“By the Power of the Perfection of Wisdom” The “Sūtra-Rotation” Liturgy of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā at Dunhuang

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Yi Ding



This paper focuses on the ritual context of the 200,000-line Chinese Great Perfection of Wisdom (Dabore jing; *Mahāprajñāpāramitā-sūtra) at Dunhuang. Beside the fact that the purpose of the mass production of sūtras was to generate merit and then present a “merit gift” for the sponsor, the copies were reused as ritual instruments in the large-scale chanting liturgy called “sūtra-rotation” (zhuanjing). This paper examines the relevant administrative documents and liturgical texts to reconstruct the three modules of the liturgy, i.e., the preparation stage, the pronouncement of a “liturgical script,” and the “long-playing” chanting. By analyzing key passages in the Prajñāpāramitā (Perfection of Wisdom) literature, the paper argues that the Great Perfection of Wisdom was taken as an apotropaic device with unmediated protective power.

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