholar-monks compiled anthologies by extracting excerpts from hundreds of scriptural titles and recombining them under subject-headings for easier location and recall.

These anthologies, or leishu (Chinese: “works organized by category”), promised to manage scriptural proliferation by isolating the most important passages and making them accessible.

Through readings of A Grove of Pearls from the Garden of Dharma (Fayuan zhulin), a late 7th c. Chinese Buddhist anthology, and its predecessors, Dr. Hsu believes scholar-monks adapted the Chinese genre of the leishu to Buddhist ends, emphasizing the manipulability of scripture’s text, the provisionality of its message, and the agency of its readers.

Event Type

Lecture / Talk / Workshop


Students, Faculty/Staff


University Park Campus


Buddhist, Buddhism, Dornsife, dornsife events

School of Religion

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