Sutra copying

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A section of the Diamond Sutra, handwritten by Zhang Jizhi on 18 July 1253 during the Song dynasty

Sutra copying is the East Asian practice of hand-copying Buddhist sutras.


Sutra copying is considered a merit in Buddhism.[1][2] Other meritorious practices included the memorization and recitation of sutras.[2] The effort of sutra copying is considered an expression of piety.[1] It is recognized as a devotional practice, since it comprises worship, literature, and calligraphy.[3] Since early in history, it was also not uncommon for people to sponsor monks and nuns to recite or copy sutras, thus indirectly cultivating merit in one's ancestors, family, and self by transference.[2]


The practice of sutra copying originated in China.[3] Sutra copying was imported to Korea in the third century.[3] During the Nara period (710–794) in Japan, the practice of sutra copying became very popular in society.[4]


  1. ^ a b Atkinson, Alan G. (1994). "Catalogue, with introduction to Buddhism and Buddhist subjects in Chinese art". Latter days of the law: images of Chinese Buddhism, 850-1850. Lawrence, Kansas: Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas. p. 294. ISBN 9780824816629.
  2. ^ a b c Levering, Miriam (1989). "Scripture and its Reception: A Buddhist Case". Rethinking scripture: Essays from a comparative perspective. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 73–74. ISBN 9780887066139.
  3. ^ a b c Stevens, John (1981). Sacred calligraphy of the East. Boulder, Colo., London: Shambhala. pp. 101–102. ISBN 9780394748320.
  4. ^ Sansom, G.B. (1978). Japan: A Short Cultural History. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 141. ISBN 0804709548.