Soka Gakkai Collaborates with Russian Institute on Publication of Xixia Version of the Lotus Sutra
Soka Gakkai, in collaboration with the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (IOS-RAS), recently published the eighth work of the Lotus Sutra Manuscript Series (No. 6), Xixia Version of the Lotus Sutra from the Collection of the IOS-RAS St. Petersburg Branch. Dr. Tatsuo Nishida, professor emeritus of Kyoto University, a member of the Japan Academy and a world-renowned authority on the Xixia language, edited the work. The volume contains color facsimiles of the manuscripts and xylographs of the rare Xixia version of the Lotus Sutra, among the possessions of the IOS-RAS St. Petersburg Branch, hidden by staff for safekeeping during a 900-day siege by the Nazis during World War II. In the book, the Xixia Lotus Sutra is compared to Kumarajiva's Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra, which is the basis for the Xixia version. Some of the original works, portrayed as beautiful color plates in this book, were displayed at "The Lotus Sutra and Its World" exhibition shown in November 1998 at the Josei Toda International Center in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) and the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies were cosponsors.
Xixia flourished as a Buddhist state in the eastern part of the Silk Road, in northwestern China, from the beginning of the 11th to the 13th century. The state was an active thoroughfare for East-West trade and had jurisdiction over urban, international centers like Dunhuang that were inhabited by various ethnic groups. Highly advanced culturally, Xixia developed its own writing system, resulting in many Buddhist texts being translated into Xixia.
In the "Editor's Preface," Dr. Tatsuo Nishida remarks on the significance of 2004, when the book was completed, for marking the centennial of M. G. Morisse's Contribution préliminaire à l'étude de l'écriture et de la langue Si-hia, which became the foundation for Xixia studies. Dr. Nishida explains the origins and qualities of Xixia as having derived from and integrating languages of the various ethnic groups such as the Mi and Minyak of the Pingxia and Dongshan regions, respectively. He calls Xixia script "the product of tremendous ingenuity and creativity" and "superior to their Chinese counterparts in terms of construction and function." He further states:
Publication of the Lotus Sutra Manuscript Series began with the inspiration and heartfelt desire of scholars such as Dr. Evgenij I. Kychanov, former director of the IOS-RAS St. Petersburg Branch, and IOP founder Daisaku Ikeda, who hoped to leave behind for posterity the teachings of the Lotus Sutra that elucidates the sanctity and equality of life.