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Patriarchs on PaperA Critical History of Medieval Chan Literature$
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Alan Cole

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520284067

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520284067.001.0001

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Chan, a Buddhist Beauty

(p.275) Conclusions
Patriarchs on Paper

Alan Cole

University of California Press

This concluding chapter argues that the most reasonable way to account for the composition of Chan texts is to assume that Chan authors were quite aware of the art of writing “religious literature,” and were equally aware of how their efforts fit into a long tradition of reshaping tradition. Thus, though Chan authors no doubt wrote their texts for a variety of reasons, it remains altogether likely that their view of the Buddhist tradition and its ever-expanding body of literature was a particularly clear-eyed one, and that, based on that clarity, they felt entitled to continue the work of rewriting tradition in new and provocative terms. In presenting this evidence, this book casts doubt on the regrettably durable assumption that ancient and medieval religious authors were simple people who straightforwardly wrote down what they thought about life and salvation, with little or no consideration for politics, personal gain, institutional longevity, state support, their place in history, and so on.

Keywords:   Chan texts, Chan authors, religious literature, Buddhist tradition, ancient religious authors

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