Lazy_eye wrote:Hi all,
Information on the Chinese canon seems a little hard to come by -- at least in comparison to the Pali Canon, although my understanding is that the Chinese canon is just as old and perhaps even older (some scholars have claim the Pali wasn't finalized until the time of Buddhaghosa). I was wondering: what are the earliest surviving documents from this canon? Are there any known major discrepancies between the Chinese agamas and the Pali sutta pitaka?
On a related note, what are the very earliest known references to Mahayana teachings? When scholars estimate the dates that certain teachings developed (i.e. prajnaparamita, tathagatagarbha, the bodhisattva path as distinct from that of the arahant) what do they use to arrive at these dates?
This site is a directory of all scriptures that correspond to one another across multiple languages including the Pali and Chinese.http://www.suttacentral.net/
Jan Nattier's work entitled A Guide to the Earliest Chinese Buddhist Translations: Texts from the Eastern Han "Dong Han" and Three Kingdoms "San Guo" Periods
is a great recent work detailing the history of the early Chinese Buddhist translations.
However, that work isn't easy to find it seems. If you can get a hold of it it will answer all your questions in fine detail.
I was wondering: what are the earliest surviving documents from this canon?
The earliest translations we have in Chinese come from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 CE).
According to traditional histories the Sūtra in Forty-Two Sections
《四十二章經》is the earliest Chinese Buddhist text said to have been translated during the Eastern Han dynasty 東漢 (25-220 CE) by Kāśyapamatanga 迦葉摩騰 and Dharmarakṣa 法蘭. However, this is disputed by modern scholars for numerous reasons.
The history of Buddhism in China officially seems to begin with the following somewhat mystical account in The Book of the Later Han
It has been passed down through the generations that Emperor Ming had seen a golden man in a dream who was big and tall with a halo atop his head. He asked his ministers about this. One suggested, "In the west there is a spirit named Buddha. His figure is one zhang and six chi tall and his colour is golden yellow." The Emperor in response to this dispatched a delegation to India to ask of the Buddha's way and methods and they succeeded in bringing images and sculptures back to China. Chuwang Ying started to have conviction in the methods [of Buddhism]. It is because of this that China has many who believe in the ways [of the Buddha]. ...
I think it is likely that Buddhism existed in China before this as Emperor Aśoka is said to have sent Buddhist missionaries to China, though unfortunately no account of this exists in historical records or archaeology as far as I know. I think it was there, but just very low key and probably limited to foreigners.
I wrote a few things about this in the following blog post:http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2011/05/ ... ughts.html
Are there any known major discrepancies between the Chinese agamas and the Pali sutta pitaka?
This is a very big question. You could write a PhD thesis on it.
Many of the early Chinese scriptures were imported from Central Asia, not India, where the Sarvāstivāda school, not any school using the Pali canon, was flourishing. Early Chinese Buddhism is actually based on Central Asian Buddhism.
As for discrepencies, you might want to give the following book a read as it details the development of ideas on the Buddha, making use of both Pali and Chinese, while pointing out differences:The Concept of the Buddha: its Evolution from Early Buddhism to the Trikāya Theory
By Guang Xinghttp://books.google.com/books?id=DTWZLM ... &q&f=false