Sangyo Gisho (三経義疏)

Sangyo Gisho (The Annotation of the Three Sutras) is the collective name of "Hokke Gisho" (believed to have been published in 615), "Shomangyo Gisho" (believed to have been published in 611) and "Yuimagyo Gisho" (believed to have been published in 613) all of which are thought to have been written by Prince Shotoku. They are commentaries on three sutras: "Hokke-kyo Sutra" (the Lotus Sutra), "Shoman-gyo Sutra" (the Shri-mala Sutra) and "Yuima-gyo Sutra" (the Vimalakirti Sutra).

There is a description in "Nihonshoki" (The Chronicles of Japan) that Prince Shotoku lectured on the Shoman-gyo Sutra and the Hokke-gyo Sutra in 606, hence these two sutras are believed to have been written by him. A draft of "Hokke Gisho", which is said to have been written by Prince Shotoku himself, still exists. However, as for "Shomangyo Gisho" and "Yuimagyo Gisho", there are only transcripts produced in later years.

Hokke Gisho

According to the tradition, "Hokke Gisho" was produced in 615 and is the oldest book in Japan.

The transcript of "Hokke Gisho" (ink on paper, 4 volumes), generally believed to have been written by Prince Shotoku himself, was found by Gyoshin by 753, according to records, and brought to Horyu-ji Temple, where it was kept for a long period. It was presented to the Imperial Court in 1878 and became an Imperial property.

There is neither a title nor a signature by the author at the beginning of this transcript. The title 'Hokke Gisho - the First' is written on a piece of paper attached to the start of the first volume. Below the title are the words, 'this was produced by Japanese Prince Shotoku and is not from overseas', which are written in a different handwriting from the main text.

Some people believe the paper for the main text was made in China whereas the paper attached to it was made in Japan.

There are insertions and corrections between the lines, which obviously suggest this is a draft. Some people believe that the calligraphy of the draft is of the style of Rikucho (the six dynasties in China running from the third to the sixth centuries) and written by Prince Shotoku himself, but others disagree.

Many commentaries of this kind were produced in China at that time.

Seventy percent of the sentences in "Hokke Gisho" are the same as those in the commentary "Fahuayiji " written by Fayun (476 - 529) in the Liang Dynasty (one of the Southern Dynasties). So we know that "Hokke Gisho" was based on "Fahuayiji."

Seventy percent of the sentences in "Shomangyo Gisho" are the same as "The Principle of Shomangyo Gisho", which was unearthed in Dunhuang City. It is assumed that "Shomangyo Gisho" is based on an undiscovered commentary, possibly written in the early sixth century.

Likewise, the Japanese "Yuimagyo Gisho" is similar to the "Yuimagyo Gisho" written by Jizang (549 - 623) in the Liang Dynasty, and to "Yuimakyo Giki", which was unearthed in Dunhuang City. The Japanese "Yuimagyo Gisho" discusses "Zhu Weimojie jing" by Seng Zhao (384 - c. 414) as well as the theories of Zhizang (458 - 522).

"Sangyo Gisho" can be comparable with these Chinese books of the early sixth century. As no such books had ever been written before in Japan, the fact that no other books of this type were produced again in Japan for a long time thereafter has long been regarded as strange.

Although there are several theories as follows to explain this, it has not been settled yet.

First, Chinese books were brought to Japan by "Kenzuishi" (a Japanese envoy to Sui Dynasty, China) in 600 or 607 and Prince Shotoku wrote "Sangyo Gisho" based on them.

Monks who came to Japan from the Korean Peninsula at that time wrote "Sangyo Gisho" under the direction of Prince Shotoku.

Prince Shotoku chose "Sangyo Gisho" from among the books brought from China.

"Sangyo Gisho" was imported from China in some period by 753.

[Original Japanese]