Reading the Writing on the Wall: "Sengchou's" Cave at Xiaonanhai, Early Chinese Buddhist Meditation, and Unique Portions of *Dharmakṣema's Mahāparinirvāṇamahāsūtra

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Reading the Writing on the Wall: "Sengchou's" Cave at Xiaonanhai, Early Chinese Buddhist Meditation, and Unique Portions of *Dharmakṣema's Mahāparinirvāṇamahāsūtra
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Citation: Radich, Michael. "Reading the Writing on the Wall: 'Sengchou's' Cave at Xiaonanhai, Early Chinese Buddhist Meditation, and Unique Portions of *Dharmakṣema's Mahāparinirvāṇamahāsūtra." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 42 (2019): 515–632.

Abstract

The Mahāparinirvāṇamahāsūtra (particularly in the version entitled Da banniepan jing 大般涅槃經 T374, translated by *Dharmakṣema ca. 421-432) features centrally in the textual and iconographic programme of a remarkable cave at Xiaonanhai 小南海 in northern Henan 河南, which was rediscovered in the 1980s. The cave has close connections with Sengchou 僧稠 (480-560), a famous meditator, and one of the leading clerics in Northern China in the sixth century. This paper argues for a new interpretation of the programme of the cave, and considers what it allows us to see about religious life and practice in Sengchou's time. An appendix examines implications of the textual material featured at the cave for the nature and provenance of the bulky portions of Dharmakṣema's version of the Mahāparinirvāṇamahāsūtra that are unparalleled in our other three main independent witnesses. (Source: Peeters Online Journals)