Peter Skilling and Justin Thomas McDaniel (eds), Imagination and Narrative: Lexical and Cultural Translation in Buddhist Asia, Silkworm Books, 2017
The essays in this volume highlight the movement of Buddhist ideas and practices across Asia and how the encounter of far-flung cultures and personalities encouraged adaptation and transformation. At times this meant textual translation and transmission, as seen in the chapters about Chinese and Japanese Buddhist texts and their authors, or the analysis of Buddhist manuscripts in northern Thailand. Other cases entailed cultural translation—local adaptations of jataka tales, the evolution of legal notions within the framework of Theravada Buddhist teachings, localizations embedded in material culture seen through inscriptions and archaeological traces. Some themes go beyond Buddhism writ small to explore the broad canvas of engagement: the East-West encounter in the British geographical and anthropological exploration of Burma, and the place of Brahmanism in early Buddhist thought as expressed through the jatakas.
This expertly curated selection of scholarship shows that the diffusion of ideas and religious thought is much more than a tale of decline and loss or cultural appropriation and impoverishment. The fresh perspectives presented here—all drawn on primary sources—give an overall impression of a singular diversity that somehow participates in an unacknowledged unity. Beyond the fragmentations of sectarian and cultural divides, disparate Buddhist and non-Buddhist traditions have gone beyond arbitrary boundaries and flourished through their simultaneity.
Contributors: Olivier de Bernon, Frédéric Girard, Iyanaga Nobumi, François Lagirarde, Jacques Leider, Michel Lorrillard, Justin McDaniel, Kumkum Roy, Peter Skilling, Warangkana Srikamnerd.