Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Conference papers

Reading sutras in biographies

Abstract : The earliest extensive historiographical account of Buddhism in China is a collection of monks' biographies published in the first half of the 6th century. Called Gaoseng zhuan 高僧傳 (Biographies of eminent monks), and compiled by Huijiao 慧皎 (497-554), it records hundreds of stories of foreign and Chinese monks who lived between the 2nd and the 6th centuries, telling where they originated from, when, how and where they entered the religion, where they lived and what they did as monks, the texts they were studying, how they were practicing, what were their relationships with literati or members of aristocracy as well as ordinary people, what they wrote, and sometimes how they died. This collection of biographies was (and still is) collected in monasteries, and read by later monks who could find in the stories of their predecessors' lives not only historical facts but also models to imitate. Certain biographies, or events in a given biography, bear strong similarities with narratives that we find in sutras, concerning the Buddha's lives or some of his bhikṣus. Used deliberately to show how they fit the Chinese context, presenting Chinese monks as duplicates of Indian models, these narratives played an important role in the acceptance of Buddhism in the new cultural environment.
Document type :
Conference papers
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Sylvie Hureau <>
Submitted on : Saturday, November 24, 2012 - 7:56:18 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, October 27, 2020 - 5:46:03 PM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00756917, version 1


Sylvie Hureau. Reading sutras in biographies. Historiography of Religion, Sep 2012, Norrköping, Sweden. ⟨halshs-00756917⟩



Record views