Trans. by Zhi Qian. 69 folding leaves. Two parts in one vol. Large 8vo, orig. yellow-brown patterned wrappers, new stitching. Wolch’ul Nunnery, South Hwanghae province of today’s North Korea: 1865 or 1866 (see below).
A rare edition of The Smaller Sukhavativyuha Sutra, one of the three most important Mahayana sutras of the Pure Land tradition. Our book was printed at the Wolch’ul Nunnery in what is now North Korea; this is an extremely rare imprint. We find no copy in WorldCat.
The Smaller Sukhavativyuha Sutra “is devoted largely to describing this buddha’s land and its many wonders, including the fact that even the names for the realms of animals and the realms of hell-denizens are not known; all of the beings born there will achieve enlightenment in their next lifetime.”–Buswell & Lopez, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 868.
The translation from Sanskrit to Chinese was done by Zhi Qian (fl. c. 220-52), a prolific earlier translator of Buddhist texts into Chinese. Zhi Qian is said to have been fluent in six languages and was one of the first Buddhist commentators in the East Asian tradition.
The book has a printed calligraphic preface dated “The fifteenth day of the eight month in fourth pyong’in (Ch.: bingyin) year since the beginning of the Chongzhen reign,” which corresponds to 23 September 1866 (Tongzhi 5). This way of recording the year was common in Chosen Korea, as it was a way to avoid using the Qing reign names and show respect for the fallen Ming dynasty (Chongzhen was the last Ming emperor to rule all of China; he was killed in 1644). Curiously, the date of printing on the final page is given as “Tongzhi 4, bingyin, eighth month” with the day blank. The problem is that Tongzhi 4 was not a bingyin year but an yichou year. Tongzhi 5 was a bingyin year. Since bingyin appears twice but Tongzhi 4 only once, we are tempted to infer that Tongzhi 4 is the mistake and not bingyin. If so, the book was printed in 1866 rather than 1865.
Fine and fresh copy. Final three leaves with minor marginal worming.
❧ With thanks to Prof. Marten Soderblom Saarela of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan.
Item ID: 8352