Trans. by Kalayasas. One double-page woodcut frontis. & 22 full-page woodcuts. 37 folding leaves. Large 8vo, orig. yellow-brown patterned wrappers (some rubbing to wrappers), new stitching. Naewon’am, “The Inner Courtyard Nunnery,” Samgaksan: 1853.
A very rare Korean reprint of a Chinese edition; this sutra was extremely influential in East Asian Buddhism for advocating specific types of visualizations on the person of the Buddha Amitabha. The Chinese imperial preface is dated Hongxi 1 (1425), the single year in the short reign of emperor Renzong of the Ming. The reprint was made in 1853 (Xianfeng 3), at Naewon’am, “The Inner Courtyard Nunnery” at Samgaksan, a peak of Pukhansan mountain north of Seoul. The printing of our edition was financed by donations from nuns and lay believers. The leaf that begins with the 1425 imperial preface carries a note saying that a female devotee with the style name Songdokhwa, née Kim, “prostrates herself and does this [the printing] for her parents.” Another leaf says the same thing about “the nun Ch’ungyop.”
“The Guan Wuliangshou jing has also exerted much influence in the realm of art.”–Buswell & Lopez, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 332–(& see the entry for an account of Prince Ajatasatru and his imprisonment of his mother, Queen Vaidehi). The present work is finely illustrated with an impressive folding double-page frontispiece woodcut and 22 attractive full-page woodcuts. The frontispiece depicts Buddha and eight of his disciples on Vulture Peak, his favorite retreat in Rajagaha and the scene for many of his discourses, including the present sermon. The next 13 woodcuts depict the 13 contemplations of the Pure Land: contemplation of the setting sun, contemplation of an expanse of water, contemplation of the ground in the Pure Land, contemplation of trees in the Pure Land, contemplation of ponds in the Pure Land, contemplation of various objects in the Pure Land, contemplation of the lotus throne of the Buddha, contemplation of the image of Amitabha, contemplation of Amitabha himself, contemplation of Avalokitesvara, contemplation of Mahasthamaprapta, contemplation of the aspirants to the Pure Land, and contemplation of Amitabha and the two bodhisattvas.
The following nine woodcuts depict the nine levels into which those born into the Pure Land are categorized (a favorite topic amongst exegetes in China, Korea, and Japan), ranked from the highest level of the highest grade to the lowest level of the lowest grade.
The sutra itself is presented as a translation by Kalayasas (fl. 383-442), a Central Asian monk who was one of the early translators of Buddhist texts into Chinese. “Perhaps the most influential work with which he is associated is [the present sutra], the ‘meditation sutra’ on Amitabha Buddha, one of the three foundational texts on the East Asian Pure Land traditions. Because no Sanskrit recension of this sutra is attested, this scripture is now considered to be either a Central Asian or a Chinese indigenous scripture, and its ascription to Kalayasas is problematic.”–Buswell & Lopez, op. cit., p. 408.
A fine copy. First leaf with a pale dampstain.
❧ The Harvard copy (accession no. 31422798) lacks a leaf. With thanks to Prof. Marten Soderblom Saarela of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan.
Item ID: 8339