The languages of oriental Buddhist traditions, be it Theravada or Mahayana, do not always provide complete and entire canonical texts.

Up to now, I am aware of Pali, Chinese and Tibetan versions of Buddhist canonical texts only.

My knowledge is not perfect, so can someone help me and shed some light on the situation with Buddhist canon in Japanese? Sorry for my question being so ugly set.

Has a complete translation of Buddhist canon into Japanese been ever made? Does a Buddhist canon in Japanese exist as a part of Japanese cultural context (just like the aforementioned canons in their respective cultural areas)?

If so, what is its writing system and to which degree does the language of canon differ from its modern Japanese version?

  • 2
    You should add Sanskrit to your list of canonical Buddhist languages. Most Mahayana texts were originally written in Sanskrit, and then translated to Chinese and Tibetan. The Sanskrit originals are still used in Nepal.
    – user763305
    Jun 8, 2014 at 11:52

2 Answers 2


No, it is not. The Japanese use the Chinese Buddhist canon, which is written in classical Chinese. They read the texts using go-on readings throughout. There are of course translations into Japanese, just as there are into English, but they are only meant for study, not for ritual use, and are not considered canonical.


This isn't really an answer, but I am guessing that Japanese Buddhist scholars regularly read Chinese texts. Since that resource is already available and understandable (with a bit of extra studying) my guess is that a systematic translation into Japanese has not been carried out for all texts.

  • 1
    Not to mention the process known as 漢文訓読 essentially gives a codified machine translation algorithm from Classical Chinese to (bad) Early Middle Japanese, so even Japanese who technically don't know Classical Chinese can read Classical Chinese texts by memorizing the algorithm.
    – ithisa
    Oct 28, 2013 at 1:00

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