A Computer-assisted Analysis of Zhu Fonian’s Original Mahayana Sutras


  • Lin Qian Qingdao University
  • Michael Radich University of Heidelberg




Zhu Fonian, Mahāyāna sutras, Chinese Buddhist composition, forgery, apocryphal scriptures, computational textual analysis


In her 2010 study of the Shi zhu duan jie jing T309, Jan Nattier found that several passages in T309 were copied from earlier Chinese Buddhist texts. She thus proposed that T309 is not a translation from an Indian text, but a “forgery” by Zhu Fonian. Extending Nattier’s analysis with the help of TACL, a tool for computational textual analysis, we conducted a more thorough analysis of Zhu Fonian’s four Mahayana texts, namely, T309, the Pusa chu tai jing T384, the Zhongyin jin T385, and the Pusa yingluo jing T656, and found in T309 and T656 additional content deriving from earlier Chinese texts. On the basis of this analysis of these features of the texts, we propose that all four were likely compiled by Zhu Fonian himself.


Analayo. 2016. Ekottarika-agama Studies. Taipei: Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation.

Bhattacharya, Gouriswar. 2010. “How to Justify the Spelling of the Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Term Bodhisatva?” In From Turfan to Ajanta: Festschrift for Dieter Schlingloff on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, edited by Eli Franco and Monica Zin, 35–49. Bhairahawa: Lumbini International Research Institute.

Bhattacharya, Vidhushekhara. 1957. The Yogacarabhumi of Acarya Asanga. Calcutta: University of Calcutta.

Boucher, Daniel. 1996. “Buddhist Translation Procedures in Third-Century China: A Study of Dharmaraksa and His Translation Idiom.” Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Pennsylvania.

Brough, John. 1977. “The ‘Arapacana’ Syllabary in the Old ‘Lalita-vistara’.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 40(1): 85–95. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0041977X00040428

Hiraoka, Satoshi. 2007. “Chutsu yo kyo no seiritsu ni kansuru mondai”. Indogaku Bukkyogaku kenkyu 55(2): 848–842, 1268.

Inokuchi, Taijun, ed. 1980. Seiiki shutsudo Butten no kenkyu: “Seiiki koko zufu” no Kanbun Butten. Kyoto: Hozokan.

Kawano, Satoshi. 2006. Shoki Kan’yaku Butten no kenkyu: Jiku Hogo o chushin toshite. Mie: Kogakkan daigaku shuppanbu.

Legittimo, Elsa. 2005a. “Analysis of the Pusa chu tai jing (T12, no. 384).” Unpublished PhD thesis, International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies, Tokyo.

———. 2005b. “Synoptic Presentation of the Pusa chu tai jing (PCJ) the Bodhisattva Womb Sutra PART I (Chapters 1–14).” Sengokuyama ronshu (2): 260–150.

———. 2006. “Synoptic Presentation of the Pusa chu tai jing (PCJ) the Bodhisattva Womb Sutra PART II (Chapters 15–38).” Sengokuyama ronshu (3): 300–124.

———. 2007. “The Vimalakirtinirdesa’s Narration on the Amrta Distribution and Its Exploitation by the Pusa chutai jing’s Authors.” Indogaku Bukkyogaku kenkyu 55(3): 1079–1084. https://doi.org/10.4259/ibk.55.1079

———. 2008. “A Comparative Study between the Womb and the Lotus sutra: Miraculous Stupa Apparitions, Two Simultaneous Buddhas and Related Extraordinary Narrations.” Indogaku Bukkyogaku kenkyu 56(3): 1114–1120. https://doi.org/10.4259/ibk.56.3_1114

———. 2014. “The First Agama Transmission to China.” In Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Intellectual and Cultural Exchange, Volume 1. Edited by T. Sen. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 65–84. https://doi.org/10.1355/9789814519335-

Lin, Qian. 2013. “The Antarabhava Dispute among Abhidharma Traditions and the List of Anagamins.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 34(1–2): 149–186.

Nattier, Jan. 2008. A Guide to the Earliest Chinese Buddhist Translations: Texts from the Eastern Han and Three Kingdoms Periods. Tokyo: International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University.

———. 2010. “Re-Evaluating Zhu Fonian’s Shizhu duanjie jing (T309): Translation or Forgery?” Annual Report of The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology at Soka University 13: 231–258.

Palumbo, Antonello. 2013. An Early Chinese Commentary on the Ekottarika-agama: The Fenbie gongde lun and the History of the Translation of the Zengyi ahan jing. Taipei: Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation.

Pu, Chengzhong. 2008. “Notes on the Chengju guangming jing, ‘Sutra of Achieving the Bright Light Concentration’.” Buddhist Studies Review 25(1): 27–53. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v25i1.27

Radich, Michael. 2016. “A ‘Prehistory’ to Chinese Debates on the Survival of Death by the Spirit, With a Focus on the Term Shishen / Shenshi.” Journal of Chinese Religions 44(2): 105–126. https://doi.org/10.1080/0737769X.2016.1175093

———. 2017. “On the Ekottarikagama T125 as a Work of Zhu Fonian.” Journal of Chinese Buddhist Studies (30): 1–31.

———. 2018. “A Triad of Texts from Fifth-Century Southern China: The *Mahamaya-sutra, the Guoqu xianzai yinguo jing, and a Mahaparinirvana-sutra Ascribed to Faxian.” Journal of Chinese Religions 46(1): 1–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/0737769X.2018.1435370

———. 2019a. “Fei Changfang’s Treatment of Sengyou’s Anonymous Texts.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 139(4): 819–841. https://doi.org/10.7817/jameroriesoci.139.4.0819

———. 2019b. “Kumarajiva’s ‘Voice’?” In China and the World – the World and China: A Transcultural Perspective, edited by Barbara Mittler, Joachim Gentz, Natascha Gentz and Catherine Vance Yeh, 131–145. Deutsche Ostasienstudien 37. Gossenberg: Ostasien Verlag.

———. [He Shuqun]. 2019c. “Zhu Fahu shifou xiuding guo T474?” Foguang xuebao, New Series, 5, no. 2: 15–38.

———. 2019d. “Was the Mahaparinirvana-sutra T7 Translated by ‘Faxian’? An Exercise in the Computer-Assisted Assessment of Attributions in the Chinese Buddhist Canon.” Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies: E-journal 2(1): 229–279. https://doi.org/10.15239/hijbs.02.01.08

———. 2019 [2020]. “Reading the Writing on the Wall: ‘Sengchou’s’ Cave at Xiaonanhai, Early Chinese Buddhist Meditation, and Unique Portions of *Dharmaksema’s Mahaparinirvanamahasutra.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 42: 515–632.

Radich, Michael and Bhikkhu Analayo. 2017. “Were the Ekottarika-agama T 125 and the Madhyama-agama T 26 Translated by the Same Person? An Assessment on the Basis of Translation Style.” In Research on the Madhyama-agama, edited by Dhammadinna, 209–237. Taipei: Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation.

Salomon, Richard. 1990. “New Evidence for a Gandhari Origin of the Arapacana Syllabary.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 110(2): 255–273. https://doi.org/10.2307/604529

———. 1993. “An Additional Note on Arapacana.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 113(2): 275–276. https://doi.org/10.2307/603034

———. 2004. “An Arapacana Abecedary from Kara Tepe (Termez, Uzbekistan).” Bulletin of the Asia Institute 18: 43–51.

Skilling, Peter. 1996. “An Arapacana Syllabary in the Bhadrakalpika-Sutra.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 116(3): 522–523. https://doi.org/10.2307/605155

Strong, John S. 2004. Relics of the Buddha. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.



How to Cite

Qian, L. ., & Radich, M. . (2021). A Computer-assisted Analysis of Zhu Fonian’s Original Mahayana Sutras. Buddhist Studies Review, 38(2), 145–168. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.21194