The Chinese Buddhist Canonical Attributions database (CBC@) is a user-contributor database of summaries of scholarly arguments and evidence about problematic ascriptions for Chinese Buddhist texts (see further below). It aims to provide a one-stop shop that will keep scholars informed of problems with ascriptions for these texts—and often, therefore, with dates—and thereby ensure that scholarly arguments are built on a more critically aware foundation than that provided by blind trust in received ascriptions (as embodied, for instance, in Taishō bylines).

By any sober and informed estimate, the Chinese Buddhist canon is rife with problems of possible probable misattribution. Good examples of this phenomenon include the Mahāyāna Awakening of Faith 大乘起信論 T1666 (which few believe was by Paramārtha 真諦, and many scholars now think was composed in China), or two versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha ascribed to *Lokakṣema 支婁迦讖 (無量清淨平等覺經 T361) and Zhi Qian 支謙 (阿彌陀三耶三佛薩樓佛檀過度人道經 T362), for which Paul Harrison has established that the correct attributions are actually the reverse (Harrison 1998: 556-557 and n. 16-18; Harrison, Hartmann and Matsuda 2002; Nattier 2008: 86-87).

It is difficult, in the current state of our knowledge, to estimate the full extent of this problem. I once made a miscarried attempt to survey texts for which such problems are already known in scholarship. The task proved logistically overwhelming (and perhaps foolhardy), and I did not complete it—but that was the inception of the present project. Though I cannot substantiate this assertion here, I estimated even on the basis of that incomplete work that at least an eighth (12.5%) of texts presented in the tradition as “translations” (T1-1692, T2030-2049, T2865-2920) have already been identified as possibly problematic. For some portions of the canon, and the corpora of some translators, the ratio is far higher: over 40% of the Āgamas, for example, or over 50% of works before 280.

At the same time, the canon contains thousands of texts, and it is difficult (if not impossible) for individual scholars to keep fully abreast of consideration of such problems in traditional and modern scholarship. CBC@ aims to fulfil this need.

For the period prior to ca. 280 C.E. (roughly, prior to the work of Dharmarakṣa), we now have Nattier (2008). This work is not only invaluable as a reference for the period and texts in question. It also provides us with a model for a type of reference work that is sorely needed for other periods and texts. However, it is almost certainly impossible for a single scholar to extend Nattier-like coverage to the rest of the canon. Moreover, a print resource starts going out of date as soon as it is published. If CBC@ is to extend Nattier's model to cover all texts—not just the Taishō, but the Zokuzōkyō, other paracanonical literatures, Dunhuang texts, etc.—then it must be collaborative, web-based, and open-ended (a perpetual work in progress).

This Guide aims to give prospective users a guided tour of the database, and persuade them to use it and contribute to it. 

Next: Assertions