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Kumārajīva

(c. 344—413)


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(343–413).

A central Asian Buddhist monk who travelled to China and became one of the ‘four great translators’ of Chinese Buddhist texts. Born in Kucha.he entered the monastic order at the age of 7 and distinguished himself in both Sarvāstivādin andMahāyāna studies. In 379 his fame had reached even into China, and the Emperor Fu Chien of the Eastern Ch'in dynasty sent a delegation to invite him to court. Kumārajīva accepted, but on the way back the general sent to fetch him, Lü Kuang, rebelled and held out against the court in north-western China for seventeen years, during which time he held Kumārajīva captive. While this delay frustrated the court, it gave Kumārajīva a chance to become very fluent in Chinese prior to undertaking his translation activities. After Lü Kuang's rebellion was suppressed, Kumārajīva arrived in Ch'ang-an in 401 and immediately began producing translations. The combination of his mastery of Indian Buddhist thought and his proficiency in Chinese not only enabled him to produce translations that are still the standard (as, for example, his translation of the Lotus Sūtra), but also to provide instruction that cleared up many misapprehensions of Buddhist doctrine, in particular the teaching of emptiness (Skt., śūnyatā).

Subjects: Buddhism.


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