Stefano Zacchetti - Yehan Numata Professor of Buddhist Studies, Oxford University
The sizable body of surviving prefaces to Buddhist scriptures (especially commentaries) produced during the 2nd - 4th centuries CE represents one of the most important sources for studying the intellectual history of early Chinese Buddhism. Prefaces constitute a highly codified form which played a considerable role in Chinese literature, especially from the Han period on. This paper seeks to explore the wider cultural implications of the Buddhist adoption and adaptation of this literary genre. Of particular interest, from this perspective, is the presence in several early Buddhist prefaces of a recurring narrative motif centered on the formation of the canon which has significant parallels in some contemporaneous Confucian documents.