Book reviews, vol. 5

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free its fifth volume of reviews, mainly of books about China and its history and languages (11.6 MB PDF).

Even if you have no particular interest in the specific works reviewed, I recommend at least browsing through this and all of the other volumes of reviews from Sino-Platonic Papers, as they often feature Victor Mair at his most direct and entertaining about a wide range of subjects.

Table of Contents:

  • Review Article: The Present State and Future Prospects of Pre-Han Text Studies. A review of Michael Loewe, ed., Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide. Reviewed by E. Bruce Brooks, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

N.B.: The following 29 reviews are by the editor of Sino-Platonic Papers.

  • Roger T. Ames, Chan Sin-wai, and Mau-sang Ng, eds. Interpreting Culture through Translation: A Festschrift for D. C. Lau.
  • Sau Y. Chan. Improvisation in a Ritual Context: The Music of Cantonese Opera.
  • CHANG Xizhen. Beijing Tuhua [Pekingese Colloquial].
  • CHANG/AIXINJUELUO Yingsheng [AISINGIORO *Yingsheng]. Beijing Tuhua zhong de Manyu [Manchurian in Pekingese Colloquial].
  • BAI Gong and JIN Shan. Jing Wei’er: Toushi Beijingren de Yuyan ["Capital Flavor": A Perspective on the Language of the Pekingese].
  • JIA Caizhu, comp. Beijinghua Erhua Cidian [Dictionary of Retroflex Final-r in Pekingese].
  • Julia Ching and R. W .L. Guisso, eds. Sages and Sons: Mythology and Archaeology in Ancient China.
  • FENG Zhiwei. Xiandai Hanzi he Jisuanji (Modern Chinese Characters and Electronic Computers).
  • FENG Zhiwei. Zhongwen Xinxi Chuli yu Hanyu Yanjiu [Chinese Information Processing and Research on Sinitic].
  • Andre Gunder Frank. The Centrality of Central Asia.
  • HUANG Jungui. Hanzi yu Hanzi Paijian Fangfa [Sinographs and Methods for Ordering and Looking up Sinographs].
  • W. J. F. Jenner. The Tyranny of History: The Roots of China’s Crisis.
  • Adam T. Kessler. Empires Beyond the Great Wall: The Heritage of Genghis Khan.
  • David R. McCraw. Du Fu’s Laments from the South.
  • Michael Nylan, tr. and comm. The Canon of Supreme Mystery, by Yang Hsiung.
  • R. P. Peerenboom. Law and Morality in Ancient China: The Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao.
  • Henry G. Schwarz. An Uyghur-English Dictionary.
  • Vitaly Shevoroshkin, ed. Dene-Sino-Caucasian Languages.
  • Vitaly Shevoroshkin, ed. Nostratic, Dene-Caucasian, Austric and Amerind.
  • Laurence G. Thompson, comp. Studies of Chinese Religion: A Comprehensive and Classified Bibliography of Publications in English, French, and German through 1970.
  • Laurence G. Thompson, comp. Chinese Religion in Western Languages: A Comprehensive and Classified Bibliography of Publications in English, French, and German through 1980.
  • Laurence G. Thompson, comp. Chinese Religion: Publications in Western Languages, 1981 through 1990.
  • Aat Vervoorn. Men of the Cliffs and Caves: The Development of the Chinese Eremitic Tradition to the End of the Han Dynasty.
  • WANG Jiting, ZHANG Shaoting, and WANG Suorong, comp. Changjian Wenyan Shumianyu [Frequently Encountered Literary Sinitic Expressions in Written Language].
  • John Timothy Wixted. Japanese Scholars of China: A Bibliographical Handbook.
  • YÜ Lung-yü, ed. Chung-Yin wen-hsüeh kuan-hsi yüan-liu [The Origin and Development of Sino-Indian Literary Relations].
  • ZHANG Guangda and RONG Xinjiang. Yutian Shi Congkao [Collected Inquiries on the History of Khotan].
  • ZHANG Yongyan, chief ed. Shishuo Xinxu Cidian [A Dictionary of A New Account of Tales of the World].
  • Peter H. Rushton. The Jin Ping Mei and the Non-Linear Dimensions of the Traditional Chinese Novel.

  • William H. Baxter, A Handbook of Old Chinese Phonology. Reviewed by Paul Rakita Goldin, Harvard University.
  • JI Xianlin (aka Hiän-lin Dschi). Dunhuang Tulufan Tuhuoluoyu Yanjiu Daolun [A Guide to Tocharian Language Materials from Dunhuang and Turfan]. Reviewed by XU Wenkan, Hanyu Da Cidian editorial offices in Shanghai.
  • GU Zhengmei. Guishuang Fojiao Zhengzhi Chuantong yu Dasheng Fojiao [The Political Tradition of Kushan Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism]. Reviewed by XU Wenkan, Hanyu Da Cidian editorial offices in Shanghai.
  • W. South Coblin, University of Iowa. A Note on the Modern Readings of 土蕃.
  • Rejoinder by the Editor.
  • Announcement concerning the inauguration of a new series in Sino-Platonic Papers entitled “Bits and Pieces.”

This work also continues the discussion regarding the Chinese characters “??” and Tibet.

This was first published in July 1994 as issue no. 46 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Three Brief Essays Concering Chinese Tocharistan: SPP

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Three Brief Essays Concerning Chinese Tocharistan (1.7 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

Here are the beginnings of each of the three essays.

The Significance of Dunhuang and Turfan Studies:

There are well over a thousand scholars around the world who are working on some aspect of Dunhuang and Turfan studies. Do these two remote places in Chinese Central Asia merit such intense interest on the part of so many? In the first instance, this paper attemps to show that Dunhuang and Turfan studies, though focussing on texts and artifacts associated with these two particular sties, actually have broad ramifications for the history of East-West cultural and commercial relations in general. Another major factor is the unique quality of many materials discovered at Dunhuang and Turfan. Archaeological finds from these locations have enabled us, for the first time, to obtain an essentially first-hand look at China and some of its neighbors during the medieval period. That is to say, we can now learn, for example, about popular culture during Tang times without being forced to view it through a Confucian historiographical filter. In other words, the availability of primary materials for correcting the biases of traditional historians and materials which document the existence of phenomena (languages, religions, popular literary genres, social customs, etc.) that were completely overlooked — or even suppressed — by them. As examples of the vivid immediacy afforded by such materials, two texts from Dunhuang manuscripts S4400 — a prayer by Cao Yanlu — and S3877 — a contract for the sale of a woman’s son — are edited and translated. The paper concludes by stressing that, because of the complexity and vast scope of Dunhuang and Turfan studies, international cooperation is essential.

Early Iranian Influences on Buddhism in Central Asia:

It is usual to imagine that the transmission of Buddhism from India to China was accomplished largely by Indian missionaries and Chinese pilgrims. Until recently, the role of Iranian-speaking peoples in this great process of intellectual and religious transformation has been little known and seldom recognized. Primarily as a result of archeological discoveries during the last century, however, the vital importance of Central Asian Buddhism has become increasingly clear. It is now possible to point to specific doctrinal, iconographic, and textual instances of Iranian influence upon Buddhism in Central Asia and, consequently, in China and elsewhere in East Asia. Here we shall touch upon only a few examples of the Iranian contributions to Buddhism. The items listed in the bibliography should enable the reader to locate many more without much difficulty.

The deep involvement with Buddhism of individuals from the very heartland of Iranian civilization is evidenced by the fact that the fist known translator of Buddhist texts into Chinese was a Parthian of royal descent….

The History of Chinese Turkistan in the Pre-Islamic Period:

The first thing which needs to be pointed out about Chinese Turkistan (also spelled Turkestan) is that, for the period in question, the habitual designation is a complete misnomer. As will become obvious in the course of this article, the place was neither politically Chinese nor ethnically Turkish until after the establishment of Islam in the region. It is probably safest to refer to the area by more neutral geographic names such as the Tarim Basin and the Dzungar (also spelled Zungar and Jung[g]ar) Basin which, together with their associated mountain ranges, constitute the two main divisions of the area, or Central Asia in contrast to Middle Asia (Russian / Soviet Turkistan).

No matter how we refer to it, there is no doubt that this remote, largely desert part of the world is of extreme importance because it lies at the crossroads of Eurasia. From the dawn of civilization, trade and cultural exchange have been carried out by peoples living in and around this “heart of Asia….”

The was first published in March 1990 as issue no. 16 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Pure Land Buddhism and Amida Buddha: a historical and philological analysis

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free Life and Light, the Infinite: A Historical and Philological Analysis of the Amida Cult (2.2 MB PDF), by Soho Machida.

Here’s a bit of borrowed biographical information about the author:

Soho Machida spent twenty years as a Zen monk at Daitokuji monastery, Kyoto, before moving to the United States, where he received a master’s degree in theological studies from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught at Princeton University and the National University of Singapore, and is now a professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. He has written extensively on religion and ethics.

And here’s the table of contents of the work.

  1. Two Names of Amida Buddha
  2. Amida, Amita, or Amrta?
  3. Amida Buddha and Indian Mythology
  4. Which came first, Amitayus or Amitabha?
  5. The Idea of Luminosity in Mahayana Thought
  6. The Encounter of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism
  7. Luminosity and the Cult of Mithra
  8. Parallel Features with Iranian Religion
  9. The Old Religion of the Indo-Iranians
  10. Conclusion
  11. Endnotes
  12. Bibliography

This was originally published in December 1988 as issue no. 9 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

The Tao of semiotics. Zen and etymology.

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free Tracks of the Tao, Semantics of Zen (950 KB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

After a brief introduction, Mair, who has translated more than one classic Taoist text, asks, “How did Tao and Zen enter our vocabulary? And what do these two extraordinarily powerful words really mean?”

He then enters into a “somewhat lengthy excursion into the neglected realm of philology” but keeps to his word to “try to make it as painless and entertaining as possible.”

It’s a fascinating and wide-ranging essay, especially for those interested in historical linguistics.

This is issue no. 17 of Sino-Platonic Papers. It was originally released in April 1990.

Indian influence on Chinese popular literature: a bibliography

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free another book-length back issue: A Partial Bibliography for the Study of Indian Influence on Chinese Popular Literature (10.8 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

Here are the contents:

  • Journals and Works Referred to in Abbreviated Fashion
  • Catalogs of Tun-huang Manuscripts and Bibliographies of Studies on Them
  • Chinese Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Japanese and Korean Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries; Southeast Asian Sinitic Dictionaries
  • South and Southeast Asian and Buddhicized Central Asian Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries (Includes Indic, Tibetan, Uighur, Indonesian, etc.)
  • Near and Middle Eastern Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Studies and Texts in European Languages (Other than Translations from the Above Groups)
  • Films, Performances, Lectures, Unpublished Manuscripts, and Personal Communications
  • Articles and Books Not Seen

The introduction is also online in quick-loading HTML format.

This was first published in March 1987 as issue no. 3 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Reviews of books on oracle bones, language and script, violence in China, etc.: SPP

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased the third volume in its series of book reviews: Reviews III (8.3 MB PDF).

This volume was first published in October 1991.

The main topics of the books in this volume are

  • Violence in China
  • Scientific Stagnation in Traditional China.
  • Oracle Shell and Bone Inscriptions (OSBIs)
  • Proto-Language And Culture
  • Language and Script
  • Reference Tools for Sinitic Languages
  • Literature and the Life of Peking
  • Religion and Philosophy
  • Words
  • The New World
  • “Barbarian” Business
  • South Asia
  • Miscellaneous

For those who hesitate to download such a large file without knowing which books were reviewed, you may consult the table of contents (small HTML file).

Chinese Philology and the Scripts of Central Asia

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free issue no. 30 from October 1991: Chinese Philology and the Scripts of Central Asia (742 KB PDF), by M.V. Sofronov of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Academy of Sciences, Moscow.

It begins:

The period of the tenth to fourteenth centuries was a time when the peoples who conquered Northern China established their own states and proceeded to create their own written culture. They rightly saw the basis of a new state culture in their own script. The Kidan state of Liao was established in 916 in the northeastern part of China. It was conquered by the Jucen state Jin in 1126. The Tangut state of Hsi Hsia was established on the northwestern frontiers of China in 1032. All of these states created their cultures in accordance with historical circumstances and taking into consideration the achievements of older cultural centers of East and South Asia.

The oldest and most powerful philological tradition which exerted an influence on the scripts of Central Asia was that of the Chinese. This tradition developed under the specific conditions of the Chinese character script. Primarily, it elaborated the problem of the explanation of the meanings of the characters and the establishment of their correct readings.

One of the important achievements of the traditional Chinese philology was the method of fanqie (“cut and splice”) according to which the unknown reading of a character is described by means of two other characters with known readings. Originally fanqie was designed, presumably under the tutelage of Indian phoneticians, to indicate the readings of characters in the philological works. With the development of Tantric Buddhism in China it was extended to the transcription of Sanskrit dharanis and related texts. In these transcriptions, Sanskrit syllables with phonemic components distributively incompatible in Chinese were constructed. In these cases the Sanskrit syllable was rendered by two Chinese ones. This pair of Chinese syllables formed the fanqie binom provided with appropriate diacritics. For rendering initial consonant clusters, two or three Chinese syllables were used respectively for clusters of two or three Sanskrit consonants. These binoms or trinoms were provided with diacritics, respectively erhe (“two together”) or sanhe (“three together”). This method of transcription constituted the counterpart to the orthographic techniques of the rendering of consonant clusters in Sanskrit and Tibetan syllabic scripts….

SPP: Ch’an/Zen Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased Buddhist Influence on the Neo-Confucian Concept of the Sage, by Pratoom Angurarohita.

This is issue no. 10 and was first published in June 1989.

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction.

There are three lines of thought that can be traced as the main sources of Neo-Confucianism. The first is Confucianism itself. The second is Buddhism, via the medium of the Ch’an [Zen] sect, for of all the schools of Buddhism, Ch’an was the most influential at the time of the formation of Neo-Confucianism. The third is the Taoist religion, of which the cosmological view of the Yin-Yang school formed an important element. The cosmology of the Neo-Confucianists is chiefly connected with this line of thought.

Since Buddhism had become an intimate part of Chinese intellectual life for several centuries, it was impossible for the Sung reformists to replace Buddhism entirely by their new philosophy. While using concepts found in the Confucian Classics, the Neo-Confucianists interpreted them in the light of Buddhist understanding. To limit the topic of study, this paper will examine only the influence of Buddhism on the Neo-Confucian concept of the sage, focusing on sagehood as an attainable goal and self-cultivation. The study of the concept of the sage in Neo-Confucianism will show not only the Buddhist influence, but also the development of the concept from early Confucianism.

The full essay is also available as a PDF (1.6 MB), which preserves the look of the original printed issue.