Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Shigao: Prince of Parthia & First Chinese Buddhist Translator (c. 148-180 AD)


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"An Shigao (Chinese: 安世高 Pinyin transcription: Ān Shìgāo) (Wade–Giles transcription: An Shih-kao, Korean: An Sego, Japanese: An Seikō) (c. 148-180 AD) was an early Buddhist missionary to China, and the earliest known translator of Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese. According to legend, he was a prince of Parthia, nicknamed the "Parthian Marquis", who renounced his claim to the royal throne of Parthia (a historical region located in north-eastern Iran) in order to serve as a Buddhist missionary monk in China."....Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Jr., ed. (2104). "An Shigao". The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism.

"Parthians also played a role in the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism from Central Asia to China. An Shih Kao, a Parthian nobleman and Buddhist missionary, went to the Chinese capital Luoyang in 148 CE where he established temples and became the first man to translate Buddhist scriptures into Chinese."

"Bodhidharma......At that time there was a monk of the Western Region named Bodhidharma, a Persian Central Asian.....Bodhidharma is referred as "The Blue-Eyed Barbarian" (碧眼胡) in Chinese Chan texts......Bodhidharma lived in the 5th or 6th century AD....He took the Ch'an and Zen tradition to China from Persia....Bodhidharma's teachings and practice centered on meditation and the Lankavatara Sutra."....Soothill, William Edward; Hodous, Lewis (1995), A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms

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"An Shigao (安世高, 2nd century) was a prince of the kingdom of Anxi, the Arsacid Empire, in present-day northeastern Iran. He was famed for honoring his parents and having broad knowledge in astrology, medicine, and sacred texts. After his father’s death, he gave up his throne and became a Buddhist monk.........An Shigao arrived in Luoyang (洛陽), China’s capital, in 148, the second year of the Janho (建和) years of Emperor Huan (漢桓帝) of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220). He was given the surname An in Chinese to indicate his Anxi origin. Between 148 and 170, he translated many Sanskrit texts into Chinese, and fifty-five texts in the Chinese Canon are attributed to him, including the Repentance Sūtra (T24n1492). These texts cover basic Buddhist doctrine according to the Hīnayāna (Small Vehicle). An Shigao was the first to bring to China the Buddhist meditation technique of noting one’s ānāpāna (inhalation and exhalation)......During the turmoil near the end of Emperor Ling’s reign (漢靈帝, 168–89), An Shigao traveled to southern China. He is said to have died in Huiji (會稽), present-day Suzhou (蘇州), Jiangsu Province.".....Buddha Sūtras Mantras Sanskrit

"The Ānāpānasati Sutta (Pāli) or Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra (Sanskrit), "Breath-Mindfulness Discourse," is a discourse that details the Buddha's instruction on using awareness of the breath (anapana) as an initial focus for meditation."

"Anapana sati, the meditation on in-and-out breathing, is the first subject of meditation expounded by the Buddha in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta,......The Ānāpānasati Sutta (Pāli) or Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra (Sanskrit), "Breath-Mindfulness Discourse," is a discourse that details the Buddha's instruction on using awareness of the breath (anapana) as an initial focus for meditation.....The Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra, as the text was known to Sanskritic early Buddhist schools......The earliest translation of Ānāpānasmṛti instructions was by An Shigao in the 2nd century AD........The Buddha states that mindfulness of the breath, "developed and repeatedly practiced, is of great fruit, great benefit."....Ultimately, it can lead to "clear vision and deliverance."......Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) (1998). Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati): Buddhist Texts from the Pali Canon and Extracts from the Pali Commentaries. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.

"The ancient Parthians and Sassanid empires (occupying much of present Iran and Central Asia) had various contacts with the Han and Tang Dynasty empires occupying what is now the People's Republic of China. The two lands were further connected via the Silk Road.....The Chinese explorer Zhang Qian, who visited the neighbouring countries of Bactria and Sogdiana in 126 BCE, made the first known Chinese report on Parthia. In his accounts Parthia is named "Ānxī" (Chinese: 安息), a transliteration of "Arsacid", the name of the Parthian dynasty. Zhang Qian clearly identifies Parthia as an advanced urban civilization, which he equates to those of Dayuan (in Ferghana) and Daxia (in Bactria)."......The Records of the Grand Historian (Taishi gong shu 太史公書, now usually known as the Shiji 史記 –

"Anxi is situated several thousand li west of the region of the Great Yuezhi (in Transoxonia). The people are settled on the land, cultivating the fields and growing rice and wheat. They also make wine out of grapes. They have walled cities like the people of Dayuan (Ferghana), the region contains several hundred cities of various sizes. The coins of the country are made of silver and bear the face of the king. When the king dies, the currency is immediately changed and new coins issued with the face of his successor. The people keep records by writing on horizontal strips of leather. To the west lies Tiaozi (Mesopotamia) and to the north Yancai and Lixuan (Hyrcania)." ......The Chinese explorer Zhang Qian, who visited the neighbouring countries of Bactria and Sogdiana in 126 BCE..... Zhang Qian quote, trans. Burton Watson

"The prefix An in An Shigao's name has raised many questions and hypotheses as to his origin and story. Some believe that it is an abbreviation of Anxi, the Chinese name given to the regions ruled by the Arsacids (Arsacid dynasty of Parthia (247 BC – 224 AD), Persia (Iran))...... Most visitors from that country who took a Chinese name received the An prefix to indicate their Anxi origin. According to Erik Zürcher, "Nothing more is known about his life; the stories about his peregrinations in Southern China recorded in his biographies must be relegated to the realm of hagiography. ..... It is still unknown whether he was a monk or layperson, or whether he should be considered a follower of the Sarvāstivāda or Mahāyāna......The unresolved mystery of who An Shigao was is studied in the academic work by Antonino Forte."... Antonino Forte, An Shigao and His Offspring: An Iranian Family in China. Italian School of East Asian Studies

"An Shigao or An Shih-kao (?-~168) was a prince of Parthia, nicknamed the "Parthian Marquis", who renounced his prospect as a contender for the royal throne of Parthia in order to serve as a Buddhist missionary monk. The prefix An in An Shih-kao's name is an abbreviation of Anxi, meaning Parthia in ancient Chinese: Anxi is a transcription of "Arsaces", the founder of the Arsacid Dynasty of Parthia. Most Parthian visitors who took a Chinese name received the An prefix to indicate their Parthian origin. In 148, An Shih-kao arrived in China at the Han Dynasty capital of Luoyang, where he set up a centre for the translation of Buddhist texts. He translated thirty-five texts from the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism, including works on meditation, psychology, and techniques of breath control. An Shih-kao is the first Buddhist missionary to China to be named in Chinese sources. Another Parthian monk named An Xuan is also said to have followed An Shih-kao to Loyang around 181 CE, where he took charge of translating Mahayana texts."...

"An Xuan (安玄, Ān Xuán) was a Parthian layman credited with working alongside 安世高 (Ān Shìgāo) in the translation of early Buddhist texts in Luoyang during the Later Han Dynasty."

"The Parthian Empire (247 BC – 224 AD), also known as the Arsacid Empire, was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran, also known as ancient Persia. Its latter name comes from Arsaces I of Parthia who, as leader of the Parni tribe, founded it in the mid-3rd century BC when he conquered the region of Parthia in Iran's northeast, then a satrapy (province) in rebellion against the Seleucid Empire. Mithridates I of Parthia (c. 171–138 BC) greatly expanded the empire by seizing Media and Mesopotamia from the Seleucids....There is scant archaeological evidence for the spread of Buddhism from the Kushan Empire into Iran proper. However, it is known from Chinese sources that An Shigao (fl. 2nd century AD), a Parthian nobleman and Buddhist monk, traveled to Luoyang in Han China as a Buddhist missionary and translated several Buddhist canons into Chinese."....Emmerick, R.E. (1983), "Buddhism Among Iranian Peoples", in Yarshater, Ehsan, Cambridge History of Iran 3.2, London & New York: Cambridge University Press,

"Indo-Scythians is a term used to refer to Scythians (Sakas), who migrated into parts of central and northern South Asia (Sogdiana, Bactria, Arachosia, Gandhara, Sindh, Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and Bihar.), from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD.......The first Saka king in south Asia was Maues (Moga) (1st century BC) who established Saka power in Gandhara (Pakistan) and gradually extended supremacy over north-western India. Indo-Scythian rule in northwestern India ended with the last Western Satrap Rudrasimha III in AD 395 who was defeated by the Indian Emperor Chandragupta II of the Gupta Empire..... the Saka kingdom was completely destroyed by Chandragupta II of the Gupta Empire in the 4th century.....The invasion of India by Scythian tribes from Central Asia, often referred to as the Indo-Scythian invasion..... had lasting effects on Bactria, Kabul, Parthia and India as well as far-off Rome in the west. "

The Relationships Between Traditional And Imported Thought And Culture In China: From The Standpoint of The Importation Of Buddhism" by Tang Yi-Jie. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 15 (1988)

The Hostage An Shigao and His Offspring An Iranian Family In China......Author: Antonino Forte (1995)...Publisher: Italian School of East Asian Studies


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….June 2014


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