Bodies of words: Translating sacred text into sacred architecture in East Asian Buddhism

Halle O'Neal, Paul Harrison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Our chapter explores a complex style of Buddhist transcription that inventively combines word and image to shape sacred text into a multi-storeyed pagoda, which is itself an East Asian translation of the Indian reliquary mound. Originating in China around the tenth century, this ingenious way of copying scripture travelled to Korea and Japan, where the format underwent cultural and material transformations. The issues of translation surrounding this religious form are inherently multi-layered, beginning with the immediate observation that the pictorialized texts are translated scriptures. This chapter focuses on the movement of these sūtra pagodas into new contexts and forms of visualization, their ritual deployment across East Asia, and the artistic articulation of nuanced doctrine regarding the Buddha’s bodies, transforming philosophy into material expression. It tells the story of the calligram’s religious translation across geographical, cultural, and temporal boundaries as a visually rich and thought-provoking conflation of sacred word and image.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Translation and Religion
EditorsHephzibah Israel
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781315443485
ISBN (Print)9781138215665
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2022

Publication series

NameRoutledge Handbooks in Translation and Interpreting Studies

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Buddhism
  • religious studies
  • translation studies
  • Buddhist painting
  • China
  • Korea
  • Japan
  • Relics
  • Reliquaries
  • pagoda
  • stupa
  • calligram


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