The Siddham Alphabet in the Mantra of Pu’an – A case of sinicization of Buddhist mantras


In this paper, the source and construction of the Mantra of Pu’an, one of the most popular Buddhist mantras in sinicized Sanskrit, attributed to the twelfth century Zen Master, are examined. Although the language of the mantra was described as “bastard Sanskrit,” the construction of the mantra is clearly modeled on Sanskrit phonetics, as well as the content of a textbook on Sanskrit orthography known as Xitan zhang or “Chapter of Siddham” which was widely circulated in Central Asia and China during the first millennium. Furthermore, the mantra is shown to be connected with Dharmkṣema’s translation of the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra where the Sanskrit alphabet was described, and also the tradition of religio-magical chanting of the Arapacana alphabet described in the Buddhāvataṃsakasūtra. Ultimately, to complete the process of sinicization, the Mantra of Pu’an was written down, canonized in one of the Chinese Tripiṭakas and even “resanskritized” with Chinese pronunciation, which was thought to be authentic and authoritative.


“Bukkyō mantora-no chūkokuka-no ichirei — Fuanshu-ni okeru shittan jibo-ni tsiute” 仏教マントラの中国化の一例—普庵咒における悉曇字母について”. Tōhō gakuhō東方学報88: 189-219, 2013.

Mak 普庵咒 2013