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Glossary

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canon (zōkyō 藏經, kyōzō 經藏)

In East Asia, most Buddhist canons or "complete collections of sacred scriptures" (issaikyō 一切經) are written in classical Chinese. They include not only the traditional "three collections" (sanzō 三藏, S. tripiaka) of translated Indian sutras (kyō 經), Vinaya (ritsu 律) texts, and Abhidharma commentaries (ron 論), but histories of the Buddhist sangha and collections of biographies and discourse records of eminent Chinese monks. In China, it was the prerogative of the imperial court to decide what texts would and would not be included in official printings of the Buddhist canon. One mark of the success of the Zen school in Song and Yuan dynasty China was the very large amount of its literature, mostly records of ancestral teachers (soshi 祖師) in the Zen lineage, that was incorporated into imperial editions of the canon. To publish an edition of the canon was a complex, time-consuming, and expensive project, for all the characters on every page of text had to first be carved (in reverse) on a block of wood for printing, and there were many thousands of pages. By the same token, to sponsor a printing of the canon was believed to produce a huge amount of merit.