An Investigation of the Relationship Between Prince Shōtoku’s Shōmangyō-gisho and Two Dunhuang Buddhist Manuscripts: A Debate over Originality and Canonical Value
History of Religion
History of Religions of Eastern Origins
This article investigates the relationship between two manuscript fragments discovered in Dunhuang, China referred to as Nai 93 and Tama 24, and the Shōmangyō-gisho, a Buddhist text written in classical Chinese attributed to Japan’s Prince Shōtoku (574-622). Shōtoku is remembered in Japanese history as the country’s first patriarch of Buddhism, revered for his patronage of the nascent faith and his great erudition. His studies under a Korean Buddhist monk led, according to early historical texts, to his composing the Shōmangyō-gisho and two other Buddhist commentaries that have been greatly valued throughout Japanese Buddhist history. But the discovery of the Dunhuang manuscripts, which are quite similar to and predate Shōtoku’s Shōmangyō-gisho, called into question the text’s perceived value. The article examines scholarship on this discovery published in the late 1960s and 1970s, which represents the search for “the true record” of Prince Shōtoku, the dominant paradigm of the field. It is meant to be a preliminary piece to a more detailed study of the intellectual history and exegetical tradition of the three texts attributed to Shōtoku.