While submitting here some prefatory observations on the version of the Shû King presented in this volume, I think it well to prefix also a brief account of what are regarded as the Sacred Books of the Religions of China. Those religions are three:—Confucianism, Tâoism, and Buddhism.
I. I begin with a few words about the last. To translate any of its books does not belong to my province, and more than a few words from me are unnecessary. It has been said that Buddhism was introduced into China in the third century B.C.; but it certainly did not obtain an authoritative recognition in the empire till the third quarter of our first century. Its Texts were translated into Chinese, one portion after another, as they were gradually obtained from India; but it was not till very long afterwards that the Chinese possessed, in their own language, a complete copy of the Buddist canon. Translations from the Sanskrit constitute the principal part of the Buddhistic literature of China, though there are also many original works in Chinese belonging to it.
- I put the introductions of Buddhism into China before our Christian era thus uncertainly, because on what is said in the article on the history of Buddhism in China, in the records of the Sui Dynasty (A.D. 589–618), the compilers of which say that before the Han dynasty (began B.C. 202), Buddhism was not heard of in China. They refer to contrary statements as what 'some say', and proceed to relate circumstances inconsistent with them. It is acknowledged on all sides that Buddhist books were first brought to China between A.D. 60 and 70.
- Mr. Beal (Catena of Buddist Scriptures from the Chinese, pp. 1, 2) says that 'the first complete edition of the Buddhist Canon in China dates from A.D. 1410; that a third edition, called the Northern Collection, appeared about A.D. 1590; which again was renewed and enlarged in the year 1723.'