The translation of the Faju jing (T210) was carried out during the Three-Kingdom period (around 222 CE ) when the work of translating Buddhist texts was still in an early phase of development. Translations made during that period were usually of poor quality and hard to understand. There was almost 800 years of transmission via manual transcription before the first printing of the Faju jing in the Kaibao Zang (開寶藏). It is therefore not surprising to find many errors such as added, missing, reversed or mistaken characters as defined by traditional Chinese textual criticism. Furthermore, we cannot find any commentaries for the Faju jing translated from Indic sources, nor do we see any commentary written by Chinese monks. This contributes to making the correct interpretation and translation of the Faju jing especially arduous.
I recommend two basic steps as a preparation for translation: (1) collation, semantic research for individual characters, and adding modern punctuations, and secondly (2) the comparative study of different versions. The first step will focus on assigning a precise and correct meaning to each Chinese character, while the second step will look at the corresponding terms in parallel Indic sources.
This article will first present several examples to illustrate the process by which these two tasks may be completed. Secondly, this article locates some troublesome word(s) or stanzas from the Faju jing and tries to show the mechanism by which these translation errors have occurred. In this way, the problems with contemporary vernacular translations of the Faju jing will be highlighted.
Additionally this article points out differences between the Sanskrit and Pali version of the stanzas and shows how these differences make it sometimes difficult to ascertain the beginning and end of some stanzas and their proper reading in the Chinese Faju jing.
It is the author’s hope that this article may spark a discussion regarding the issue of how a new translation of the Faju jing could be carried out.
Faju jing (T210); collations and renderings; translation errors; to define the length of a verse; vernacular Chinese