Year published :July 2017

Pages :296 pp.

Size :14x21 cm., paperback

Rights :World

ISBN: 9786162151354

Imagination and Narrative: Lexical and Cultural Translation in Buddhist Asia

by Peter Skilling and Justin Thomas McDaniel

Edited by Peter Skilling and Justin Thomas McDaniel 

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. 


  • Presents a range of studies on the spread of religious thought and material culture in Asia
  • Relies on historical evidence to explain specific cases of the spread of Buddhist ideas
  • Highlights interreligious and intercultural exchanges within Asia and beyond
  • Counters the notion that transmission and transformation eroded or diluted the potency of the Buddha’s teachings

About the Editors 

PETER SKILLING is professor at the École française d’Extrême-Orient in Bangkok.

JUSTIN THOMAS MCDANIEL is chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.


Buddhism | Buddhist communities | transmission | cultural diffusion | texts | manuscripts

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