Chinese Buddhist Verse

Chinese Buddhist Verse

Chinese Buddhist Verse

Chinese Buddhist Verse

Excerpt

This book is intended to document a spiritual movement in terms of the hymns it has produced. The Chinese Buddhist Canon is, to use one of its own similes, like the great ocean. It abounds in rare gems as well as strange monsters, and it conserves many diverse deposits which the streams of history have carried into it. It preserves the traces of successive religious impulses which arose in India and radiated through areas of influence in South-East Asia, Central Asia, and the Far East, and which disappeared from India, leaving few documents there. It stores a large literature, both exegetical and original, that was produced during the centuries in which Buddhism took root and matured in China. In this ocean of literature, among the remains of dead cults and philosophies, there are a number of scriptures which are read, believed and followed to-day, and whose influence is likely to persist. These are either the basic texts of organized sects or are enduring favourites with all sects. Most of the hymns in this book have been selected from these living scriptures.

Chinese Buddhist 'gāthās' are written in blank verse with four, five or seven characters to a line. They are usually divisible into quatrains, though groups Of six or eight lines also occur. As this verse is unrhymed, it does not count as 'shih' or poetry in the narrow sense. However, this form proved a good one for rendering Sanskrit verse, and it translates into English with less loss than other kinds of Chinese verse.

With two or three exceptions, each line of English in this book corresponds to a single line of the Chinese, and each English line contains eight, ten or fourteen syllables, depending . . .

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