SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch六祖壇經workshop

20170512 - IMG Workshop - Schlütter
Associate Professor Morten Schlütter (University of Iowa)

Date: 13 May 2017Time: 9:00 AM

Finishes: 14 May 2017Time: 1:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 116

Type of Event: Workshop


This two-day workshop is devoted to a close reading and study of the Platform Sutra, the pre-eminent scripture of Chinese Chan 禪. The best-known version of this scripture is the Dunhuang Stein collection text (S5475) dated to 780, a work rediscovered in the Mogao Caves in the late nineteenth-century and now housed in the British Library. However, from the fourteenth century onward, the version dated to 1290 and attributed to Zōngbǎo宗寶(Taishō no. 2008) stands as the only version known to Chinese Buddhists of the Ming and Qing dynasties and is approximately double in size. This workshop will compare passages from these two versions and other lesser-known copies to better understand the transmission history of this text, its influence on Chan monk lineages and development of gongan公案 (case studies, Japanese kōan) literature and its implications for meditation, and also discuss the conferring of “formless” precepts and devote considerable attention to the all important poetry contest between Huìnéng and Shénxiù, so often discussed and cited in the poems and essays of Chinese literati.  

The workshop will consist of reading selections of the text in classical Chinese and is open to anyone with the requisite classical Chinese reading skills.

For further inquiries and registration, and to receive relevant materials, please contact Jennifer Eichman,

This workshop is made possible through the generous support of the Sheng Yen Education Foundation and is co-sponsored by the SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies.

Speaker Biography

Morten Schlütter is Associate Professor of Chinese Religion and Buddhist Studies at the University of Iowa, where he is also the director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. His research interests center broadly on Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhism, Buddhist institutional history, and religion under the Song dynasty (960-1279), united by an overall interest in trying to understand different aspects of Chinese religion in the broader context of their political, social and economic settings. He is the author of How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-Dynasty China (University of Hawai’i Press, 2008), and currently he is working on a book manuscript on the different versions of the Platform Sūtra, a key scripture of the Chan/Zen school attributed to the legendary Sixth Patriarch, Huìnéng (638–713).

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

Contact email:

Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4823

Sponsor: Sheng Yen Education Foundation and SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies