Korea-Vietnam 2022-2023 Speaker Series

Chinese Apocryphal Scriptures Reprinted in Korea and Vietnam

With the Mulian Sutra as an Example

October 5th, 2022, 9:00 AM Los Angeles Time
Zoom Webinar
Mulian scripture
Lan potrait
Dr. NGUYỄN Tô Lan has worked as a researcher at the Institute of Sino-Nom Studies, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences since 2004. She graduated with a Bachelor of Linguistics and Literature in 2003 and then a Master’s in the same major in 2006 from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University (Hanoi), and a Bachelor of Chinese Linguistics from the University of Languages and International Studies, VNU in 2007. She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics and Literature from the Graduate Academy of Social Sciences (Vietnam) in 2012. From September 2010 to June 2011, she received an ASIA Fellows Award to carry out a comparative study of Vietnamese traditional performance and Cantonese Opera in China. She was a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute in the academic year 2013-2014 and a Guest Scholar at the Institute of Research in Humanities, Kyoto University in October 2014. She was a Coordinate Research Scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute from June to December 2015, a Visiting Scholar at Academia Sinica in 2018, and Beijing Foreign Studies University in 2019. She has been awarded an American Council for Learned Studies Research Fellowship (2015 cohort), an award of European Research Council (2020-2025), and of Vietnam National Foundation for Science and Technology Development (2020-2023). Her current research mainly focuses on the history of books and printing culture in East Asia. Her recent publications includes an co-authored monograph with Rostislav Berezkin on Avalokiteśvara of the Vietnamese Sea: Miaoshan-Guanyin Legend in Vietnam (Vietnam University of Education Publishing House, 2021) and a book chapter in Li Guo, Patricia Sieber, and Peter Kornicki eds., Ecologies of Translation in East and South East Asia, 1600-1900 (University of Amsterdam Press, 2022).
Berezkin Bio
Dr. Rostislav Berezkin obtained his Ph.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and candidate of sciences degree from Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia. He is a senior research fellow at the National Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Fudan University. His main fields of research are religious storytelling and popular religion in late imperial China, also in connection with cultural exchange in East Asia (especially btw. China, Vietnam, and Japan). His publications include two books in Russian. His English book Many Faces of Mulian: The Precious Scrolls of Late Imperial China was published by the University of Washington Press in 2017. His English articles have been published in T’oung PaoLate Imperial ChinaAsia MajorMonumenta Serica, Asian Ethnology, Religions, Archiv Orientalni, CLEAR, BEFEO, Journal of Chinese ReligionsHanxue YanjiuReligion and ArtsMinsu quyi, and CHINOPERL (Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature). Rostislav also published a number of articles in Chinese and Russian, and a co-authored monograph in Vietnamese: NGUYỄN Tô Lan and Rostislav BEREZKIN, Phật Bà bể Nam: Truyện Quán Âm Diệu Thiện tại Việt Nam (Avalokiteśvara of the Vietnamese Sea: Miaoshan-Guanyin Legend in Vietnam; Hanoi: Vietnam University of Education Publishing House, 2021).

Presented by Rostislav Berezkin

Fudan University

and NGUYỄN Tô Lan

Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences

Please register in advance:

In China, the initial development of woodblock printing technology was associated with the multiplication of Buddhist scriptures and images. In the very early period, starting in the eighth century, printing was also used for these purposes in Korea and Japan; later it spread from China to Vietnam as well, where significant number of Buddhist texts were printed locally, starting around the fourteenth century. While the early printed copies of major Mahayana scriptures and even Chinese Buddhist canon (Tripitaka) in several countries of East Asia are well known (especially famous in the Koryo Tripitaka 高麗藏of the thirteenth century, which preserved many features of the earliest printed Chinese Buddhist canon), this talk focuses on the printing of so-called “apocryphal” (or “indigenous”) Buddhist scriptures that presumably were composed in China in the medieval period (they don’t have Sanskrit originals). Despite their non-orthodox status in the eyes of elite clergy in China, they played important role in transmission of Buddhist cults and ideas among masses not only in China, but also in other countries of East Asia, where Chinese forms of Buddhism became dominant. Some of these Chinese Buddhist texts were lost in China in the later period, but survived in Japan, Vietnam, and Korea, where they were transmitted in the pre-modern period, also in the printed form. Here we focus on one example of the Mulian Sutra (Mulian jing 目連經), which was composed around the twelfth century in China, based on the vernacular amplification of a scriptural subject: monk Mulian rescuing his mother’s soul from hell. This apocryphal scripture did not survive in China, but its reprints were made in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam in 1368, 1557 and 1762 respectively. As it was associated with the popular festival of soul’s salvation (Ullambana, or Zhongyuanjie 中元節in Chinese), this text was continuously reprinted in Korea and Vietnam in the early modern period and had significant impact on local literature and religious culture. Korean and Vietnamese reprints represent the special features of local printing technology and demonstrate its use in the transmission of Chinese popular texts in these countries.