Taisho Tripitaka: Its introduction to Taiwan 60 years ago and its E-edition circulated in 22 countries now

It’s hard for people in Taiwan to imagine how difficult it would be to access Buddhist sutras back in 60 years ago, when not even one single Buddhist monastery in Taiwan had a set of the Tripitaka in their libraries. It was not until 1955 that Master Dong Chu, Sun Qingyang, and Zhang Shaoqi from Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture vowed to reprint the Taisho Tripitaka by inviting Chen Cheng, Yu Youren, Master Zhang Jia, and Master Yin Shun to form the Taisho Tripitaka Printing Committee, which then bought a set of Taisho Tripitaka from Japan and began the reprinting in December of the same year. The project was completed in August, 1960.

The Taisho Tripitaka of 78.77 million Chinese characters and the Manji Tripitaka Sequel comprising 71.22 million characters, among other major Buddhist scriptures and rare books, have been digitized and made into a CD-ROM by Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association (CBETA) over the past 18 years, which is now circulated in at least 22 countries, signifying the pride of Taiwan’s Buddhist circles. The Association organized a presentation meeting at Dharma Drum Degui Academy at 2 pm on July 22, 2016, where scholars including Lan Jifu, Du Zhengmin, Zhou Haiwen, and Hong Zhenzhou were invited to promote and showcase the added information and features of the new edition CD-ROM. Interested persons can request free copies and are welcome to download it online for free.

Ven. Huimin, chairman of CBETA, said that from 2008 to 2011 the Jiaxing Tripitaka of 13.03 million characters was also included, which, along with other cannons, became the Supplementary Collection for the Tripitaka throughout Dynasties, of 11.17 million characters. The Supplementary Compilation for Tripitaka, with 23 million characters and compiled by Prof. Lan Jifu in 2016, contains many valuable Buddhist texts not collected in the Tripitaka before. To considerate both quantity and quality, the compilation stuck to two principles. First, it stresses their academic research value, and so not every book would be collected. Secondly, it only collects authored and compiled Buddhist texts dated up to the end of Qing Dynasty. Moreover, the “Publication Collection on Chinese Buddhist Temple Gazetteers” compiled by Du Jiexiang, together with the “Publication Series on Chinese Buddhist Temple Gazetteers” compiled by Bai Huawen and Zhang zhi, have been included in newly established chapter of “Chinese Buddhist Temple Gazetteers.” Thus, CEBETA’s Electronic Buddhist Text now contains over 200 million Chinese characters.

Meanwhile, by working with Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts (DILA) the Association officially unveiled the “CBETA Online Reading” platform at this presentation meeting, hoping that it can serve as a new generation of digital resource for Buddhist research. In addition to the basic online sutra-reading function, this Chinese literature learning and research platform that focuses on Buddhist texts also features the functions of “Integrated Text Reader,” “Deep Search,” and “Digital Textual Analysis,” by adding catalogs, dictionaries, people’s names, place names, and historical timelines, and by combining digital contents, individual topic research, and information technology.

The Association’s executive secretary Wu Baoyuan said that CBETA’s Electronic Buddhist Text reflects the collective efforts of all who care about the development of electronic Buddhist texts. Many volunteers have helped with keying in texts on computers, proofreading, checking missing characters, placing punctuation, and giving feedbacks to questions from the readers. Scholars who promote CBETA in the academic circles as well as group and individual sponsors also make CBETA’s sustainable development possible, which is highly valued and praised by Buddhist devotees and persons interested in Buddhist study and practice.

Wu took the processing of Chinese character variants as an example to explain how they tried to meet the need of different reading preferences. While most people are used to commonly seen characters, Buddhist researchers prefer keeping the characters originally adopted in the sutras, such as虎 instead of its archaic variant 𧆞. In correcting the characters, while most people may find it easier to read the text with corrected characters, Buddhist researchers regard it necessary to follow the academic practice of keeping the original characters intact and adding explanatory notes instead. For this purpose, the association made use of the flexibility of digital information to build a relevant corpus of Chinese characters and Markup language that allows the users to design their own setting.

CBETA Chinese Electronic Tripitaka Collection is free for distribution, but overseas academic institutions especially cherish it and scholars from the same unit often choose to share one CD-ROM among them. An elderly person from Taoyuan came the other day with a backpack of his many years of coin savings and donated the money for printing Buddhist sutras. A devotee from Taichung who had been using the Collection for ten years offered to provide sponsorship to the association, in the hope that the Collection will continue to develop.

The Association expressed that the CBETA CD-ROM has been circulated in at least 22 countries. The new 2016 edition is now available for download at, and overseas academic institutions can request the CD-ROM by writing us via mail. To mark its 20th anniversary in 2018, CBETA is planning to include the Complete Works of Master Yin Shun and the unfinished parts of Chinese Buddhist Temple Gazetteers. Any effort to support the extension and enhancement of the Tripitaka Collection is welcome, including manpower provision and monetary donation, so that we can reach out to every soul in need of Buddhist compassion and in search of Buddhist wisdom.

Translator: Frances Liu (劉珮如)
Editor: Chiacheng Chang (張家誠)

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