As stated above, the purpose of CBC@ is to record (1) scholarly arguments and evidence about (2) problematic ascriptions for (3) Chinese Buddhist texts. Users of the database, and contributors to it, should be aware of this focus, and of the corresponding limits of CBC@. It is most logical to review the three elements of this definition in reverse order.
(3) First, the object of attention in CBC@ is Chinese Buddhist texts.
The most important proviso that follows here applies to translation texts, for which we naturally posit two separate versions of the work: an Indic original, and the Chinese translation. Generally speaking, CBC@ is interested in recording information about the ascription of the Chinese translated version of the text, but not of the Indic original. For example, if a scholarly argument or evidence challenges the ascription of the Chinese translation of the *Kalpanāmaṇḍitikā/Sūtrālaṃkāra 大莊嚴論經 T201 to Kumārajīva, CBC@ would want to record that argument or evidence. But if an argument or evidence challenges the ascription of the Indic original to Aśvaghoṣa 馬鳴, that would ordinarily not be a matter for record in CBC@.
The main exception to this general principle would occur, as always, when information about the Indic version of the text might have implications for the ascription of the Chinese version. For instance, suppose an Indic text ascribed to Sthiramati and translated by Bodhiruci 菩提流支 (?-527). If a scholarly source argues that Sthiramati's fluorit was after 527, or argues that the Indic text is in fact by a later Indic figure, that would imply that the ascription of the Chinese version to Bodhiruci might be problematic. That would constitute good reason to record the information as a CBC@ assertion.
For the purposes of this definition, "Chinese Buddhist texts" is interpreted liberally. It includes not only translation texts, but also commentaries, histories, catalogues, encyclopaedias, lexicons, etc., that is, texts explicitly authored in China; not only canonical texts collected in the Taishō, but also paracanonical texts in the Zokuzōkyō and other similar collections; not only extant texts, but also lost texts; not only texts transmitted in modern and historical printed editions, but also texts extant only in manuscript or other formats; not only texts treated in the Taishō or equivalent as "whole" texts or single units, but parts of texts (such as the famous "Five Evils section" in some Chinese versions of the Suhkāvatīvyūha-sūtra), and collections of multiple texts (such as the Ratnakūṭa, taken as a whole); and documents transmitted or preserved only in other texts or collections, such as colophons, prefaces, postfaces, or the texts collected in the Hong ming ji 弘明集 T2102.
CBC@ generally records arguments or evidence pertaining to ascriptions of Chinese Buddhist texts.
"Ascription" means any claim about the person or persons responsible for the production of a text. The person or persons in question might have worked in various roles—they might be translators, or authors, or compilers, or oral interpreters, or scribes, or revisers, and so on. As this implies, multiple persons, including whole translation workshops or groups, might be ascribed one role or another in the production of a texts. CBC@ is interested in recording information about all the participants in the production of the text as we received it, including, especially, oral interpreters (傳言, 度語 etc.) and scribes/amanuenses 筆受.
The most important point about this element of our focus is that it means there are many things about a text which are of genuine scholarly interest, but outside the purview of CBC@. The main criterion determining what is included, and what not, is relevance to questions of ascription (see further below).
(1) We record (a) scholarly arguments and (b) evidence pertaining to ascriptions of Chinese Buddhist texts.
"Scholarly arguments" may be both premodern and modern. We are just as interested in arguments mounted by figures like Zhisheng 智昇, Sugi 守其, or Kehong 可洪 as we are in those of Demiéville, Nattier or Mizuno 水野.
In the case of modern scholarship, "scholarly arguments" means arguments presented in published, professional scholarship in the field. Generally, it does not include original, unpublished arguments expressed directly in CBC@ by the entry author or contributor. (Exceptions may be made to this rule at the editor's discretion for individual arguments or contributors.) The most important criterion here is whether the argument has been published. Authors can certainly contribute summaries of arguments that they have presented in published work, and are encouraged to do so.
"Evidence" means any
information that is shown to have a possible bearing on the ascription of a
text. For example, evidence implying a certain date for a text might be worth recording, if it implies a problem
with the received ascription—if a text ascribed to a figure or group in the
eighth century is quoted in another work known to date from the seventh
century, we need to know.
Similarly, the content of a text might be relevant, if it implies that the received attribution might be problematic. For instance, if a text ascribed to a figure in the third century mentions a concept, or contains language, otherwise thought to first occur in the fifth century, that could mean the received ascription is wrong, and CBC@ should therefore record it.
One very frequently recurring case of evidence that implies a problem with received ascriptions is that of supposed translation texts, in which content is found suggesting that the text was in fact composed in China (e.g. mention of Chinese realia, historical figures, etc.; types of language; or clear debts to earlier Chinese texts). A text composed in China is not a translation. By contrast, a translation text is usually, by definition, always ascribed to a translator (even if "the translator" is unknown, and the ascription is "anonymous"). Evidence of Chinese composition of supposed translation texts therefore usually implies a problem for the received ascription, and CBC@ should record it.In all cases, once more, the criterion by which we decide whether an item or body of evidence is worth recording is its relevance to the central question of attribution.