Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities
2011—2012 Forum on Adaptations
Assistant Professor, Asian History, Penn State University (Abington College)
Buddhist Medicine in Medieval China: Translation as Adaptation in Historical Context
Scholars of Buddhism and historians of medicine have long argued that medieval Chinese translators failed to understand or to transmit faithfully the Indian medical terminology they encountered within the Tripitaka. This project takes a close look at the variations in translation of medical doctrine in medieval Chinese Buddhist sources. I will show that inconsistencies in the Chinese texts are not the products of confusion, but rather reflect a wide range of translation strategies employed in an attempt to make foreign knowledge accessible to Chinese readers. Understanding the reception of Indian medicine as a process of adaptation allows historical analysis to move beyond a limited focus on the accuracy of translations, instead revealing the cultural resonances and social logics of translated texts in their historical context.