WWW Database of Chinese Buddhist texts
Div. Authors Periods Taisho (Nr. Vol.) Trip.Kor. (Nr. Vol.) 中華 (Nr. Vol.) Nanjio Other

WWW Database of Chinese Buddhist texts

maintained by Christian Wittern


What is the WWW Database of Chinese Buddhist texts ?

The WWW Database of Chinese Buddhist texts is a comprehensive list of Chinese Buddhist texts. It currently contains 4418 texts by 1513 authors/translators/compilers. Buddhist texts exist in many languages and cultural environments. Currently, this list contains only texts in Chinese, authored by people from the countries that use(d) Chinese characters. It is desirable to link in information about texts in other languages, especially Indic languages and Tibetan, but there are no current plans for this.

These texts form a very complex network of interrelated information. Some texts have been translated repeatedly, and are related through their (common?) ancestors, other texts are commentaries, or even commentaries of commentaries (of commentaries) and intimately related to the holy scripture that stands at the beginning of this discourse. Even other types of texts relate biographical information about the same persons, and derive some relationship from that fact, in the same way are texts that preserve the commandments and regulations for the sangha of different times closely related in the content of the rules. The database tries to enable the reader to take up some traces of information and enter the web of buddhist words, gaining new informations and maybe even insights.

I have made some efforts to provide the table of contents for longer texts in this database. There are two reasons for this: For one, the division into texts and subdivisions of a text can be very arbitrary, as in the case of the various 阿含經 Agamas. A text can be in a collection of separate texts, thus becoming a subdivision and at the same time another version can be available as self-contained copy. To express the relationship between these texts properly, the subdivisions had to be added to the database.

Another, even more important reason is, that this database is intended as a basecamp to explore the vast universe of buddhist texts. Large texts can not be conveniently handled by todays computers, so they have to be split into smaller parts. Rather than cutting the texts into meaningless fragments, the natural divisions are to be preferred to build smaller chunks.

The texts in the database are identified with a single unique key. The naming convention for these ID values are the same as outlined in my paper on 'Minimal Markup'. They are used here as a general URL for Chinese Buddhist texts and down to their subdivisions and allow to link to and from any text listed in this database with a minimum of effort.

For what is it good?

There were two general aims in compiling this information:

  1. Linking entry numbers and references from different catalogues and collections to ease access to this information by the researcher and make it available online.
  2. Providing a seed crystal for information about Chinese Buddhist texts that are available electronically.

Information of the second type is not yet included in this release. I would prefer to have URL's here, which would bring the reader to the online location of the text, but I don't have enough up to date information available at this time. It would also be necessary to comment on the input process, coding etc. I would greatly appreciate any input in this area. On the other hand, even if a text is not available online, it would still be helpful to know that it is available electronically. A researcher interested in this text could still contact the institution or individual, who created the electronic version, to try to get a copy. The whole Tripitaka Koreana, for example has been inputted and published on a CD-ROM (Here is a review and more information), but is not yet generally available and usable.

How was it compiled?

This database has been growing steadily in the last years and now turned in the most comprehensive catalogue of Chinese Buddhist texts I know of (of course it can not be compared with Ono's Bussho kaisetsu daijiten...). It contains now all texts in the following for collections or catalogues:

  1. Taishoo Shinshuu Daizookyoo 大正新修大藏經 (abbreviated as Taisho or  大正) with 2920 entries.

    The wellknown 'little black' catalogue 大藏經總目錄 , published by Xinwenfeng 新文豐出版, Taipei 1983 (repr.), has been used as a major source for the crossreferences to other texts. Another important reference work for the Taisho was the 'Fascicule Annexe' of the Hooboogirin 法寶義林 by Paul Demieville et.al., Tokyo 1931.

  2. Tripitaka Koreana 高麗大藏經 (abbreviated as Trip.Kor. or 高麗) with 1514 entries.

    The main reference for the Tripitaka Koreana was of course 'The Korean Buddhist Canon: A Descriptive Catalogue' by Lewis R. Lancaster in collaboration with Sung-bae Park, Berkeley 1979. Additionally, the volume 48 of the mieographic edition has been very helpful, as it gives the structural division of many texts.

  3. Zhonghua Dazangjing 中華大藏經 (abbreviated as 中華) with currently 1770 entries.

    The titles up to volume 90 have been included, more will be added as the volumes arrive. This list and the crossreferences to the Taisho Tripitaka has been prepared by Kathrin Ensinger at Humboldt-University in Berlin. I am particular grateful for this contribution and would like to extend my thanks to her and Prof. F.C.Reiter, who agreed to have it included and published here. It should be noted, that no index to this work is published yet, which makes the inclusion in this database even more valuable. Not the least has Mrs. Ensingers list of titles enabled me to find a number of misprints in my database.

    Some 140 titles are new to the database. These have not yet been completely indexed and crossreferenced to other titles in the database.

  4. Dainippon Zokuzookyoo 大日本續藏經 (abbreviated as Zokuzokyo or 卍) with 1684 entries.

    The catalogue 卍續藏經總目錄 published by Xinwenfeng 新文豐出版, Taipei 1983 (repr.) has been used as the basic reference.

  5. 'A catalogue of the Chinese translation of the Buddhist Tripitaka' by Bunyiu Nanjio, Oxford 1883, which is based on 大明三藏聖教目錄; abbreviated as Nanjio with 1662 entries.

The data input of the Taisho version was originally done in Taiwan, propably by the Fokuangshan community. It then made its way to Japan, where it was proofread and expanded. In April 1995, it was uploaded to electronic networks in Japan by 石井公成. I thank Chuck Muller for making this file available to me.

The Korean input was taken from the CD-ROM released by the DaeJangKyung Research Institute of Haien-sa Monastery in January of 1996. These data have been proofread, converted and matched against the Taisho or Zokuzokyo version.

The Zokuzokyo portion was originally input for the International Research Institute for Zen-Buddhism in Shanghai. Again, these data have been proofread, converted, segmented and aligned with the existing database.

Lastly, the list of texts from the Nanjio catalogue was inputted by myself, as well as the lists of corresponding texts, which have been taken from Prof. Lancasters catalogue.

All these data have been collected and merged into one big SGML file. The version made available publicly here for the first time is a 'printout' of this master file to almost 6000 web-pages.

How can I query the Database?

At the moment, it is not possible to query the database with arbitrary search requests. (I hope to make this option available in the next release). Currently all access to the data has to go through the indices and/or crossreferences. [Although this is not ideal, it has the advantage of being possible locally, so you can download the whole release and install it on your own computer.] Frequently accessed files are most conveniently placed in bookmark-files.

The following indices are available from the top-line of every file:

Format of the entries

Currently at most the following information is available for a text:

As this depends largely on the catalogues and information in the reference works, the available information differs greatly. A lacuna in this database should nevertheless not taken to indicate absence of available information!

The rationale for the structural division has already been mentioned above, but what is meant by related texts? Currently this is a hypertext link to a text mentioned by Demieville (Fascicule annexe) or the Taisho catalogue as having some relation to this text. The relation can be of a very different kind and has not yet been thouroughly checked. It is desirable to differentiate between multiple translation, commentaries and sub-commentaries, but this has not yet been achieved.

Download the database for local use

You can download this release of the WWW Database of Chinese Buddhist texts here and install them on your local harddisk. Watch out, you will need some space, since it comes in almost 6000 web-files. You can use Stuffit Expander DeLuxe on a Mac or WinZip 6.0 on a Windows machine to expand this compressed archive. Anyway, be careful to retain the folder-hierarchy that is contained in the archive. Once you are done, simply load the file readme.htm in your favorite Browser and follow the instructions contained there. There is a Chinese Version (Big5) and a Japanese Version (Shift JIS)[2004-02-09: The Japanese version is currently unavailable]. Both files are about 6MB, so it might take a while to download them:-( I will make them available also splitted in smaller files some day. Watch this space for an announcement.


Many things are still missing in the database, but the effort of one single busy man is not enough to provide all of them. The most important are:

A separate list exist for the database interface:

Of course, the whish list never ends...

This file is part of the WWW Database of Chinese Buddhist texts maintained by Christian Wittern. All rights reserved. Usage permitted for non-commercial purpose, but please acknowledge my work. Any comments and suggestions are welcome. Click here to send me a message.

Release 2.0A Last modified: 2004-02-09