Wei mo jie suo shuo jing [The Vimalakirti Sutra]. trans KUMARAJIVA, comm.
Wei mo jie suo shuo jing [The Vimalakirti Sutra].
Wei mo jie suo shuo jing [The Vimalakirti Sutra].
Wei mo jie suo shuo jing [The Vimalakirti Sutra].

“The Most Important Translator of Buddhist Texts
in China”

Wei mo jie suo shuo jing [The Vimalakirti Sutra].

Two full-page woodcuts serving as frontispieces & a full-page woodcut on final leaf. 1 p.l., 38, 38, 29 folding leaves. Three parts in one vol. 8vo, orig. blue wrappers, manuscript title label on upper cover, new stitching. [China: before 1644, late Ming dynasty].

A very rare illustrated printing of the translation by Kumarajiva of the Vimalakirti Sutra, one of the fundamental texts of Chinese Buddhism. Kumarajiva (344-413), Buddhist monk, scholar, missionary, and translator, who came from the Silk Road kingdom of Kucha, was famous for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Indian and Vendantic learning. He was the greatest translator of Buddhist scripture from Sanskrit into Chinese, and it was largely owing to his efforts and influence that Buddhist religious and philosophical ideas were disseminated in China. Following many years of study in Kucha and Kashmir, he arrived in Chang’an (now Xi’an), in 401 with a great reputation. He became known as “teacher of the nation.” There, he headed a famous school of translators, and together they translated many important texts into Chinese, including the Vimalakirti, the Diamond, the Lotus, and the Amitabha Sutras.

The Vimalakirti Sutra had been unreliably translated several times before, but Kumarajiva’s knowledge of Chinese enabled him to provide lucid explanations of complex Buddhist concepts. Also, his ability to reconcile conflicting positions within Buddhism made his translations the most reliable and important of all. His translations, a major part of the Tripitaka, or “canon” of Chinese Buddhism, were disseminated widely throughout China, Korea, and Japan and are still held in high regard by modern scholars. Without Kumarajiva, some of the great Buddhist texts may not have been preserved.

The first woodcut depicts Buddha surrounded by gods and goddesses. On the verso, we see, we believe, Kumarajiva, pen in hand, surrounded by disciples. The woodcut on the recto of the final leaf depicts an unidentified Buddhist god.

This edition is particularly notable as it contains his commentary on the Vimalakirti Sutra, which is considered to be the most important for the understanding of Kumarajiva’s thought. An early edition was printed in 1118 in Fuzhou at the Kai yuan chan si Temple (and we thank Devin Fitzgerald for gently guiding us in our description).

An early scholar has made numerous notes throughout in red ink in Chinese.

Nice crisp copy. The fore-edge of the first leaf, which contains the two woodcuts, is a little frayed but does not touch the images. The final leaves have a growing wormhole and the final leaf has several tears with small loss of image. Lower cover wormed. Preserved in a chitsu.

❧ Enichi Ocho & Robert F. Rhodes, “The Beginnings of Buddhist Tenet Classification in China” in The Eastern Buddhist, New Series, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Autumn 1981), p. 77-Kumarajiva was “the most important translator of Buddhist texts in China”–& see the whole article, pp. 71-94.

Price: $17,500.00

Item ID: 6659

See all items in China, Chinese, Religion
See all items by ,