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The Persian Translators of Buddhist Texts in China



The first translation of sacred Buddhist texts from Sanskrit to Chinese, the author suggests, was undertaken by Buddhist missionaries of Iranian origin who had traveled to and resided in China, and who later proceeded to build a Buddhist pagoda in Luoyang, the Chinese capital. The oral translation of these texts began in the middle of 2nd century with the assistance of local Chinese converts. The first two translators, An Shigao and An Xuan were both Parthians. According to Antonino Forte, An Shigao was a Parthian prince who had been sent to the Chines court as a royal hostage, and An Xuan a Parthian merchant who learned Chinese and began to translate Buddhist texts in the school founded by An Shigao. It is said that An Shigao whose fame spread to western Chinese provinces, succeeded in translating more than 176 religious texts into Chinese by using Taoist terms and expressions.

The religious missionaries of Iranian origin were not limited to the followers of Buddha. Indeed, in the 7th and 8th centuries a number of Manichaean, and Christian Persians also traveled to china as pioneer missionaries of their respective faiths. Most of these Persian missionaries were fluent in several languages, including Chinese, and were well versed in the sciences of their time, particularly astrology.

Author: 
Nahal Tajaddod
Volume: 
18
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