QUERY> A New Chinese Buddhist Canon (Zhōnghuá dàzàng jīng xù biān 中华大藏经续编)

Robert H Sharf's picture

Our librarian just brought a new Chinese publishing project to my attention: Zhōnghuá dàzàng jīng xù biān《中华大藏经续编》being published by 中华书局. The description of the project is as follows:



I wondered if anyone on this list is familiar with this project, and if they think the collection is worth purchasing for our library.

Bob Sharf

Dear Dr. Sharf,

It depends on what other Chinese Canons you have in your collection.

How much are they selling it?

I'm not familiar with the project, but I can find out in Taiwan for you.

Yours truly,

James Gu

Hi Bob,

I hope someone more familiar with this project will have better information. Reputable scholars are involved in the project, and someone on this list must know more about it. However, my impression (so far) is that the "supplemental series" 续编 of the 中华大藏经(汉文部分) would not be a priority for a research library like UC Berkeley that already has many of the base texts in its collection.

Per its name, the "supplemental series" 续编 gathers texts not included in the "initial series" 正编 of 中华大藏经(汉文部分). However, it is a distinct project. The "initial series" reproduced texts from the Jin Canon 趙城金藏 held at National Library of China, which contained otherwise missing texts that were not widely available. For anyone who hasn't tried to use it, the photo-reproductions are shrunk and cut to fit the page layout, and small details can be difficult to discern. The "initial series" includes a critical apparatus after most fascicles that shows textual variants in other imperial editions. Some of the editorial work has a "bricolage" quality: lacunae in the Jin canon were filled using other editions. These supplements range in size from small fragments to whole fascicles. The "initial series" was rounded out with some late imperial texts. (On an aside, the Beijing edition completed in 1997 is totally unrelated to the large Taiwan publication also titled 中華大藏經 from 1956.)

Whereas the "initial series" made rare texts in the Jin canon widely available, by contrast the "supplemental series" 续编 appears to largely reproduce texts from the Taishō Daizōkyō 大正大藏經 and Shinsan Zokuzōkyō 新纂續藏經. (The same texts also already digitized by CBETA.) A team of scholars are re-punctuating the texts -- this is not a minor contribution. However, I don't believe a critical apparatus is being added to the selections from Zokuzōkyō, which is a missed opportunity. Why would this project spend so much effort to reproduce already existing texts? My impression is that a major goal for the "supplemental series" 续编 is to offer a modern Chinese alternative to the modern Japanese editions. I wonder if the audience is domestic. Better punctuated texts are important, but I doubt the 中华大藏经续编 will displace the Taishō Daizōkyō and the Shinsan Zokuzōkyō that already are in many research libraries, and are digitally enshrined as the base texts for the CBETA electronic text.

In addition, the "supplemental series" 续编 will reproduce the Temple Gazetteers (also already widely available), as well as texts from late imperial canon editions and other collectanea already in some research university libraries such as Berkeley (or Stanford), including:
磧砂大藏經 (北京: 綫裝書局, 2005); 永樂北藏 (北京: 綫裝書局, 2000); 徑山藏 (北京: 國家圖書館出版社, 2016); 乾隆大藏經 (北京: 中国书店, 2010)

Who should buy this? If your library already holds many of the above other volumes, is it worth obtaining a newly punctuated edition of the canon? Perhaps some research libraries will find this set offers the convenience of having texts from disparate imperial collections all together in one location, if they don't already have those collections. Some truly rare books may also be included in the "supplemental series" project, but if so, I am not yet aware of them. Maybe others on the list are aware of additional strengths that might support its purchase.

Jason Protass
Brown University

Dear Prof. Sharf,

Just to add a bit more information about the treatment of the Shinsan Zokuzōkyō 新纂續藏經. As far as I can tell, the "supplemental series" (续编) will not directly reproduce those Zokuzōkyō texts of which premodern prints can be found in China; at least the publisher's plan claims that variant readings will be provided in the apparatus (whether the apparatus is critical, I don't know). For those texts that can only be found in Japan, my guess is that probably they would only punctuate the texts.

I guess that the whole division titled "Scriptures of Theravāda Buddhism" (南传典籍部) in the "supplemental series" (续编) would be nearly pointless, since the Chinese translations are modern and the English translations of the same Pāli texts are superior. The publisher's plan claims that the division titled “Historiography and Gazetteers” (史传地志部) would include epigraphic materials, which could be useful, depending on how thorough the actual editors are.

It might be difficult to tell how useful a large collection like this might turn out to be. The dpe-bsdur-ma Kanjur and Tenjur published in Beijing belonged to the same Zhonghua dazangjing 中華大藏經 project. This modern print does not provide anything new, but it can be quite useful due to the fact that the digital version is available and searchable on TBRC.

Best wishes,
Allan Ding