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Reading: Annotated English translation of the ‘Sadāprarudita Avadāna’ in Kumārajīva’s Xiaŏpĭn Prajñāp...


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Annotated English translation of the ‘Sadāprarudita Avadāna’ in Kumārajīva’s Xiaŏpĭn Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra


Matthew Bryan Orsborn

Mahidol University, TH
About Matthew
Matthew Orsborn (Huifeng), PhD (University of Hong Kong)
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This paper on the Sadāprarudita Avadāna in Kumārajīva’s Xiaŏpĭn Bānruòbōluómì Jīng (小品般若波羅蜜經) has two aims. Firstly, to provide the first English translation of this Avadāna story as it appears in Kumārajīva’s text, a version which is distinctly different from the earlier recensions of the sūtra such as the Dàoxíng, including the Sanskrit which has already been translated by Conze. Secondly, to highlight the chiasmic structure of the Avadāna and demonstrate how important understanding that structure is in understanding both the entirety and elements of its content.

Kumārajīva’s early 5th century translation entitled the Xiaŏpĭn Bānruòbōluómì Jīng (小品般若波羅蜜經), i.e. the Small Text Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, is the fourth of seven Chinese translations of the early Mahāyāna text commonly known by its Sanskrit name the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, or in English the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines. Within the text as a whole, the penultimate two chapters concerning the Avadāna of Sadāprarudita have long been of interest due to being written in a different style to the reminder of the text. While this has led many text-historical studies to conclude that it is either a later addition to the text, or is in fact the original ur-text, other studies have also largely been in the text-historical mode, attempting to work out various historical strata, inter-textual sourcing and borrowing, and the like. Leaving aside diachronic studies, it is noteworthy that the structure of the story displays chiasmus or inverted parallelism. These forms, with paired literary elements in the form A-B-C-…-X-…-C’-B’-A’, are important in reading and understanding of the content.

Before the translation proper, the Introduction discusses the source and its editions, provides an overview of the content of these two chapters, and discusses the voice and policy of my translation. The English translation is not an attempt to return to some now unknown Sanskrit original, nor a reading of it through later Chinese traditions, but as close as I can understand to Kumārajīva’s own understanding and translation technique. The entire English translation is critically annotated, marking significant points of interest both internally within the text, but also externally when compared to the other Chinese translations and later Sanskrit recensions. This translation complements an earlier translation of the first two chapters of the same text.

How to Cite: Orsborn, M.B., 2021. Annotated English translation of the ‘Sadāprarudita Avadāna’ in Kumārajīva’s Xiaŏpĭn Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra. Asian Literature and Translation, 8(1), pp.1–46. DOI:
Published on 23 Jul 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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