The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature

The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature

The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature

The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature

Synopsis

The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature explores the growth, makeup, and transformation of Chan (Zen) Buddhist literature in late medieval China. The volume analyzes the earliest extant records about the life, teachings, and legacy of Mazu Daoyi (709-788), the famous leader of the Hongzhou School and one of the principal figures in Chan history. While some of the texts covered are well-known and form a central part of classical Chan (or more broadly Buddhist) literature in China, others have been largely ignored, forgotten, or glossed over until recently. Poceski presents a range of primary materials important for the historical study of Chan Buddhism, some translated for the first time into English or other Western language. He surveys the distinctive features and contents of particular types of texts, and analyzes the forces, milieus, and concerns that shaped key processes of textual production during this period. Although his main focus is on written sources associated with a celebrated Chan tradition that developed and rose to prominence during the Tang era (618-907), Poceski also explores the Five Dynasties (907-960) and Song (960-1279)periods, when many of the best-known Chan collections were compiled. Exploring the Chan School's creative adaptation of classical literary forms and experimentation with novel narrative styles, The Records of Mazu and the Making of Classical Chan Literature traces the creation of several distinctive Chan genres that exerted notable influence on the subsequent development of Buddhism in China and the rest of East Asia.

Excerpt

The distant origins of this book go back in time to my late teens, when I first got seriously interested in the study of Chan/Zen Buddhism. That happened at an island hermitage in Sri Lanka, where I took temporary residence after extended overland travel from Europe. The initial encounter with books about Zen prompted me to travel to East Asia in a youthful search for knowledge. The record of Mazu Daoyi (709–788), Mazu yulu, was among the earliest Chinese texts I ever read, after I taught myself classical Chinese while living at another monastery located on an island, this time in Hong Kong. My first book, Sun Face Buddha (Asian Humanities Press 1993)—published before my entry into graduate school, while I was still in my twenties—included a translation of Mazu’s record, along with other related materials. Other markers on the way to this volume included my PhD dissertation on Tang Chan (UCLA 2000) and my book on the history, doctrines, and practices of Mazu’s Hongzhou School, Ordinary Mind as the Way (Oxford 2007), along with a number of shorter publications on related subjects. The idea of this book was born while I was working on the Hongzhou School book, although a number of other projects, including work on two other books, delayed the progress on the manuscript.

The work on a book of this kind, like much of humanistic scholarship, is for the most part a solitary undertaking. In a way, it evokes a comparison with monastic life, of the eremitic variety. Nonetheless, my academic life has taken me to many places and brought me into contact with a number of people. Over the years, I have greatly benefited from the support, example, and encouragement that was kindly extended to me by a number of individuals and institutions. I would especially like to thank Steven Heine, Robert Buswell, Albert Welter, and Beata Grant, as well as my colleagues and students at the University of Florida, particularly Richard Wang.

Much of the writing of the book, especially the final stages, was done during two research stays in Germany, as a Humboldt fellow and a visiting professor . . .

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