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Guest lecture: "Payload or Dead Weight? Preliminary Comments on the Authorship and History of the Xulai Jing(s) 須賴經"

Jan 21, 2020 06:00 pm to 08:00 pm

Speaker: Dr. Rafal Felbur (Leiden University, Netherlands)



Chinese Buddhism is to a considerable extent a religion of translations—translations into Chinese of scriptures written originally in a variety of Indic languages. When we study these translations, it is often difficult to distinguish between those that did, in one way or other, appeal to their Chinese audiences, and those that did not—to differentiate between the payload and the dead weight. This is especially true for the early period, in which vast amounts of texts were translated, with only a small portion becoming the foci of written exegetical activity. What about translations that never turn into a subject of a dedicated commentary, a preface, a colophon?  

The *Sūrata-paripṛcchā (“Questions of Sūrata,” Chn. Xulai jing 須賴經) was translated into Chinese reportedly on up to four occasions by the late fourth century CE, and was for a time the subject of intense proselytizing (payload). Then it suddenly fell into obscurity (dead weight). Why? What can we learn from this case?


About the speaker:

Rafal Felbur is a postdoctoral researcher on the ERC-funded project “Open Philology” based at Leiden University. He received his PhD from Stanford University in 2018. Trained in Sinology, Chinese Studies, and Religious Studies with a specialization in Chinese Buddhism, his recent work has focused on the cultural pre-history of the Chinese Buddhist canon: the ideas, values, and beliefs that the Chinese Buddhist apologists put forward in their attempts to construct the religion as an ideal whole in the early period (up to the fifth cent. C.E.), prior to the emergence of canons (zang 藏) as actual collections of books. A short CV and publication list with links may be found here.


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