On the Influence of Translations of Religious and Philosophical Texts of Buddhism on the Literature and Art of Medieval China

Cover Page


The era of the Tang dynasty (618-907) was a period of great flourishing of all aspects of Chinese culture, when changes covered the most diverse spheres of philosophy, art and literature. The article examines the role played in this cultural transformation by translations from Sanskrit into Chinese of the religious and philosophical texts of Indian Buddhism. The specificity of the Chinese approach to the translation of Indian texts is demonstrated, when, at the initial stage, many works were translated in a rather free style due to the lack of precisely established correspondences between Sanskrit and Chinese philosophical terms. The authors identify two additional factors that influenced the nature of the translations. Firstly, this is the requirement of compliance with the norms of public, mainly Confucian, morality. Secondly, the adaptation of the Indian philosophical context to the Chinese cultural and worldview traditions, which led to the emergence of new schools of religious and philosophical thought that were not known in India itself, such as Tiantai, Jingtu or Chan, each of which in its own way influenced the art of the Medieval China. Special attention is paid to the activities of the legendary translator, Xuanzang, whose travel to India gave a huge impetus to the development of Chinese philosophy in subsequent centuries, as well as to the contribution to Chinese culture and art, which was made by the translation activities of the “three great teachers of the Tang era” Shubhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra.

About the authors

Vitaly G. Kosykhin

Saratov State University

Author for correspondence.
Email: kosyhinvg@gmail.com
83, Astrakhanskaya Street, Saratov, 410012, Russian Federation

D.Sc. in Philosophy, Head of Department of Philosophy and Methodology of Science

Svetlana M. Malkina

Saratov State University

Email: malkinasm@gmail.com
83, Astrakhanskaya Street, Saratov, 410012, Russian Federation

D.Sc. in Philosophy, Professor at Department of Theoretical and Social Philosophy


  1. Poceski M. Buddhism in Chinese History. In: The Wiley Blackwell Companion to East and Inner Asian Buddhism. Oxford: Wiley—Blackwell; 2014. P. 40—62.
  2. Lancaster LR. The Oldest Mahāyāna sūtra: Its Significance for the Study of Buddhist Development. The Eastern Buddhist. New series. 1975; VIII (1): 30—41.
  3. Ch'en Kenneth K.S. Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press; 1964.
  4. Ling Haicheng. Buddhism in China. Bei Jing: Chinese Intercontinental Press; 2007.
  5. Torchinov EA. Buddijskaya filosofija v Kitae. In: Filosofija kitajskogo buddisma. St Petersburg: Azbuka-klassika; 2001. P. 3—40. (In Russian).
  6. Cao Shibang. Fact versus Fiction: From Record of the Western Regions to Journey to the West. In Wang Chichhung (ed.). Dust in the Wind: Retracing Dharma Master Xuanzang's Western Pilgrimage. Taipei: Rhythms Monthly; 2006.
  7. The Lotus Sutra: Revised Edition (Bdk English Tripitaka). Berkeley: BDK America; 2007.
  8. Kuan Ming. Popular Deities of Chinese Buddhism. Petaling Jaya: Kuan Yin Contemplative Order; 1985.
  9. Shi Changyu. Introduction. In trans. WJF Jenner. Journey to the West. Vol. 1. Seventh Edition. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; 2001. P. 1—22.
  10. Fang Li-Tian. China’s Buddhist Culture. Singapore: Gale Asia; 2009.
  11. Hodge Stephen. Intoduction. In: The Maha-Vairocana-Abhisambodhi Tantra: With Buddhaguhya's Commentary. New-York: Routledge; 2015.
  12. Chzhou Iljan. Tantricheskij buddizm. Book I. Tantrizm v Kitaje. Moscow: Medkov S.B.; 2016. (In Russian).
  13. Goble G. The Politics of Esoteric Buddhism: Amoghavajra and the Tang State. In: Esoteric Buddhism in Mediaeval Maritime Asia: Networks of Masters, Texts, Icons. Singapore: ISEAS — Yusof Ishak Institute; 2016. P. 123—140.



Abstract - 191

PDF (Russian) - 41




Copyright (c) 2020 Kosykhin V.G., Malkina S.M.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies