Lost Buddhist Culture Reflected in Tocharian Literature

Lost Buddhist Culture Reflected in Tocharian Literature
(Hiromi Habata, International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies in Tokyo)

The Central Asian expeditions around the beginning of the 20th century brought us valuable manuscript fragments from the ruins along the Silk Road. The manuscripts are written in a variety of languages, among which the existence of unknown languages has attracted the attention of scholars. One of the unknown languages is called Tocharian, after the monumental decipherment of the language by the German scholars: Emil Sieg and Wilhelm Siegling. The Tocharian fragments reveal not only the lost valuable language of the Indo-European family, but also the lost Buddhist culture which flourished in the region of Kucha. Tocharian literature contains a variety of genres and also shows a range of Buddhist cultural dimensions. Besides the canonical texts in Sanskrit and Tocharian, Tocharian Buddhism conspicuously transmits to us the popular cultural heritage, such as Buddhist theatre and music.


Hiromi Habata, Prof. Dr. phil. habil.
She researched at LMU Munich and at Leipzig University after her study of Indology at Hokkaido University and at the University of Freiburg. Since 2020, she has been Professor at International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies in Tokyo. Her publications include: Die zentralasiatischen Sanskrit-Fragmente des Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra, Marburg 2007; A Critical Edition of the Tibetan Translation of the Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra, Wiesbaden 2013; Aufbau und Umstrukturierung des Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, Bremen 2019; Olav Hackstein, Hiromi Habata, Christoph Bross: Tocharische Texte zur Buddhalegende, Dettelbach 2019.


Habata Manuscript

Manuscript of the Tocharian Araṇemi-Jātaka (B77)

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