CORDIS - EU research results

Open Philology: The Composition of Buddhist Scriptures

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - OpenPhilology (Open Philology: The Composition of Buddhist Scriptures)

Reporting period: 2022-07-01 to 2022-12-31

The Open Philology project was carried out at Leiden University over five years, ending in December 2022. Focused on the Mahāratnakūṭa Collection (MRK), a corpus of 49 Buddhist scriptures extant principally in Chinese and Tibetan translations, and in some cases also in Sanskrit and other languages, the project approached issues of Indian Buddhist textuality, exploring questions such as meaningful ways to edit texts which lack an Ur-text. Team members generally concentrated each on one particular scripture, establishing an edition of its available witnesses, leading to a critical edition, annotated edition and study. A survey of the State-of-the-Art was published through the project's online bibliographic database ( which provides a model and template for future such bibliographic databases, not limited to Buddhist literature. We further established a means to align corresponding Tibetan and Chinese translations, and developed
an Editing Environment ( for the use of those who wish to establish critical editions. The project has an Open Access book series, in which will appear the editions and other studies produced by team members.
In total, team members have studied more than 10 separate works of the MRK, editions of which are either in the press or forthcoming from our series through Brill Publishers (Leiden). This series already gained attention in the specialist press ( In addition, one team member studied the Chinese Imperial Prefaces appended to scripture translations for a PhD thesis, and another colleague has studied the political circumstances of the time when the MRK was compiled and published in China (713 CE). Team members have widely presented their results, at conferences, invited talks, and in encyclopedia entries, all of which share this innovative research with a wider audience.
Results of the project, in addition to careful and critical analysis of a number of new sources for the study of Indian Buddhism and its transmission and later history in East and Central Asia, include the abovementioned creation of an innovative approach to the linguistic alignment of sources in Classical Tibetan and Classical Chinese. We are actively looking for ways to further expand and actualize these theoretical results into a working software environment. We have further created a working and freely available software environment which allows the creation of critical editons of Chinese and Tibetan texts in a manner that preserves all information for future use, even readings rejected by the editor. It will be a simple matter to modify this open source software to work with other languages as well.
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