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Philosophical Literature of Funan


The following list of books, title given in Chinese and some equivalent Sanskrit, are books translated by Paramartha/Gunaratna (499AD-569AD), a Funanese-Indian scholar, from the language of Sanskrit/Kunlun(Funan)/Khmer to Chinese. He arrived in Funan around 541AD and departed to China on request by Emperor Wu of the Liang Kingdom in 546AD. Accompany him were Chinese official Chang Su and Chinese monk Yun Pao. They altogether carried exactly 240 books from Funanese Libraries to China. Here in the list, we can only give information about 40 books from the whole 76 books successfully translated by Paramartha :

472S/550AD* : Shi-Qi-Di-Lun (5 volumes)

Zhong-Lun (Madhyamika Sastra)

Ru-Shi-Lun (Tarkasastra) by Vasubandhu


474-475S/552-553AD : Jing-Guang-Ming-Jing (7 volumes).

476S/554AD : Mi-Le-Xia-Shen-Jing


Su (6 volumes)

Zhong-Lun-Shu (2 volumes)

Jiu-Shi-Tai-Ji (2 volumes)


478S/556AD : Shui-Xiang-Lun-Shi-Liu-Di-Shu


480S/558AD : Tai-Kong-Lun (3 volumes)

Zhong-Bian-Fen-Bie-Lun (3 volumes)

Zhen-Lun-Si-Wen (5 volumes)



481S/559AD : Li-Shi-A-Kun-Yun (10 volumes).

483S/561AD : Jie-Jiet-Jing

Yi-Shu (4 volumes).

484S/562AD : Jing-Kang-Jing

485S/563AD : Guang-Yi-Fa-Men-Jing

Sheng-Da-Cheng-Lun (12 volumes) (Mahayana Samgraha) by Asanga

Da-Cheng-Wei-Shi-Lun (Vimsatika-vijnapti-matrata-siddhi-sastra) by Vasubandhu.

486S/564AD : Ju-She/Shih-Lun (Tarka-sastra) by Vashubandu

490S/568AD : Lv-Er-Shi-Er-Ming-Liao-Lun.

Without Date : Shan-Wu-Xing-Lun (2 volumes)




Wu-Hsiang-Ssu-Ch’en-Lun (Alambanapariksa) by Dignaga




Jing-Qi-Shi-Lun (30 volumes)

O-Pi-Ta-Mo-Ku-Shen-Lun (Abhidharma-kosha sastra) by Vasubandhu

Fan-Chih-Lun (Pariprccha sastra) by Vasubandhu

To-Fu-Lun (Nigraha-sthana sastra) by Vasubandhu

Chieh Chuan Lun (Hastavalaprakarana) by Dignaga.

*Year of translation, S=Saka, 1 S=78AD.

Some primary works should be done to further develop the above list. We should have, a complete list of 76 books translated by Paramartha, a complete list of 240 books exported from Funan to China, their title in Sanskrit and their title in Kunlun(Funan)/Khmer (maybe some). The other thing that we will discuss in this paper is about the historical analysis of a book written by Asanga title Mahayana Samgraha or in its Chinese translation by Paramartha in 485S/563AD title Sheng-Da-Cheng-Lun. Related to this book, we will also discuss some of its content which touch on the idea of reality.

1. Introduction

To give roughly an accurate and realistic studies on philosophical literature in Southeast Asia is actually equivalent to the process of doing inspections on all of the written materials from the earliest time. This half truth can be completed by next studying the oral and the technological sources. The problem of studying these two later sources are more difficult than the former. Even that, studying written materials, either in inscription or manuscript forms, caused its own difficulties. We are still don’t have any complete picture of anything written in Southeast Asia. We are still finding inscriptions and giving its interpretations. We are still searching for the earliest manuscript, written especially in the era of Hindu-Buddha, Islam and Christian. We may be have a good document on anything written in the Modern Western era, i.e. after 18th Century AD, but most of the earliest manuscripts were lost, especially dated before 1000 AD. One way to overcome the difficulty of finding this manuscripts is to make cross references on all of the earliest civilizations in Southeast Asia and civilizations nearest to Southeast Asia. May be, there are Southeast Asian’s manuscripts in their translated forms in Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, China, etc, and may be luckily we can still find the original. We hope to do that in the near future of our own researches. If we could get these written materials, we actually could classified it under three themes, i.e.

SEAPL1 : Original philosophical writings.

SEAPL2 : Religious philosophical writings which are influenced by Hindu, Buddha, Islam and Judeo-Christian religious traditions.

SEAPL3 : Modern/Postmodern philosophical writings which are influenced by Modern/Postmodern Western philosophical traditions.

We think that the most difficult to get is the original Southeast Asian philosophical writings. What we meant by “original”? Is it in our own local languages and our own cosmological type of thinking? Is there any such writing? Or, in our own languages, but cosmologically alien to our own type of thinking? This may be come from SEAPL2 and SEAPL3. Or, in whatever language, but represent our own cosmology? What is our own cosmology? What defined our own cosmology? What is cosmology? And many more questions. We leave this discussions on documentation problem, and come to the next problem of designing a research program to develop our own philosophical system.

2. Research Program in Developing SEA Philosophical Tradition

Our objective here is to systematically develop our own philosophical system, which then can be compare to the others philosophical systems such as Greek, India, Islam and the West. The main idea is to set up a method of filtering any incoming philosophical systems to Southeast Asia. But, still our first problem in this program is to go back to the phase of documentation mentioned earlier in Section 1. Later on then, we have other items that really design to do analysis on any philosophical writings. And it is not easy to do, as easy as saying it. We list out in the following all of the program’s items :

i. Documentation of philosophical writings.

ii. Studying our own philosophical writings.

iii. Studying the current development in philosophy (mostly from the Modern/Postmodern Western tradition) and some others philosophical systems such as Greek, Islam, Hindu and Buddha.

iv. Comparing our own philosophical system and the current (or/and others) philosophical system. Its objective is to get some of our own philosophical concepts which are alien to the current (or/and others) philosophical system.

v. Developing those of our own “new/old/alien/potential concepts” by using the current methods of philosophical developments.

Observe that items (ii) and (iii) should be put in our universities education, so that we will have many potential young philosophers that understood at least two philosophical systems, their own and outsider. Do we have now Basic Degree in Philosophy in our universities around Southeast Asia? The items (iv) and (v) should be programs in our research institutes. This can further strengthen the above basic philosophical educations. What’s still not answered till now is, what is our own philosophical writings? Do we have such a materials?

Our next discussion will only particularly giving information about the earliest philosophical writings in Funan, translated by Paramartha into Chinese around 6th Century AD. We also have information about philosophical writings in Sriwijaya, Java and Myanmar, but will not be discuss here.

3. Funanese Philosophical Literature

Our interest of discussion in this section going back to what we wrote in the abstract. Among 76 books translated by Paramartha, we managed to give 40 Chinese titles with double entry on Tarkasastra of Vasubandhu. May be Paramartha did not happy with his first translation on 472S/550AD, and do it again in 486S/564AD. Till now, we can only get at about 10 equivalent titles in Sanskrit. We still don’t know whether all of this books did have their Funan/Khmer title. And lastly, we want to mention also that all of Asanga, Vashubandhu and Dignaga books listed above are classified as Buddhist Epistemology and Logic. This may be the reason why the second most important Hindu Epistemology and Logic book written by Vatsyayana title Nyayasutra Gautama around 3rd Century AD being recorded in King Yasowarman Inscription dated 810-840S/888-918AD. Vatsyayana book was explaining the earliest book written by Gautama (not Gautama Buddha) title Nyayasutra. Refer to paper written by the first writer Mohammad Alinor (2007). All of the books written by Asanga, Vashubandhu and Dignaga are actually a critical commentary on Gautama’s and Vatsyayana’s books.

4. Paramartha’s “Old Yogacara” and Hsuan-tsang’s “New Yogacara”

We will give some historical facts related to this Mahayana Samgraha of Asanga. This book being translated to Chinese by Paramartha in 485S/563AD with title Sheng-Da-Cheng-Lun in 12 volumes. Paramartha’s most important commentators on this book were Seng-pien (568-642AD) and Fa-ch’ang (567-645AD). A Korean name Wonch’uk (613-696AD) studied in China under both of them and also under Hsuan-tsang (600-664AD). Hsuan-tsang was the scholar who transformed Paramartha “Old Yogacara” to “New Yogacara”, by combining ideas from Asanga’s Mahayana Samgraha and Vasubandu’s Vimsatika-vijnapti-matrata-siddhi-sastra or Da-Cheng-Wei-Shi-Lun. Together with the other important scholar, K’uei-chi (632-682AD), Hsuan-tsang and Wonch’uk popularized the idea of “New Yogacara” in China, Japan and Korea. In 774AD, T’an-kuang (died 788AD) took some of Wonch’uk writings to his hometown Ho-his. His lineage name Fa-ch’eng (755-849AD) later became a chief translator under the Tibetan King Rel-ba-jen (who reigned 815-841AD). This explained why Wonch’uk writings being translated to Tibet around 815-824AD. Tibetan scholar who did a commentary on some of Wonch’uk writings was Dzong-ka-ba (1357-1419AD), who wrote Drang ba dang nges pa’i don rnam par phye ba’i bstan bcos legs bshad snying po (Treatise differentiating interpretable and definitive meanings : The essence of eloquence). There are more than 17 Tibetan commentaries on this Dzong-ka-ba’s book.

5. The Concept of Reality

We will try to discuss here the concept of reality formulated by the followers of “Old Yogacara” and “New Yogacara”. Our discussion is not base on the original books, but we will be using a materials gathered by Hopkins (2000) from many commentaries. For them, there are three natures defined by three non-natures, i.e.

i. Imputational nature defined by character-non-nature, in the sense that they are posited by names and terminology and do not exist by way of their own character.

ii. Other-powered nature defined by (1) production-non-nature, in the sense that they are arise through the force of other conditions and are not self-produced, and (2) ultimate-non-nature, in the sense that they are not object of observation of paths of purification, that is, are not objects of the ultimate, purifying consciousness.

iii. Thoroughly established nature defined by ultimate-non-nature, in the sense that they are the ultimate and the very absence of a difference of entity of subject and object and the very absence of establishment by way of a phenomenon’s own character as the referent of terms and conceptual consciousness.

We should get actually all of the meaning in these definitions. What they represented to? By doing that we will have some scientific explanations on this concept of reality, that can be use in many field of knowledge.


Lastly, we would like to thak Asia Research Center, Royal Academy of Cambodia and Kore Foundation for Advanced Studies for giving us opportunity presenting this paper at the 4th International Conference on Southeast Asian Cultural Values : Angkor, A Symbol of Cultural Prestige in Southeast Asia, 15-16 December 2008.


Hopkins, J. 2000. Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism : Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba’s The Essence of Eloquence. New Delhi : Munshiram Manoharlal.

Mohammad Alinor bin Abdul Kadir. 2007. Southeast Asian’s Epistemological Heritage. 3rd International Conferences on Southeast Asian Cultural Values : Promoting Community Spirit. 12-13 December 2007. Phnom Penh : ARC-RAC & KFAS : 105-111.

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