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Chinese Buddhism by Joseph Edkins
Edkins' book is a comprehensive survey of Chinese Buddhism. He gives the historical background of the introduction of Buddhism into China, and its subsequent evolution, including biographies of the Buddhist Patriarchs. There are extensive descriptions of Chinese Buddhist geography and cosmology, the calendar of festivals, temple architecture, and the vast array of entities which are represented in sacred spaces. Of interest is his discussion of Kwan-yin, the Chinese Madonna, who began as a male Buddha and evolved into a goddess figure. There is a critical essay on Feng-shui, with details of this form of Chinese geomancy and how it developed. He enumerates dozens of Chinese Buddhist, and provides translations of some excerpts. Edkins was a skilled linguist and explains how Sanskrit terms were transferred into Chinese. He also discusses Confucian, Taoist and other Chinese belief systems.
Edkins was a Christian missionary, and his primary concern at times appears to be how to convert Chinese Buddhists. But the sheer amount of facts which he includes here far outweigh the occasional polemic sidebar. This volume, which is still in print over a century later, is a valuable reference work for anyone studying Chinese Buddhism, as well as a snapshot of China in the late 19th century.