Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the <i>Treasure Store Treatise</i>
416pp. November 2005
Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise
Author: Sharf, Robert H.;
The issue of sinification—the manner and extent to which Buddhism and Chinese culture were transformed through their mutual encounter and dialogue—has dominated the study of Chinese Buddhism for much of the past century. Robert Sharf opens this important and far-reaching book by raising a host of historical and hermeneutical problems with the encounter paradigm and the master narrative on which it is based. Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism is, among other things, an extended reflection on the theoretical foundations and conceptual categories that undergird the study of medieval Chinese Buddhism.

Sharf draws his argument in part from a meticulous historical, philological, and philosophical analysis of the Treasure Store Treatise (Pao-tsang lun), an eighth-century Buddho-Taoist work apocryphally attributed to the fifth-century master Seng-chao (374–414). In the process of coming to terms with this recondite text, Sharf ventures into all manner of subjects bearing on our understanding of medieval Chinese Buddhism, from the evolution of T’ang "gentry Taoism" to the pivotal role of image veneration and the problematic status of Chinese Tantra.

The volume includes a complete annotated translation of the Treasure Store Treatise, accompanied by the detailed exegesis of dozens of key terms and concepts.

Studies in East Asian Buddhism Series
Kuroda Institute
New in paper (Cloth edition reviews follow.)

"An important, provocative, well-researched and eminently readable contribution to our understanding of Chinese Buddhism. Any further discussion of Buddhism’s ‘sinicization’ should now take this book as its starting point, for Sharf has launched a powerful critique of the heretofore dominant way in which such discussions have been framed." —Journal of Religion, Spring 2004

"An invaluable resource for scholars and students" —Journal of Asian Studies, February 2003

"A definite must for all students of traditional Chinese worldview and religion" —Review of Bibliography in Sinology, 2002

"One of the most provocative studies of medieval Chinese Buddhism and religion to appear in several decades" —Religious Studies Review, October 2004

"Synthesizes not the scholarly consensus but the emerging consensus" —Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Winter 2004

"A sound orientation to future studies in the field. It demonstrates the maturity that the study of Chinese Buddhism has reached." —China Review International 9 (2002)

"The research that has gone into this study is extensive, and it has been well-presented. Serious students of East Asian Buddhism and Chinese thought will want to include it in their personal libraries." —H-Net Reviews, May 2002 (Read full review)

"Robert Sharf’s study of the Treasure Store Treatise will remain for many years to come a basic source of theoretical guidance and practical help for any scholar or student wishing to confront the multifaceted and interactive nature of China’s major philosophical and religious traditions." —Timothy Barrett, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

"Sharf has produced an elegant and impeccably researched study of medieval Chinese Buddhist thought, focussed on a Buddhist-Taoist text of considerable intrinsic interest." —Stephen F. Teiser, Princeton University

"Although it follows the traditional model of translating and philologically dissecting Buddhist texts, the book’s main intent is polemical.... I find myself in full agreement." —Buddhist Studies Review 21 (2004)

Author: Sharf, Robert H.;
Robert H. Sharf is associate professor of Buddhist studies at the University of Michigan.
Read the introduction (PDF).



Introduction: Prolegomenon to the Study of Medieval Chinese Buddhist Literature

Part 1: The Historical and Cosmological Background

1. The Date and Provenance of the Treasure Store Treatise

2. Chinese Buddhism and the Cosmology of Sympathetic Resonance

Part 2: Annotated Translation of the Treasure Store Treatise Introduction to the Translation

3. The Treasure Store Treatise/Chapter One
The Broad Illumination of Emptiness and Being

4. The Treasure Store Treatise/Chapter Two
The Essential Purity of Transcendence and Subtlety

5. The Treasure Store Treatise/Chapter Three
The Empty Mystery of the Point of Genesis

Appendix 1: On Esoteric Buddhism in China

Appendix 2: Scriptural Quotations in the Treasure Store Treatise