Ogurusu Kōchō; Benran; Yang Wenhui; Nanjō Bunyū; Max Mueller; Buddhist studies; Sanskrit
This article examines contacts between four Japanese and Chinese Buddhists at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries and provides an overview of the nature of Sino-Japanese Buddhist exchange in the modern period. Modern contacts between Chinese and Japanese Buddhism began when Ogurusu Kōchō traveled to Beijing in 1873. His exchange with the Chinese monk Benran exemplifies the shifting relationship between Chinese and Japanese Buddhism. Perceiving Chinese Buddhism to be in a state of decline and in need of revival, Ogurusu formulated a plan to reform Chinese Buddhism and initiated mission work. The second relationship discussed is that between the Chinese layman Yang Wenhui and the Japanese priest and scholar Nanjō Bunyū, who met in London. The transfer of knowledge about Sanskrit and modern Western academic methodology from Nanjō to Yang formed the basis of these contacts. This exchange marked the advent of modern Buddhist studies in East Asia and a shift away from an exclusive focus on the Chinese language scriptures towards Sanskrit and Pali texts. Despite these close contacts, the encounter ultimately also reminded both the Chinese and Japanese of the peculiarities and differences in their respective Buddhist traditions.