International Conference on the Production, Preservation and Perusal of Buddhist Epigraphy in Central and East Asia – Abstracts

Return to the 2019 Conference on Production, Preservation and Perusal of Buddhist Epigraphy page.


  1. Stephanie BALKWILL 白思芳 (The University of Winnipeg 加拿大溫尼伯大學): The Earliest Known Biography of a Chinese Buddhist Nun

    In this presentation we will study the earliest dated biography of a Chinese Buddhist nun that is currently known to us, the entombed biography (muzhiming 墓誌銘) of a Buddhist nun whose name was Shi Sengzhi 釋僧芝 (d. 516 CE). Sengzhi was appointed to the court of the Northern Wei 北魏 (386–535 CE) in 477 and died in 516, still serving that same court. In her role at court she intimately served three emperors and two empress dowagers, that latter of which, Empress Dowager Ling 靈太后 (d. 528), was her own niece. The high status that she enjoyed in her life she also enjoyed in her death; given an imperial funeral, her body was interred at the Northern Wei’s imperial mausoleum at Mt. Mang 邙山 and her burial included the commissioning of an entombed biography. That biography is the only source that we have attesting to Sengzhi’s life and it tells the rare story of a woman who modelled a new form womanhood on the rise in the 5th century: an elite Buddhist womanhood which may have been renunciatory but certainly not eremitic. By reading Sengzhi’s entombed biography, we will see how the text positions the nun’s Buddhist practice as an integral component of her success as a politician while it also suggests that her Buddhist practice facilitated trans-regional interaction with the courts of the Chinese south.

  2. T. H. BARRETT 巴瑞特 (SOAS, University of London 英國倫敦大學亞非學院): “Against Epigraphy: Once More a Visit to Zen and History”

    The steady recovery of more and more early epigraphy from China has proved an immense boon to historians and particularly to historians of religion, who have often had to depend in the past on transmitted sources that frequently describe events and personalities of one period through the lens of the preoccupations of one or more later periods in their transmission.  The Chinese Chan tradition affords several examples of this.  Scholars have therefore gladly looked beyond materials produced within the tradition itself to epigraphic records, even though in many cases such records do not survive to this day on stone and have themselves been transmitted through different stages of copying and recopying.  If scrupulously handled, this evidence can of course be of great value. But it is still worth thinking about the circumstances that created such evidence before assessing what it might mean. The specific example examined to illustrate this point is an inscription composed by Tang Shen 唐伸in the ninth century.

  3. CHEN Jinhua 陳金華 (The University of British Columbia 加拿大英屬哥倫比亞大學): Identity and Network: Yan Zhenqing and the Construction of Vinaya Lineage  身份認同與群體建構:顏真卿與律學譜系的建構




    顏真卿對律學系譜的建構,進一步證實了宗教群體既有時間的意義,也有空間上的意涵。從時間的角度來看,宗教群體既是歷時的(diachronic), 又是共時的(synchronic);從空間來看,宗教群體既是在地的(local),同時也會有普世的(universal)的追求。顏真卿對這一宗教場域的介入,既有個人情感的因素,同時也應該有深刻的政治原因。

  4. CHEN Zhiyuan 陳志遠 (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences 中國社會科學院): 釋“七世父母”——石刻造像記定型句研究之一七世父


  5. Jessey J.C. CHOO 朱雋琪 (Rutgers University 美國羅格斯大學): Exemplary Deaths of Buddhist Lay Practitioners in Medieval Chinese Entombed Epitaph Inscriptions (Muzhiming)

    In the Chinese Buddhist tradition, a calm and conscious death, in which the dying person maintains mental clarity and bodily dignity, signifies extraordinary religious attainment. Many monks and nuns in medieval hagiographies are said to have been aware of their imminent death, some to the extent of foretelling the exact day, and passing away while sitting in meditation or reclining on their right side. Such depictions of exemplary deaths were not, however, limited to monks and nuns, for they appear in the entombed epigraph inscriptions, or muzhiming, of medieval Buddhist lay practitioners as well. Contrary to common assumptions, muzhiming served multiple functions and circulated among a broader audience than the dead, for they also had an audience among the living. Within the context of the production and consumption of muzhiming, what then was the significance of “reporting” an exemplary death in the muzhiming of a layperson? What purpose did it serve beyond propagating Buddhist teaching? How might these accounts have influenced public perceptions of both the subject and the producers of the muzhiming? This paper attempts to address these questions through a close reading of two muzhiming belonging respectively to a layman and a laywoman.

  6. Alexei DITTER 迪磊 (Reed College 美國里德學院): Memory-making in Tang dynasty Buddhist muzhiming: A Preliminary Exploration

    This paper will examine how memories of Buddhist subjects were constructed within one form of posthumous inscription, the entombed epitaph (muzhiming). Through comparison of similarities and differences in the textual components—genealogy, biography, account of death and burial, and elegy—of secular and Buddhist entombed epitaphs, I outline ways in which the authors writing about Buddhist subjects in the mid-Tang adapted available and appropriate cultural tools for remembrance to serve the communicative and commemorative needs of Buddhist communities.

  7. FENG Guodong 馮國棟 (The University of Zhejiang 浙江大學): 宋「大安塔碑銘」疏證——兼論宋初皇族婦女與佛教


  8. JIAO Jianhui 焦建輝 (Academy of Longmen Grottoes 龍門石窟研究院): 龍門石窟的「業道」像


  9. JI Yun 紀贇 (Buddhist College of Singapore 新加坡佛學院): 宗族、士紳網絡構建與國族文化認同:新加坡蓮山雙林寺碑銘考訂



  10. KEGASAWA Yasunori 氣賀澤保規 (Meiji University 日本明治大學): 房山石經唐代《大般若波羅蜜多經》的刻經與“巡禮”



  11. George KEYWORTH 紀強 (University of Saskatchewan 加拿大薩斯喀徹溫大學): On the Influence of the Longkan Shoujian 龍龕手鑒 as a Glossary on Dhāraī Carved in Stone in the North Pagoda at Chaoyang and in Manuscripts from 12th Century Japan

    Vinaya Master Zhishou(567–635) was the master of Daoxuan, and also the National Master of the Tang Dynasty(618–907). In 634, Tang Taizong appointed Zhishou to be the leading monk, Sthavira, of Hongfusi Temple, built for his deceased mother. Zhishou passed away the following year. However, it was not until 656 that his disciples made a stele for him in Hongfu Temple. The state titles of monks such as Zhaoxuan Datong (昭玄大統) and Zhaoxuan Duweinuo (昭玄都維那) were abolished in the previous dynasty, Sui (581–619). As a result, the Sangang (Sthavira, Abbot, and Karmadana), especially of those temples that were built for the royal members, such as Hongfusi Temple, Da Cien Temple, and Ximing Temple, were considered state leaders of the monastics. After Xuanzang(602–664) came back from India in 645, his translation project took place in Hongfu Temple. Tang Gaozong built Da Cien Temple to commemorate his late mother in 648 and Xuanzang was conferred as the Sthavira. Tang Gaozong and Empress Wu built Ximing Temple for their crown prince, Li Hong, and chose Zhishou’s principle disciple, Daoxuan, as the Sthavira in 658. Three major aspects were involved in the erection of Zhishou Stele: the change of Xuanzang’s status, the monks’ (including Lingrun) activities in Hongfu Temple, and Daoxuan as the Sthavira of Ximing Temple. This research will examine the evolution of power structure in early Tang imperial sponsored temples from the aspect of the erection of the Zhishou stele.

  12. KURAMOTO Shotoku 倉本尚德 (Academia Sinica 臺北中央研究院): 初唐皇家供奉寺院的變遷──從智首碑談起


  13. Channa LI 李嬋娜 (Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia 奧地利科學院亞洲文化與思想史研究所): Offering to the Buddha or the Saṅgha? One Perspective of Problematizing the Buddha-Saṅgha Hierarchy through Narratives and Epigraphs

    In Buddhist literature, the most well-known donation narrative is Mahāprajāpatī’s offering of a golden robe to the Buddha in which the Buddha orders her to give it to the saṅgha. In the Buddha’s explanation, he refuses it because a donation to the saṅgha would honor both the Buddha and the saṅgha. However, as demonstrated by Silk (2002), this explanation from the Buddha’s lips was insufficiently clear and gave rise to various sectarian interpretations, resulting in controversy over the status and significance of the Buddha in the Buddha–saṅgha relationship. Based on how donation stories such as this one were retold in the various sectarian schools, we can identify the different sectarian proposals for the Buddha–saṅgha hierarchy, and outline the different relative positions of the Buddha and the saṅgha (i.e., whether the Buddha is placed within or outside the saṅgha). According to textual sources, the Mahīśāsaka monks placed the Buddha within the saṅgha and therefore believed that a separate donation to the Buddha was not necessary. The Dharmaguptaka monks argued that the Buddha was outside and above the saṅgha and that donations to the Buddha could not be enjoyed by the saṅgha members. The Theravaṃsa school presented a more complex image, insisting that the Buddha was superior to the saṅgha while also encouraging donations to the saṅgha. Sarvāstivāda scholastic traditions developed a twofold way of defining saṅgha (四方僧 *cāturdiśasaṅgha, or 聲聞僧 *śrāvakasaṅgha) to reconcile multiple views on the Buddha–saṅgha relationship.

    However, an investigation of the recipient of donations in epigraphs problematizes but at the same time simplifies the complicated picture above: rough statistics reveal that most donations made by Buddhists of diverse sectarian schools, including the Dharmaguptaka, contain two parts: donated to the saṅgha but for all buddhas. That is to say, in the practice of making donations throughout the ancient Indian Buddhist world, the saṅgha never lost its status of the privileged recipient of donations. As Gregory Schopen’s insightful treatment of epigraphic evidence reveals, many deep-seated convictions about Buddhist monastic lives are no more than simplistic or idealized views produced by “overconfident” textual scholarship. The central issue of who should receive donations in this paper offers another example of such gap between what is claimed in theory (i.e., in the texts) and what in practice (i.e., witnessed by epigraphs).

    Last but not the least, underlying both the diverse versions of donation narratives and the epigraphic records is the strong economic concern to sustain the monastic community: confronted with the strong personal cult of the Buddha (or more precisely, the cult of the Buddha’s image and stūpa), the saṅgha can at least share a portion of the offering.

  14. LIU Yongsi 劉泳斯 (Minzu University of China 中央民族大學): 道㲀《顯密圓通成佛心要》新考 (A New Study on The Essentials of Attaining the Buddhahood according to Perfect and Penetrative Teaching of Esoteric and Exoteric School by Liao Buddhist Master Daochen)


  15. Mingli SUN  (The University of British Columbia 加拿大英屬哥倫比亞大學): 大足寶頂山石刻南宋第十八龕觀無量壽經變研究

    大足寶頂山大佛灣南宋第18龕觀無量壽經變為大足乃至四川地區已知唯一的宋代觀經變,規模之巨前所未有, 圖像表現亦與當地唐代同類實例差異甚大。在圖像內容方面, 與唐代觀無量壽經變突出西方淨土圖像的表現不同,該南宋觀無量壽經變強調九品往生內容且每一品均表現完整的往生場面,又將供養人代表融入十六觀中,同時弱化西方淨土世界景象並省略未生怨圖像。在表現方式方面,與唐代同類實例僅用圖像表現的形式不同,該南宋觀無量壽經變注重圖文結合的方式,即圖像與碑刻一一對應的方式刻畫。大足寶頂山大佛灣南宋第18龕觀無量壽經變的功能在於教化眾生發願往生極樂世界,凸顯了宋代佛教的教化功能。

  16. SUN Yinggang 孫英剛 (Zhejiang University 浙江大學): 北朝時期的燃燈佛造像與王朝政治


    王朝體制和君主理念這一核心的政治議題,近年來獲得中古史學界越來越多的重視,不論是方法論更新,還是具體史實的挖掘,都取得了顯著的成績,也彰顯出將不同史料引入中古政治史研究這一研究思路的潛力。就與本文討論相關的北朝政治史而言,有的研究從中國傳統的五德終始、陰陽術數的政治文化入手,從中土固有的天命、歷運思想出發,討論北朝的君主與政治;有的研究則基於南北朝時期民族衝突融合的時代特徵,從內亞的視角出發,將有關北亞草原政治文化傳統的歷史信息納入北朝政治史的討論,有效地豐富了歷史圖景;除了上述視角,中古時期的另一個重要時代特徵,是佛教的傳入。這是一個佛教和其他宗教繁榮的時代,宗教對當時人們的思想世界和信仰世界都有深刻的影響。佛教的興起與傳播,不僅僅是宗教信仰的輸入輸出,也帶來了新的政治理論和君主觀念。那麼,將豐富的宗教文獻納入研究視野,或是拓展中古政治史研究視野的有效方法。北齊文宣帝高洋(550—559年在位)視高僧法上(495—580年)為佛,模擬燃燈佛(Dīpaṃkara)授記的場面,佈髮於地,讓法上踐之。通過這樣的儀式,塑造自己佛教轉輪王的身份,從信仰和政治雙重的緯度加強自己統治的神聖性。燃燈佛授記在佛教信仰體系中居於極為特殊的地位,帶有明確的宗教和政治意涵。而其發源於犍陀羅(Gandhāra) 地區,在印度本土罕見,但是卻在中國中古時期的政治和信仰世界里成為一個重要的信仰主題和政治理念。這一方面說明中古時期政治文化的複雜性,另一方面也反映了中國文明具有世界主義的開放性和包容性——這也是中國文明能夠長盛不衰的重要原因。

  17. TONG Ling 童嶺 (University of Nanjing 南京大學): Diplomatic Relations of the Buddhist Kingdom Beiliang 北涼——A Research on the time of Juqu Mengxun’s 沮渠蒙遜 building Stone Buddha for his mother on Mount Tianti 天梯山



  18. WANG Jun 王珺 (Peking University 北京大學): 古漁陽地區佛教寺院碑刻流布與民間信仰調查——以香水寺為中心


  19. Claudia WENZEL 温狄婭 (Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities 德國海德堡科學與人文科學研究院): Imprinting the living rock with Buddhist texts: On the creation of a regional sacred geography in Shandong in the second half of the sixth century

    During their earliest phase of production, Buddhist texts in China were not carved in their entirety, but in selected passages. While this phenomenon has been explained primarily as a forerunner of later carvings of longer and more complete texts, this paper explores another aspect of the carving of particular passages: The repeated carving of the same short text does not only emphasize the importance of its doctrinal meaning; it actually helps to set up a regional network of sacred sites, where the words of the Buddha have been imprinted on the living rock. This particular function of the carved texts is corroborated by material aspects, namely their careful layout, which stresses at the same time their coherence as members of the same group and their particularity as representatives of each single inscription site. I will show that this early network of short Buddhist texts was not restricted to Shandong Province, but also reached out to the cave temples of Northern and Southern Xiangtangshan in the border region of Hebei and Henan. Moreover, the career of this and other carved passages culled from the Sutra on the Great Perfection of Wisdom Spoken by Mañjuś(T#232) can arguably be connected to the later emergence of Mañjuśrī veneration at Mount Wutai in Shanxi.

  20. ZHANG Chengyu 張成渝 (Peking University 北京大學) & ZHANG Naizhu 張乃翥 (Academy of Longmen Grottoes 龍門石窟研究院): 王維書幢的發現及其與龍門地區佛教文化的因緣 (The discovery of a Buddhist pillar inscribed by Wang Wei and its connections with Buddhism in the Longmen area)


    A dhāraṇī pillar inscribed by the Tang poet and painter Wang Wei (699–759) in 722 has been recently unearthed at the southern foothills of the eastern Longmen mountain. We know that Wang Wei passed the imperial examination as jinshiin 723, hence the preface of this inscription is the proof that the previous year, when he was only 23 years old, the poet had already manifested a strong involvement in the Buddhist faith. At the same time, not only does the unearthing of this Buddhist inscription provide us with precious evidence for the study of Tang Buddhist monasteries in the Longmen area, but, perhaps more importantly, it also enables us to appraise the handwriting of such an important historical figure as Wang Wei, thus its significant aesthetic value.

  21.  ZHANG Xuesong 張雪松 (Renmin University of China 中國人民大學): 房山石經《一乘法界圖合詩一印》發微