Almost nothing has come down about him besides a few lines in the Nihon Shoki (720 A.D.), which is almost the only reliable source.
In the Spring, March, the 19th year [of Empress Suiko], the king of Koma offered up [the] priest[s] Donchō and Hōjō as tribute [to Japan]. Donchō was familiar with the Five Classics. He produced colors, paper and ink well, moreover made watermill. Has making watermill presumably started ever since?"
— Nihon Shoki, Vol. 22 
On the grounds that this is the first appearance about the manufacture of paper, it has been said, all in all, from the Edo Period, that he brought papermaking skills to Japan first. However, there is no sufficient grounds to say so from the text; as to the watermill, it is mentioned that he probably introduced it first, while papermaking is not mentioned. If he had done so, it should have been mentioned along with the mention of the watermill. B. Jugaku, in his study The Japanese Paper, making a comparative review of surviving ancient documents, concludes the text is a compliment for the Buddhist priest who was also familiar with Confucianism, what is more, never ignorant of crafts; and if properly read, it does not state that he was the first person to bring the methods for color, ink and papermaking, rather that he was quite a craftsman for producing them. Additionally, at that time, maintenance of the state apparatus, which required enormous amounts of paper such as for family registers, had been started. The facts of the time support such a reading.
Biography of Prince Shōtoku(written in 917 or maybe 992) tells that Prince Shōtoku invited him to Ikaruga-no-miya Palace, and afterward kept him at Hōryū-ji. However, it is not regarded as an historical fact since the book is a grand sum of mythical biographies about him.
In Korea, in recent years, some people have claimed that the wall painting in the Kondō of Hōryū-ji was made by Damjing, but this is not based on any surviving documents. Furthermore, the original temple was burned around 670 and the current one is a reconstruction from the late 7th century.
Notes and references
- 610 A.D.
- Koma（高麗） is Goguryeo in this context. The king was Yeong-yang.
- 法定. Beopjeong in modern Korean.
- To be exact, 碾磑 is a mortar to grind grain by water power.
- Original text : 十八年春三月 高麗王貢上 僧曇徵・法定 曇徵知五經 且能作彩色及紙墨 并造碾磑 蓋造碾磑始于是時歟.
- 寿岳文章(JUGAKU, Bunshō), 日本の紙 (The Japanese Paper), 日本歴史叢書 新装版, 吉川弘文館, (1967, 1996), pp. 1-21.
- 柳橋真(YANAGIBASHI Shin), "和紙 (Washi)" in Heibonsha World Encyclopedia, Kato Shuichi(ed.), Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2007.
- From 聖徳太子伝暦, "十八年春三月 高麗僧曇徴・法定二口來 太子引入斑鳩宮 問之以昔身微言 二僧百拜 啓太子曰 我等學道年久 未知天眼 今遙想昔 殿下弟子而遊衡山者也 太子命曰 師等遲來 宜住吾寺 即置法隆寺."
- 坂本太郎 (SAKAMOTO Tarō), the article on Prince Shōtoku, in 国史大辞典 (The Grand Dictionary of Japanese History), 吉川弘文館, (1979-1997). Additionally, any precedent biographies never tell the episode.
- e.g. articles on Damjing at 글로벌 세계 대백과사전 (Korean) and EncyKorea(Korean)