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JIZANG (549623), Chinese Buddhist monk of the Sanlun (Three-Treatise) tradition. Although half Parthian by birth, Jizang's upbringing and education were entirely Chinese. At the age of ten he became a novice under the Sanlun master Falang (508581) and resided at the Xinghuang temple in the Southern Dynasties (c. 420589) capital of Jinling (modern Nanjing), the center of Buddhist culture in southern China. Until the age of thirty-two, he was under the tutelage of Falang, studying primary Sanlun sources as well as the important texts of his age, the Prajñāpāramitā (Perfection of Wisdom) canon, the Saddharmapuarīka Sūtra (Lotus Sūtra), and the Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāa Sūtra (Sūtra of the great decease). Following Falang's death in 581, Jizang spent some eight years at the Jiaxiang temple, east of the capital on Mount Qinwang (his posthumous title, Master of Jiaxiang Temple, is derived from his residence at this temple). In 597 he was invited by the emperor Sui Yangdi (581618) to reside at the Huiri Daochang, one of four monasteries built by that ruler in support of the religion. Jizang spent less than two years at this monastery and, again at the request of Yangdi, moved in 599 to the new imperial capital of Chang'an. There he resided at the Riyan temple, remaining there until his death at the age of seventy-four.

With the reunification of China in 589, Jizang witnessed the controlled revival of Buddhism at a time when the religion was sponsored not only for its own sake but also as a means by which the nation could be consolidated, expanded, and protected. Throughout his life Jizang participated fully in the optimism and luxury of imperial patronage. Under this patronage he produced twenty-six works, collected in some 112 fascicles, a number that makes him one of the most prolific Buddhist writers of his age. Jizang considered himself a specialist on the Perfection of Wisdom literature as well as on the major Mahāyāna sūtras then available to him in Chinese translation. Of his extant works, approximately fifteen are concerned exclusively with the exegesis of sūtras. They cover an extensive range of the topics found in the fertile symbols and ideas of the vast Mahāyāna textual corpus. As an exegete his writings account for some of the major doctrinal trends of Mahāyāna Buddhism and represent one of the earliest Chinese attempts to systematize its canon. Under the influence of the Mahāyāna Nirvāa Sūtra, the text that dominated Chinese intellectual thought during the fifth and sixth centuries, Jizang wrote extensively on its theme of "Buddha nature" (universal enlightenment). He was the first East Asian Buddhist to argue that even the nonsentient world of wood and stone had the potentiality for enlightenment. As a scholar of the Perfection of Wisdom tradition, he was best known for his essays on the Buddhist concept of the Two Truths, a theory of nonduality achieved through serial negation. These essays established one of the enduring ways by which later East Asian Buddhists came to approach and understand the Buddhist concept of emptiness (śūnyatā).

See Also

Śūnyam and Śūnyatā.


The most comprehensive work on Jizang and the Sanlun tradition is by Hirai Shun'ei, Chūgoku hannya shisōshi kenkyū (Tokyo, 1976). A review of this work and the questions it raises regarding the history of Sanlun Buddhism may be found in my study "'Later Mādhyamika' in China: Some Current Perspectives on the History of Chinese Prajnāpāramitā Thought," Journal of the International Association for Buddhist Studies 5, (1982): 5362. Critical analyses of the Chinese contributions toward the Two Truths theory may be found in an article by Whalen Lai, "Further Developments of the Two Truths Theory in China: The Ch'eng-shih-lun Tradition and Chou Yung's San-tsung-lun," Philosophy East and West 30 (April 1980): 139161, and in an article I have written, "The Concept of Practice in San Lun Thought: Chi-tsang and the 'Concurrent Insight' of the Two Truths," Philosophy East and West 31 (October 1981): 449466. Translations of selected portions of Jizang's writings can be found in Wing-tsit Chan's A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, 1963), pp. 360369, and in The Buddhist Tradition in India, China, and Japan, edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Yoshito S. Hakeda, and Philip B. Yampolsky (New York, 1969).

New Sources

Fox, Alan. "Jizang (Chi-Tsang) [a.d. 549623]." In Great Thinkers of the Eastern World: The Major Thinkers and the Philosophical and Religious Classics of China, India, Japan, Korea, and the World of Islam, edited by Ian P. McGreal, pp. 8488. New York, 1995.

Aaron K. Koseki (1987)

Revised Bibliography