Is the "Buddhist Classical Japanese" a thing?

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Is the "Buddhist Classical Japanese" a thing?

Post by eibar04 »

Is there any equivalent to "Buddhist Chinese" in Classical Japanese? I know that in the sinosphere the chinese buddhist canon was not translated into local languages like Japanese and that classical Chinese with Kanbun was kept as the standard way of study. But I am trying to understand whether the Japanese have a term for the literary form in those Classical Japanese religious texts, where I imagine that, like Chinese, there was a borrowing from Sanskrit. A [Buddhist Classical Japanese] is conceivable?

Giving a little comparison. In Chinese, "Buddhist Chinese" differs from the Classical Chinese of the Confucian Classics due to characteristics such as: Sanskrit borrowing terminology, greater presence of disyllabic/polysyllabic words and more vernacular language.

The link below touched on a linguistic topic similar to the one I'm looking for

For now, I know that the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism will be enough for me, but I want to know if I will need specialized dictionaries in the future. I know that in Chinese works like the one by Paul W. Kroll or the HDC serve as a decent reference to Chinese Buddhism. In Japanese the Kōjien or any Kobun dictionary is capable of this with the Buddhist vocabulary? I don't know much about this, but I am aware that in Japanese there must be very vast Buddhist dictionaries.

I know that there are cases of language hybridization, such as the Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. Or cases of literary forms like the one I mentioned in Chinese. In Japanese is there something special or different to consider? or is it just the same literary language as the Genji Monogatari?!
Genjo Conan
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Re: Is the "Buddhist Classical Japanese" a thing?

Post by Genjo Conan »

My understanding is that the scriptures are written in Chinese characters, which are then recited with a Japanese pronunciation. I also understand that many classical Japanese Buddhist texts were written in Chinese, and only less formal texts were written in the vernacular. For example, Eihei Dogen's formal sermons, as recorded in the Eihei Koroku, were delivered in classical Chinese. His less formal essays, which he compiled in the Kana Shobogenzo, were in the vernacular. I imagine that, as we get closer to the present day, more texts were written in the vernacular.

But, I'm not a linguist or a serious scholar, just a dude with a bookshelf.
Zhen Li
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Re: Is the "Buddhist Classical Japanese" a thing?

Post by Zhen Li »

There are lots of categories of Japanese literature in both Chinese and Japanese with varying degrees of Japanese annotation for the Chinese materials. Supposedly, until the middle of the Showa period, there was more written in some form of Chinese than Japanese in Japan.

Haruo Shirane's Classical Japanese grammar, dictionary, and reader does not specifically have religious compositions in the reader, but I think the grammar should cover the forms you would see in the Japanese compositions by people like Dogen or Shinran. I have a bit of experience reading Shinran's Japanese, for instance, and it largely is a matter of recognising older verb forms—the actual structure and content (in terms of vocabulary), at its core, does not differ massively from modern Japanese in the way that Buddhist Chinese differs from Mandarin Chinese.

For someone learning both Buddhist Chinese and Japanese, I am not sure there is a lot of value in learning to read the Chinese in the Kundoku way—since this is really to help Japanese readers make sense of the word order. Buddhist Chinese word order usually is totally logical from an English speaker's perspective, so we don't really need to make so much adjustment. As Huseng said in the thread you linked, the main thing with Buddhist Chinese is just the accumulation of knowledge of vocabulary, and this comes from extensive reading with a dictionary (DDB and DDB Access are great for this).
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