In This Issue:
18 Sutras and 1 Shastra Translated from Tibetan into Chinese in Pilot Stage
Importance of Chinese Translation
“If we don’t finish it this life, since we are Buddhists, we believe in reincarnation. We will just continue.”
—Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Words from the Translation Committee
“Translating Buddhist texts is a monumental work. The quality of the translation has to be examined by the public.”
—Professor Hsiao Jin-Song, Fa-Guang Institute of Buddhist Studies, committee chair
“Translation is an important means to spread a culture… On a personal level, being involved in a translation project is very fruitful to deepen one’s understanding of Buddhism and of the Tibetan languages.”
—Professor Hu Jin-Shan, National Palace Museum
“Translating Buddhist texts requires a serious attitude, accountability, and genuine motivation… It is a meaningful work that is not only beneficial to the people of today, but also leaves a legacy for thousands of years to come.”
—Dundrup Tsering, Chinese Academy of Social Science
About the Banner
August's banner is the carved wooden printing blocks of the Chinese Buddhist canon from the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty, now kept in the Zhihua Temple in Beijing, China. Source: China Shan De
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Translating the Tibetan Canon into Chinese
Pioneering a One Hundred-Year Mission
Photo: Xuan Zang led the translating of Buddhist texts in the Tang Dynasty
To read the Buddha’s words in one’s own language is the wish of most Buddhist practitioners. Therefore, it is said that translating sutras and shastras generates a great deal of merit. The Chinese Buddhist canon is an ancient collection of sutras and shastras of great importance to both Buddhists and scholars around the world. However, the Tibetan Buddhist canon contains a good number of precious sutras and shastras that are not present in Chinese because texts were translated into the two languages in different eras.
Translating these Tibetan texts into Chinese has been the wish of many Chinese-Tibetan translators for generations. From the Song dynasty in the 10th century to the Qing dynasty in the 19th century, translators have translated Tibetan Buddhist texts into Chinese, but the number of these translations remain limited. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has committed Khyentse Foundation to take on the grand mission of translating the Tibetan canon into Chinese, benefiting all Chinese-speaking practitioners. KF sees this as the next great translation project after 84000.
Photo: Tibetan canon pecha printed by wooden carving block by Yuan Ren
The Pilot Project: Safeguarding for Perfection
In spring 2017, Khyentse Foundation launched a pilot project to translate the Tibetan canon into Chinese. Although the scale of the pilot was not comparable with what was accomplished in the ancient times, the experienced team, led by Professor Jin-Song Hsiao, accomplished all of its objectives and gained valuable experience.
The pilot translators were knowledgeable in Buddhist philosophy and fluent in both Chinese and Tibetan. In addition, Tibetan scholars ensured that the translation authentically expressed the Buddhist philosophy expounded in the original Tibetan texts. Chinese Buddhist scholars helped polish the final Chinese translation. Although the workflow is meticulous and extremely time consuming, it is the best way to ensure that the translation of the Buddhist texts is as close to perfect as possible.
Translating Buddhist texts needs to consider many questions. For example, should the translators use the classical Chinese of traditional Buddhist canons, or should they use modern Chinese? Should the terminologies be transliterated, as usually done in the Chinese Buddhist canon, or with the meaning of the words, as usually done in the Tibetan canon? Most of the translators, editors, and reviewers are engaged in multiple projects and have limited time. What is the best way to communicate efficiently and stay on schedule? Discussion and reflection on questions like these is crucial to the next phase of the project.
“We should have done this forty years ago, probably fifty years ago.”
—Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
The Urgency to Cultivate Translators
Through the pilot project, KF became aware of the deep shortage of Chinese-Tibetan translators. To translate all of the missing Tibetan Buddhist texts into Chinese in the next 100 years, organizers need at least 15 outstanding translation teams and additional editors who can review and finalize the translation.
Photo: Members of the 2018 translator’s training program at the Fa-Guang Institute of Buddhist Studies.
KF has been working with Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts since 2014 and Fa-Guang Institute of Buddhist Studies since 2015 to cultivate translators. Classes on translating the Tibetan Buddhist canon have been added at both institutes. The two schools have already groomed a handful of junior translators who will be a part of the initial translation work.
KF also offers opportunities for Tibetan scholars to study the Chinese Buddhist canon and learn the Chinese language. We hope that these scholars will become the principal advisors on the Tibetan Buddhist canon for the translation project, continuing the tradition of a close working relationship between great Indian Buddhist masters and translators.
“I think as a follower of the Buddha, these are the opportunities for us to accumulate merit.”
—Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Results of Pilot Chinese Translation Project
18 Sutras and 1 Shastra Translated from Tibetan into Chinese
Below are the 18 sutras and one shastra translated to date. The 19 texts total 189 Tibetan pecha pages, all of which have been fully translated. Some translations are undergoing final editing and polishing.
- The Sūtra on the Threefold Training
- The Maitreya Sutra
- The Mahākāśyapa Sūtr
- Sūtra on the Benefits of the Five Precepts
- The Sūtra of Nanda's Ordination
- The Account of the Noble Deeds of Sumāgadhā
- The Sūtra on Maitreya’s Setting Forth
- The Sūtra on the Threefold Going for Refuge
- The Sūtra of the Questions of Brahmā
- The Sūtra of the Questions of Brahmadatta
- The Perfection of Wisdom for Sūryagarbha
- The Perfection of Wisdom for Candragarbha
- The Perfection of Wisdom for Samantabhadra
- The Perfection of Wisdom for Vajrapāṇi
- The Perfection of Wisdom for Vajraketu
- The Inquiry of Avalokiteśvara on the Seven Qualities (see sample Chinese PDF translation)
- The Twenty-five Entrances to the Perfection of Wisdom
- The Perfection of Wisdom Mother in One Syllable
- The Light of the Ornament of Clear Realization: A Commentary on the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses
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