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Luoyang qielan ji 洛陽伽藍記

Jul 17, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Luoyang qielan ji 洛陽伽藍記 "The monasteries of Luoyang" is a report of all Buddhist monasteries (the word qielan is derived from the Sanskrit word saṃgha-ārāma) in Luoyang, capital of the Northern Wei dynasty 北魏 (386-534). It was written by the mid-6th century official Yang Xuanzhi 楊衒之 (d. 555, his family name is also written with the characters 陽 or 羊) and is 6-juan or chapters long.

Yang's motivation to give an overview of the capital city was that the city was thoroughly destroyed during the succession struggles that took place with the termination of the Northern Wei dynasty, with the objective to preserve the memory of the city's appearance during it flourishing time under Emperor Xiaowen 魏孝文帝 (r. 471-499). At the same time his book can be seen as a critique of the lavishness with which the imperial house and rich families spent money for religious purposes instead of investing money in economy and the military.

Yang does not only describe the monasteries in and around Luoyang but also provides important information about the establishing and founding of monasteries and is thus a valuable source not only for the history of religion in China but also for the social and economic history of China's "middle ages". The text contains numerous citations from primary sources. In many cases, Yang's book is the only place where fragments of these texts are preserved. This is especially noteworthy for Song Yun's 宋雲 (fl. 518) book Jiaji 家記 and the monk Huisheng's 釋慧生 essays Xingji 行記 and Daorong zhuan 道榮傳, of which citations are preserved in the fifth scroll of the Luoyang qielan ji.

There are three important commentaries: Wu Ruozhun's 吳若準 Luoyang qielan ji jizheng 洛陽伽藍記集證, Fan Xiangyong's 范祥雍 (1913-1993) Luoyang jielan ji jiaozhu 洛陽伽藍記校注, and Zhou Zumo's 周祖謨 (1914-1995) Luoyang qielan ji jiaoshi 洛陽伽藍記校釋. The book is included in the Taishō Tripitaka 大正新脩大藏經 (T 2092) and the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 collection.

There is an English translation by Yi-t'ung Wang (1984), A Record of Buddhist Monasteries in Lo-yang (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

Table 1. Contents of the Luoyang qielan ji 洛陽伽藍記
1 城內 [Monasteries] inside the city
2 城東 [Monasteries] east of the city
3 城南 [Monasteries] south of the city
4 城西 [Monasteries] west of the city
5 城北 [Monasteries] north of the city
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