Teamwork – Translation of the Heart Sutra Into Chinese

Like the author of the blog No-Sword I had only a vague notion of how the scriptures/sutras were translated into Chinese. Images of an ancient monk going steadily blind beavering away alone in a dimly lit cell. Far from it. There was for the Heart Sutra (Scripture of Great Wisdom) at least a whole team involved. At the very end of the process is the Text-Juicing Official! Here is the description of what that person did:

??? (“Text-Juicing Official”): Determined whether the translation was appropriate as Chinese text, and added rhetorical flourish as necessary. For example, the “character” (“he crossed beyond all suffering and difficulty”) of “character” (“he illuminated the five skandhas and saw that they were all empty, and he crossed beyond all suffering and difficulty”) was not in the original; it was added at this stage. The previous eight steps were performed by monks, but this step was performed by a lay official.

See Teamwork for the full description of the team.

Thanks to Walter for passing on the information and link. Keep those links coming please.

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2 thoughts on “Teamwork – Translation of the Heart Sutra Into Chinese”

  1. There’s a short YouTube discussion by Prof Paul Harrison of Stanford on his new translation of the Diamond Sutra. All extant English translations are from a Chinese translation of a Sanskrit ‘original’, made around 400-402 CE. The translator made choices, not right or wrong, but a choice. As such, the Diamond Sutra has come down as a philosophical text deconstructing reality, when another choice, based on Tibetan sources, suggests an interpretation based on ‘making merit’. Prof. Harrison can apparently recite the whole sutra from memory, and he mentions that the sutra should be seen as ‘performance’, and not as a book to be read: more akin to a musical score.

    I also noted that as a graduate student, his reading of the sutra did not make any sense. That reassured me! Must work harder on Dogen.

    in gassho

  2. That is actually REALLY interesting to hear of this new translation and the Prof. Dogen can be difficult for sure, and the words can be read in a way that they wash over one. I like the idea of the sutra being more akin to a musical score. All interesting. I’ll look out for the YouTube – or you can send me the link….

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