A Dictionary Of Chinese Buddhist Terms

With Sanskrit And English Equivalents And A Sanskrit-pali Index

by William Edward Soothill | 1937 | 324,264 words

For about a thousand years, Buddhism dominated the thought of China and her thinkers were occupied with Buddhist philosophy. This dictionary serves as a resource to the interpretation of Chinese culture, as well as an important reference for the comparative study of Sanskrit and Pali originals. The author provides a key for the students which to u...

Preface To The Digital Edition

Why Digitize Soothill?

Like all other graduate students for the past generation or so who chose to embark on a professional career in the study of East Asian Buddhism, I was, in my early days of study, strictly warned by my mentors against relying on the Soothill and Hodous' Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms as a primary research tool. There were two main reasons for this. First, the dictionary is an extremely dated work, having reached completion during the mid 1930's, several decades before a serious profession of Buddhology had formed itself in the West. Western language information on Buddhism available to its compilers was extremely limited, and even in East Asian there were few reliable and comprehensive lexicons available. Thus the understanding of the philosophical terminology coming out of such systems as Mādhyamika and Yogācāra—which had only barely come to be understood in the West, tended to be simplistic, if not completely erroneous. It was a time in the history of the discipline when "Hīnayāna" was still considered to be something of a distinct historical Buddhist tradition. Beyond this, even concepts contained in the dictionary that were adequately understood were often expressed in archaic terms.

The second reason for pushing graduate students away from this work is related to the necessity of getting them involved as quickly as possible in dealing with resources from the original Asian traditions—in this case, the original texts and secondary resources from China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Beyond this, the constraints imposed by the printing technology of the 1930's have always made the dictionary somewhat difficult to use, with many of the entries in the dictionary being embedded inside other entries. There is also the difficulty brought about by the usage of vertical bars to indicate the repetition of Chinese characters. There is also somewhat of a dearth of useful indexing.

Despite these shortcomings, the fact is that just about every serious scholar of East Asian Buddhism has a copy of the Soothill/Hodous dictionary in her/his personal library (perhaps stashed somewhere next to a copy of Mathew's). This is an indication of an important fact about the dictionary: there is a large amount of information contained within it that can't readily be found elsewhere. Most notably information on Indian and Central Asian place names, personal names, temple names and so forth, but also lots of information on hybrid Sanskrit and transliterations that one will not find in any other dictionary, East Asian or otherwise.

I made the decision to digitize the dictionary upon finding out that it had fallen into the public domain, coupled with the realization that its content could do much to supplement that of my own long-term Buddhist lexicographical project, the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism [DDB (http://www.acmuller.net/ddb)]. Obtaining a grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science [JSPS] I spent, along with a number of assistants, two years in the task of digitizing this material and adding it to the DDB.

I became, in the process of this task, quite likely the only other person besides Soothill, Hodous, and their editorial staff, to read the dictionary in its entirety, and as a result of this concentrated exposure to it, I was led, as a fellow lexicographer, to come away with an immense respect for efforts of its compilers. Very early in the age of attempts at mixed Chinese-Roman typesetting, and several decades before the advent of copy machines, these two men, working on different continents, sent their handwritten manuscript back and forth by ship over the Atlantic ocean no less than four times.

Serious scrutiny has led me to the conclusion that the work is, at least in terms of its translations from Chinese sources, fairly sound. Using modern computing technology in the process of adding this material to the DDB, we were able to benefit from the presence of digitized versions of the Fanyi mingyi ji and the Ding Fubao, which were checked (along with a wide range of other digitized resources) on the addition of each entry. This allowed us to add a good amount of information to the DDB from these sources that Soothill and Hodous—no doubt in the interest of economy—left out. This also allowed us to see clearly that both men held a very solid command of classical Chinese. Their renderings from these sources are accurate, insightful, and nuanced. They also extensively and paintakingly consulted the other reference works that were available to them at the time, such as the lexicons by Eitel and Monier-Williams (see Soothill's Preface for a discussion of sources). Making extensive use of Eitel, they were able to add a sizeable amount of geographical location information for place names contained in the various travel records of Chinese monks who went to India and Central Asia.

As noted above, the most obvious area of difficulty in terms of content was that concerned with Buddhist philosophy. They were not aware at all of the complex nature of the relationship between the "Paramarthan" and Xuanzang Yogācāra (the "schools of Idealism"), but more telling (and historically, interesting) is the fact that they had not yet even sufficiently grasped the distinctions between Yogācāra and Vajrayāna, as these two traditions are conflated in a number of places. Also, not surprising for the time period in which they worked and their backgrounds, much of their thinking was informed by Christian theology, and this is sometimes reflected in their renderings of Buddhist concepts. On the other hand, since Soothill was one the early translators of the Lotus Sutra, it is not surprising to note that there is a strong presence of Lotus and Tiantai related terminology in this work, most of it rendered with sufficient accuracy.


Status of the Digital Document and Treatment of its Contents

I started this project with only the intent of absorbing its data into the DDB in a supplementary fashion, and it was not until halfway through the process of digitization that it occurred to me that a separate digital version of the dictionary made publicly available on the internet could be of sufficient value to merit paying attention to the proper preservation of its original format. Thus, unfortunately, during the early stages, almost all attention was paid to devising the most efficient strategies for preparation of the material for entry into the DDB. This preparation included the changing of Chinese transliterations into Pinyin, as well as correction of Sanskrit diacritics, and amendments in diacritical style according to the modern norms used the DDB. However, even this was not done with consistency, as sometimes these changes were made in the Dictionary source files, and sometimes only after they had been added to the DDB.

The major format change one will see in this version is that of the places where Soothill/Hodous had included numerous entries under a single entry heading. For ready absorption into the DDB using computer programming, these were broken down into separate entries. As it turns out, it makes the dictionary much more readable, so I don't see that this will be a problem. Also, our replacement of the vertical bars with the actual Han characters they were used to indicate will make for much easier reading than in the printed original.

Most corrections to the material are usually only found in the equivalent DDB entry. Since we have already gone through the correcting and editing process once while adding the material to the DDB, it does not seem worth it, for our purposes, to go back and try to return to Soothill material to its precise original format. But if someone would like to do that job, they are certainly welcome to do so. There is little doubt that the addition of the material to the DDB in a more readily accessible, searchable format is something that Profs. Soothill and Hodous would have themselves happily welcomed. Prof. Soothill's attitude toward the usage of his work in future projects is well expressed as follows:

Lack of time and funds has prevented our studying the Canon, especially historically, or engaging a staff of competent Chinese Buddhist scholars to study it for the purpose. We are consequently all too well aware that the Dictionary is not as perfect or complete as it might be.

Nevertheless, it seems better to encourage the study of Chinese Buddhism as early as possible by the provision of a working dictionary rather than delay the publication perhaps for years, until our ideals are satisfied—a condition which might never be attained.

We therefore issue this Compendium—for it is in reality more than a Dictionary—in the hope that many will be stimulated to devote time to a subject which presents so fascinating a study in the development of religion.

The basic digital document is structured in XML, using the recommendations for print dictionaries provided by the Text Encoding Initiative [TEI]. This will allow for its transformation into various formats for implementation on the Web, and elsewhere. While the major portion of the work of development of the structure in the usage of TEI2 was done by Charles Muller, a significant housecleaning of this structure was done by Michael Beddow in the process of final production. The XSLT transformation was done based on the TEI style sheets developed by Sebastian Rahtz.



The work of digitizing A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms was made possible by a research grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The scanning and OCR work was done in its entirety by Yasuko Suzuki. Ms. Suzuki also did almost all of the editing and correction of Chinese characters contained in the text. Proofreading of the English text, and especially the insertion of diacritical marks was done by Heather Blair, Juhn Ahn, Amanda Goodman, Gina Cogan, James Mark Shields, and Thomas Dreitlein. Please note that due to certain processes of the project, not all of these corrections appear in the present text, but are reflected in their entirety within the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism.

Charles Muller

Tokyo, March 2003

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