This article studies the transmission of the Three Teachings 三教 (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) from China to Vietnam in the tenth to fourteenth centuries. Using the primary sources written in Sinitic, I argue that Vietnam in the pre-national period was a type of multireligious political community, in which sinographs, Literary Sinitic, and the classics of the Three Teachings created a threefold structure in the political culture of Vietnam. Visits to the Chinese imperial court by delegations from the Great Việt were conceived as pilgrimages to the center of civilization and the origin of different schools of thought. The canonical texts brought back to the country were considered to be an endorsement of Vietnam as a “Domain of Manifest Civility” (文獻之邦), a symbol of recognized political power, and a tool to expand education and spread ruling power.
Introduction: Vietnamese-Chinese Interactions
China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam share a common heritage from the Sinographic Cosmopolis, based in the same classic source texts of the Three Teachings and other works of Sinitic classical literature. They shared a “common aesthetics of political culture” (Pollock 2006: 14). The Sinitic heritage was used in these countries in a context where sinographs and Literary Sinitic served as a method of cross-cultural communication (Denecke 2017: 1–27) and comprised “parallel translocal cultural formations” (King 2014: 2; 2015: 6). The Sinitic script had an exceptionally high cultural, even cosmic prestige (Denecke 2023: 106–7). Through diplomacy, trading, and missionary activities, political institutions and religious practices were transferred and Chinese classics were reproduced to duplicate Huaxia 華夏 (classical Sinitic civilization). The Sinitic cultures were then gradually localized through interactions with the local cultures but were based in a shared common background—the textual world of East Asian civilization (Cho Dong-il 2000: 159; Barrett 2009: 162; Kornicki 2018: 13–15). Each country had its own reading of the same Sinitic text, which was different from the various possible Sinitic pronunciations of the sinographs, and they understand the sacred texts based on their own beliefs and understandings. Sinographs were not only the shared means of expression of East Asian civilization but also its shared symbols and ideology (Handel 2009: 89–125; 2019: 124–58). Therefore, even though people used many dialects and different spoken languages, through silent brush conversations, ambassadors and intellectuals became bridges across space and time, connecting the periphery with the center of power and helping mortals transcend to the world of sages, fairies, and Buddhas. Moreover, the reading and understanding of a scholarly literary text required the cultural subject to place Sinitic texts within the specific knowledge of local religion, culture, and history.
Literary Sinitic (henceforth, LS) not only was a means of communication but also served as a tool of government and a sacred language of religious communities. I argue that sinographs (the sacred script), LS (the sacred language), and religious canons (the sacred texts) were the interreligious and multireligious tools in East Asia in ancient and medieval times. While the language of the Confucian classics was used as a tool for state management, Buddhist sutras and Taoist principles were commonly used in imperial ceremonies and folkloric practices. By the tenth to fourteenth centuries in Vietnam, the classics of the Three Teachings from the Tang (618–907), Song (960–1276), and Yuan (1271–1368) dynasties had become important sources for the development of the language and culture of the Đại Việt's imperial courts. A Brief History of An Nam (An Nam Chí Lược 2002: 434) notes that during the Tang and Song dynasties, canonical texts were carried to the Đại Việt (大越, Great Việt). Sinographs, LS, and the classics of the Three Teachings were the three important identification criteria used by China to admit a neighboring country into its sacred political and cultural community. Although the dynastic political model had remained unchanged for many centuries, different clans operating this model all followed the natural principles of East Asian political culture, which used the sacred script as their political language, and used the classics as the basis for the operation of social ideology.
In the first millennium, Jiaozhou交州 (Giao Châu, corresponding to today's north and north central coast of Vietnam) was invaded and dominated by different Chinese dynasties. The period of Sino-Vietnamese contact officially started in 208 BC, when King An Dương Vương (r. 208–179 BC) overthrew the state of Văn Lang, and then ended after the Khúc dynasty (905–30) gained autonomy and the Tang dynasty fell (907). This is the period in which the Chinese dynasties implemented their colonial policies with the typical model of feudal government in Giao Châu. Mandarins speaking a form of Chinese and writing in LS, along with northern armies, sino-educated intellectuals, and immigrants migrated to the South over the centuries. They lived and shared bloodlines with local indigenous peoples for more than a millennium. Sinographs, LS, and the classics of the Three Teachings were transmitted and taught in Giao Châu by many scholars such as Sĩ Nhiếp 士爕 (137–226), Nhâm Diên 壬延 (?–?), Tích Quang 錫光 (?–?), and Khang Tăng Hội 康僧會 (?–280) (Chavannes 1909: 199–212; O'Harrow 1986; Trần 2000: 48–118; Zhang 1977: 85–389; Zürcher 2007: 47, 51–55). Since then, a Sinicized intelligentsia, which included both Chinese and indigenous people trained under the state's model, was formed. The mandarins, Buddhist monks, Taoists, Confucianists, students, and others who could write used LS as a cultural tool to study, teach, indoctrinate, compose, interpret, exchange, trade, and participate in the administrative system at all levels. Some indigenous people participated in the competitive examinations. After passing the examinations, they continued their careers as mandarins in the central government, such as Khương Công Phụ 姜公輔 (731–805) from Ái Châu 愛州 (the region in today's Thanh Hóa province), who became prime minister during the Tang dynasty. During the thousand years under Chinese imperial rule, LS and a spoken Sinitic variety (Annamese Middle Chinese) was used as the official language in Giao Châu. The native languages, under the pressure of Sinitic culture, gradually assimilated lexical and grammatical elements from different registers of Chinese to gradually transform and separate themselves (Phan 2013: 239–302).
From the tenth century to 1945, the dynasties in Vietnam used LS in administrative management and diplomatic correspondence. LS was recognized as the official language used in education, competitive examinations, literature, history, philosophy, the classics of the Three Teachings, classics translation, historical and geographic records, scientific and technical affairs, and so on. LS was used in academic affairs, while Nôm (Vietnamese demotic script, 喃字) was applied in daily cultural activities and folkloric contexts. The proactive absorption of Sinitic over more than ten centuries basically transformed Đại Việt into a bi-scriptal, biliterate, and bicultural country. The ability to read, write, translate, and compose LS texts was one of the foundational factors for sharing East Asian culture (Lurie 2011: 167–212).
The Tang-Song Background of Đại Việt Culture
During the thousand years under Chinese dynasties, Giao Châu was more or less influenced by Chinese political culture. When a force won power, it would inherit the administrative apparatus and territorial structure of the previous regime and reuse its mandarin positions. After the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907, the indigenous clans in Giao Châu took over the government and operated the administrative apparatus themselves, following the Tang model. From that time until Ngô Quyền proclaimed himself the king (939) and Đinh Tiên Hoàng proclaimed himself the emperor (969), these dynasties applied only one state model—that of a Confucian monarchy, Buddhist monks, and Taoist priests (Nguyen 1997: 14). Đại Việt's culture in the Lý and Trần dynasties (eleventh to fourteenth centuries) was built on the foundation of Tang-Song culture. After gaining autonomy and independence, escaping from the rule of the Chinese courts, polities such as the Khúc (905–30), Dương (931–37), Ngô (939–67), Đinh (968–79), Early Lê (981–1009), and then Lý (1010–1225) and Trần (1226–1400) dynasties used sinographs and LS as the official language of state. LS was used in many areas of social activities such as administrative management, diplomacy, education, competitive examinations, literary composition, and the translation of classics into Vietnamese (DeFrancis 1977; Phạm 2006). Đại Việt dynasties built a Confucian state model, while using Buddhism and Taoism in royal and social activities. The administrative apparatus included a military office, a civil office (six ministries: Ministry of Personnel, Ministry of Revenue, Ministry of the Military, Ministry of Law, Ministry of Works, and Office of the Emperor), and so forth (Nguyễn Minh Tường 2015: 79–103, 127–40). This model simulated the Tang-Song administrative structure. Initially, it simulated the structure of the An Nam colonial government (安南都護府), and then it gradually developed its own imperial structure. The Lý dynasty applied hereditary rank (xi yin 襲蔭) and election (xuan ju 選舉) to recruit personnel but gradually followed the model of competitive examinations during the Song dynasty. In 1070, Lý Thánh Tông (r. 1054–72) built the Temple of Confucius.1 In 1075, he launched the first Confucian competitive examination. In 1195, the Lý dynasty held examinations on the Three Teachings. The Trần dynasty inherited this model of competitive examinations from 1227.2 The Lý and Trần dynasties' mandarin costume also imitated the costume of the Tang and Song dynasties (Trần Quang Đức 2013: 50–87). The Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long referenced the model of the imperial cities of Luoyang and Kaifeng (Phạm 2012: 205–39). Confucian examinations were held to select talented people. The Lý dynasty held examinations in 1075, 1086, 1152, 1185, 1193, and 1195. The Trần dynasty held examinations in 1232, 1239, 1256, 1266, 1275, 1304, 1314, 1345, 1374, 1384, and 1393. In addition, examinations on the Three Teachings were also held in 1195, 1227, 1247, and so on to evaluate the Buddhist and Taoist sangha (seng tuan 僧團) and to consider promoting the monks and Taoist priests (Nguyễn Danh Phiệt 1981: 453). With regard to the contents for study and examinations, the Lý dynasty chose the Nine Classics (Jiu jing 久經) as the main textbooks. During the Trần dynasty, the Four BooksandSix Classics and Four BooksandFive Classics3 were used in 1253 and 1272, respectively. The examination contents in 1304 comprised rewriting Mu Tianzi zhuan 穆天子傳 and Yi guo tian 醫國篇 in the first round; Jing yi (經疑), Jing yi (經義), gu shi (古詩), and fu (賦) in the second round; zhi (制), zhao (詔), and biao (表) in the third round; and dui ce (對策) in the fourth round.4 Such four-round examinations were also a regulation of the Song dynasty from 1072.5 Regarding legislation, the Lý and Trần dynasties basically inherited the rules and laws from the tradition of Confucian politics. In 971 the Đinh dynasty appointed a chief judge (shi 士師) to take charge of penal and prison affairs.6 This position was originally specified in the Rites of Zhou (Zhou li周禮). In 1002 the Early Lê dynasty set the laws and regulations.7 In 1042 the Lý dynasty issued the Book of Criminal Law (Hình Thư 刑書) divided into sections and articles.8 In 1077 the Lý dynasty organized examinations for sub-officials by conducting exams in character writing, math, and law.9 In 1230 the Trần dynasty reviewed the laws and rules of the previous dynasties, compiled them into the Official System of the Imperial Court (Quốc Triều Thông Chế 國朝通制), and revised the Laws and Ceremonies with twenty volumes and the Common Rites and Ceremonies of the Imperial Court (Quốc Triều Thường Lễ 國朝常禮) in ten volumes.10 In 1244 the methods of law application were determined.11 In 1371, the Official System of the Imperial Court and all kinds of rituals were determined. King Trần Nghệ Tông (r. 1370–72) compiled the Instructions for the Emperor (Hoàng Huấn 皇訓) in fourteen chapters and granted it to Trần Kính, his younger brother. Kính then ascended to the throne under the title of crown prince and later King Trần Duệ Tông (r. 1372–77).12 These laws were a realization of the Confucian structure of rule by virtue and the strategy of “using state laws for internal affairs and Confucian teachings for external relations” (nei fa wai ru 内法外儒) (Chen 2016: 10–13).
Meanwhile, Buddhism penetrated into Giao Châu in the third century AD and emerged as a major religion in the Tang and Song dynasties (Trần 1932: 191–268). The system of monasteries under the Lý and Trần dynasties was highly influenced by the architecture of monasteries in Tang, Song, and Great Li (Dali 大理). All types of multistoried Buddhist pagodas were built, and Buddhist statues or stupas were placed inside the monasteries. The outside space of the towers was filled with the Lords of the Four Quarters (si tian wang 四天王) or the guardian spirits of the Buddha-dharma (jin gang shen 金剛神), and the roofs were decorated with garuḍa (迦樓羅), kiṃnara (緊那羅), or the dragons of the eight classes of supernatural beings (ba bu Zhong 八部衆) in the Lotus sùtra (Trần Trọng Dương 2013). Buddhist architectural sites simulated the cosmic Maṇḍala in the Buddhist canon much as in the Tang dynasty (Wang 2013: 186–217). In 1105, King Lý Nhân Tông renovated Diên Hựu monastery, built the One Pillar Pagoda to simulate Mount Meru (Xumi shan 須彌山) and also a miniature universe following the mandala model with the structure of “nine mountains and eight seas” (jiu shan ba hai 九山八海) as specified in the Dharma Flower sūtra (Fahuajing 法華經). In 1118, Sùng Thiện Diên Linh pagoda at Long Đọi monastery was built with thirteen stories. A statue of Prabhūtaratna sitting on the same lotus with Gautama Buddha was placed inside the first floor. This is an imitation of the Stupa in the Lotus Sūtra through architectural art (Trần Trọng Dương 2013: 217–80). During the eleventh through the fourteenth centuries, every year the imperial courts held a lantern festival in Thăng Long Imperial Palace for seven days, lighting thousands of candles. The highlight of the ceremony was a lantern tower with a rotating shaft (Trần and Đào 2017: 5–23). The purpose of this Buddhist lantern festival was to pray for the peace of the country and people, eliminate diseases, and extend the life of the royal family and people. This is a rite based on The Scripture on the Original Vows of the Medicine Tathāgata as Related by the Buddha (Foshuo yaoshi rulai benyuan jing 佛說藥師如來本願經), which is also depicted in a fresco on the northern wall at Dunhuang Cave 222 (642 CE). Both the Lý and Trần dynasties attached great importance to Buddhism, building hundreds of monasteries and pagodas everywhere. King Trần Nhân Tông (r. 1278–1293), after defeating the Yuan invaders, ceded the throne to his son in order to become a Taoist at Vũ Lâm. After that, he shaved off all of his hair to become a monk and created the Lâm Tế zen lineage in Đại Việt. This lineage inherited the tradition of Buddhist classics in the Song dynasty and compiled many volumes of Buddhist classics of Đại Việt in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, which will be presented in the next section.
In the tenth to fourteenth centuries, Taoism was also deemed a royal and folk religion. In 944 Taoists and Confucianists (Xuan Ru er men 玄儒二門) contributed money to paint a picture of the Three Purities (Tai Shang san zun 太上三尊) and buy six Buddhist pennants (bao fan 寶幡) and organized an inauguration ceremony for the picture and pennants. In 948 they then bought a bell to offer sacrifice to the Taoist gods. This religious organization was called a commune 社 with the positions of shezhu 社主, shefu 社副, she pan guan 社判官, she liu shi 社錄事, and gao gong 高功 (the master of ceremonies in religious sacrifices). Taoist monastic names often included the words “huyền” 玄, “pháp” 法, “tiên” 仙, and “đạo” 道, such as Đỗ Pháp Dao 杜法瑤, Đỗ Pháp Tính 杜法性, Trần Huyền Đàm 陳玄談, Trần Tiên Cao 陳仙高, and Lý Đạo Dung 李道榮 (Épigraphie en Chinois du Viet Nam 1998: 45–48; Hà 2002: 68–83). In 971, King Đinh Tiên Hoàng (r. 969–79) granted Buddhist Controller Ngô Chân Lưu the title of Great Monk Khuông Việt (匡越大師), appointed Trương Ma Ni to be the Central Buddhist Registrar (senglu 僧錄), and Taoist priest Đặng Huyền Quang to be Chongzhen weiyi (崇真威儀).13 In 1010 King Lý Thái Tổ (r. 1010–28) initiated the construction of Thái Thanh abbey (太清宫) in the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long, simulating Thái Thanh abbey during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (712–56) (Onishi 2003: 21). He also ordered villages to restore all of their ruined Buddhist monasteries and Taoist temples. In 1031, King Lý Thái Tông (r. 1028–54) allowed Taoists to receive Jilu (記籙)14 at Thái Thanh abbey15 and built 150 Buddhist and Taoist temples in various places.16 In 1101 King Lý Nhân Tông (r. 1072–1128) built Khai Nguyên abbey following the model in the Tang dynasty.17 In 1128, after defeating Zhenla (真臘), King Lý Thần Tông (r. 1128–38) went to Thái Thanh and Cảnh Linh palaces and other monasteries in the Imperial Citadel to give thanks to the Buddhas and Taoist gods.18 In 1133, Lý Thần Tông built Ngũ Nhạc abbey and Diên Sinh palace and often went there to hold festivals.19 In 1135 he went to Ngũ Nhạc abbey (五岳觀) to inaugurate statues of the Three Purities made of gold and silver and opened the Taoist sacrificial ceremony (da jiao 大醮) at Diên Sinh palace 延生殿.20 Before that, in 1012, Emperor Zenzong of Song built Jingling palace (景靈宫), Wuyue abbey (五岳觀), and Yan'en palace (延恩宮) in the city of Kaifeng. All three places worshipped Si ming (司命)—the deity governing the lives of sentient beings (Xin jiaoben Songshi 1987: 152, 2534). The only difference was that in China's Song dynasty, the emperor built Yan'en palace, while in the Lý dynasty of Vietnam, the palace was named Diên Sinh (延生) to pray for the prolongation of the life of King Lý Thần Tông, as he was very sick (Ōnishi 2002: 219). From 1133 to 1175, when the Song dynasty was overwhelmed by the Jin dynasty, many intellectuals and monks of the Song dynasty migrated to Đại Việt.
In the Trần dynasty, Taoism continued to play a certain spiritual role in social activities. In 1248, King Trần Thái Tông (r. 1226–58) built Lâm Ba bridge 臨波橋 at Chân Giáo monastery 真教禪寺 across from Ngoạn Thiềm lake 玩蟾池, connecting to Thái Thanh abbey 太清觀 and Cảnh Linh palace 景靈宫.21 The practice of ceremonies at Thái Thanh abbey had something to do with his prayers for a male heir. According to the histories, the event was related to the birth of his sixth prince named Trần Nhật Duật 陳日燏.22 In 1258 monk Văn Thao renovated Khai Nguyên abbey 開元觀 and renamed it An Dưỡng monastery 安養庵. Then he was appointed head of the locality. In 1285 he was promoted to Khai Nguyên Uy Hiển Đại Vương 開元威顯大王 and more honorifics were added to his title in 1288 and 1313 (Việt Điện U Linh Tập Lục 2013: 100). In 1276, during the reign of King Trần Thánh Tông 陳聖宗 (r. 1258–78), the Yuan army attacked the Song feudal government, and Taoist priest Xu Zongdao 許宗道 (?–?) entered Đại Việt and became an assistant of Trần Nhật Duật (1255–1330) to disseminate Taoism (Hà 2002: 155–56). We know that Nhật Duật was a believer in mysticism, understanding Chongdian (冲典).23 When King Trần Thánh Tông was ill, he once ordered Trần Nhật Duật to wear a gown and hat as a Taoist to exorcise evil spirits from his body with spells.24 In 1285, when the Yuan army advanced from the Great Li (Dali 大理) down the Red River to Đại Việt, Trần Nhật Duật and Xu Zongdao made an oath to the gods about repaying the king and then defeated the enemy. Nhật Duật repaired The Yellow Register (Huanglu 黃籙)25 many times. Xu hosted the sacrifices at Bạch Hạc abbey with the support of the royal family members and princesses of the Trần dynasty (Hà 2002: 152–54). In 1320 Xu built Thái Thanh abbey. Before that, some time between 1273–78, Thái Vi abbey was built in Vũ Lâm 武林 (in today's Ninh Binh province). In 1295 King Trần Nhân Tông 陳仁宗 (1258–1308), under the name Trúc Lâm Đạo Sĩ 竹林道士, started to lead a Taoist life at Thái Vi abbey at Vũ Lâm.26 His ancestor’s statues were then placed at the center altar of Thái Vi abbey 陳朝皇帝、鎮御中尊 (Lê Đăng Nghĩa 1715). Thus, Thái Vi abbey became the place to worship the ancestors, which simulates the Tang dynasty's model of worshipping ancestors in Taoist temples. This proves that Thái Vi abbey of the Trần dynasty imitated Thái Vi abbey of the Tang dynasty, which is similar to the formulation of a religious lineage in the same manner with that of the Yuan dynasty (Pregadio 2008: 944; Ōnishi 2009: 172). This evidence shows that Vietnamese Taoism had adopted Confucian ancestor worship.
Thus, during the tenth to fourtenth centuries, Đại Việt followed Confucianism as the ideology of political life, placed the family model at the center of the state model, and adopted the administrative system, education system, competitive examinations, and beliefs of Chinese Confucianism, with more or less specific adjustments to fit Đại Việt realities. Đại Việt considered Buddhism and Taoism as two important beliefs of the royal family and the kingdom. On the perspective of self-betterment, King Trần Thái Tông generally stated: “One who is as yet unenlightened erroneously differentiates the Three Teachings. [One] who has attained thorough comprehension together realizes the One Mind” (未明人、妄分三教;了得底、同悟一心。) (Trần Thái Tông 1258: 25b). The cultural structure of Đại Việt can be divided into four main components, with Confucianism in the political structure (administrative affairs, ceremonies, education, and competitive examinations) and Buddhist and Taoist Sangha playing the role of supporting religions in order to “establish the Imperial Court” (gonggu hongtu 鞏固鴻圖). Therefore, the Buddhist authorities or Taoist authorities were called Zuojie (左街) because they were not part of the contingent of mandarins in the court.27 All Three Teachings must be placed in the context of Đại Việt society, taking the indigenous culture as their foundation and center. The level of localization of the Three Teachings was reflected in both temples and rites for deities. In such a multicultural, multireligious community, a person could be a Confucian, Taoist, or Buddhist at the same time (Berthrong 1994: 27). In other words, these religions usually coexisted in a symbiotic relationship (Duong 2001: 285). This is one of the concrete manifestations of the Theory of the Unity of the Three Teachings (sanjiao heyi 三教合一, sanjiao tongyuan 三教同源, or sanjiao jingxing 三教並行).
Confucianism and Taoism were introduced into Giao Châu under the domination of the Northern people in 208 BC. In 905 the Khúc family (905–30) came to power in Giao Châu. The year 907 witnessed the fall of the Tang dynasty. In 938 Ngô Quyền 吳權 (898–944) defeated the Southern Han dynasty on the battlefield at Bạch Đằng estuary and then founded the Ngô dynasty (938–68). In 973 Đinh Liễn 丁璉 (940–79) built one hundred dhāraṇī pillars (jing chuang 經幢) to pray for peace, health, and longevity. He then erected another one hundred dhāraṇī pillars in 979 to pray for Crown Prince Hạng Lang, the younger brother that he had killed for the throne. The inscription carved on these pillars is a dhāraṇī incantation cited from the Sūtra of the Revered and Victorious Dhāraṇī of the Buddha's Uṣṇīṣa (佛頂尊勝加句靈驗陀羅尼) translated by the monk Bukong (Hà 2002: 83–129). These inscriptions show that sinographs and LS were seen as tools with which to unite the Buddhist community, whether mandarins or commoners, Chinese or native people. The Buddhist knowledge and community of Buddhist believers (from commoners to royal family members) acted as the foundation for the transmission and reception of the Chinese Buddhist Tripiṭaka (the Sinitic Buddhist Canon, 大藏經, henceforth referred to as the Dazangjing) into Vietnam from the tenth century onward. There is clear and systematic evidence that the classics of the Three Teachings of the Song and Yuan dynasties were repeatedly requested by the Đại Việt imperial courts through diplomacy.
Sinitic translations of the Tripitaka were continuously imported to Đại Việt over many centuries. In particular, asking for copies of the Buddhist canon became one of the outstanding tasks of diplomatic delegations arriving in China for assorted offerings. The first received Dazangjing is the famous series of carved woodblocks called the Kaibao Canon (開寶藏), Shu edition (蜀版), or Kaibao edition,28 in which 130,000 wooden blocks were carved to print 1,081 separate works in a total of 5,057 volumes (Kornicki 2018: 223). This series began to be carved in 971. Upon its completion in 983, the series was shipped to the capital to be published by the Institute of Dharma Propagation (Chuanfayuan 傳法院) (Wu and Chia 2016: 148). In 989 Japan and Koryŏ (Korea) both sent diplomatic delegations to China to ask for copies of the Buddhist canon.29 From 989 to 1003, the Song dynasty continued to carve the Xianping era's new edition of the Dazangjing until it was completed (Lê 2016: 71). In 1004 King Lê Hoàn 黎桓 (r. 980–1005) sent his son Lê Minh Đề to China to offer precious specialties to the Chinese government.30 The emperor of the Song dynasty at that time granted him a copy of the Dazangjing.31 In 1004 Lê Hoàn died and Lê Long Việt ascended the throne for only three days. He was then killed by Lê Long Đĩnh, his younger brother. Some ten brothers killed one another over eight months, causing Lê Minh Đề to take refuge in Guangzhou. Because his home country was in serious turmoil, it was not until the end of 1006 that Minh Đề brought the Buddhist canon back to Đại Việt.32 In 1007, King Lê Long Đĩnh 黎龍鋌 (r. 1005–9) sent his younger brother Lê Minh Xưởng to the Song dynasty to ask for a copy of the Dazangjing.33 Minh Xưởng then brought the Dazangjing home in 1009.34 The Songshi recorded that the Song dynasty also bestowed upon him the Nine Classics (九經) and other Buddhist books.35 It is very likely that these requests for copies of the Buddhist canon were continuously made because Lê Minh Đề understood that there were two carved versions of the Kaibaozang when he was on his diplomatic mission. The copy he brought back to Vietnam in 1006 may have been the Shu Canon, and the one requested in 1009 was the Xianping edition (Lê 2016: 72–73). Meanwhile, the version of the Nine Classics shipped to Vietnam at that time was likely the woodblock edition carved by Feng Dao 馮道 in 953 (Dương 2014: 46–52).
Until the Lý dynasty, requests for copies of the Buddhist canon were still considered an important part of diplomatic relations. In 1010, King Lý Thái Tổ 李太祖 (r. 1010–28) asked the Emperor of the Song dynasty to grant him a copy of the Dazangjing and the eight styles of calligraphy. The Emperor then provided him with the Dazangjing and 100 scrolls of writing of Emperor Taizong of Song. In 1014, upon the victory over the Nanzhao Kingdom, Lý Thái Tổ sent a diplomatic corps to offer precious specialties to the Song Emperor and asked for an additional set of the Dazangjing.36 In 1018 the Lý dynasty again requested the Song dynasty to grant them a copy of the Taoist Canon 道藏經.37 In the same year, the Northern Song completed the engraving of the Tianxi era's edited version within the Shu Canon. In 1018 Lý Thái Tổ sent emissaries Nguyễn Đạo Thành and Phạm Hạc to the Song to ask for a copy of the Sanzangjing, which brought back to Đại Việt in 1020.38 In 1072, the Song dynasty transferred the Buddhist canon to the Xi Xia 西夏.39 In 1081, King Lý Nhân Tông 李仁宗 (r. 1070–1128) sent emissary Lương Dụng Luật to the Song to ask for the Sanzangjing (三藏經).40 In 1082 Lý Nhân Tông was provided with a copy of the Dazangjing by the Song dynasty.41 In 1098 missary Nguyễn Văn Tín successfully brought back the Sanzangjing to Đại Việt.42 The year 1099 was the last that the Lý dynasty requested a copy of the Dazangjing from the Song dynasty.43 The reason for requesting copies of the Buddhist canon was not because there were no copies available in the Đại Việt but was likely due to the Song dynasty's completion of the Kaibaozang in 1071 (Lê 2016: 76). The Biographies of Eminent Chan Masters (Thiền Uyển Tập Anh 禪苑集英) and more than seventy stele inscriptions of the Lý and Trần dynasties record that Zen masters of the Lý dynasty often recited the Lotus Sūtra (Fahua jing 法華經), the Sūtra of Perfect Enlightenment (Yuanjue jing 圓覺經), the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (Bore jing 般若經), the Diamond Sūtra (Jingang jing 金剛經), and the Recorded Sayings of Chan Master Xuedou (Xuedou yulu 雪竇語錄), among other texts (Lê 2016: 77).
From 1099 to 1295, history no longer recorded any requests from Đại Việt for copies of the canons of the Three Teachings from Chinese dynasties. In the Lý dynasty, Bảo Giám (?–1173) was very good at Confucian canonical works such as the Shi 詩, Shu 書, Li 禮, and Yi 易.44 Some inscriptions carved in the eleventh and twelfth centuries used some concepts from such Confucian works like yinyang 陰陽, hetu 河圖, and qiankun 乾坤 (Văn Bia Thời Lý 2010: 231–53). Some terms from the Yijing were used as questions in some Confucianist examinations in the period 1230–32 (Chu Dịch n.d.: 64, 93; Bùi 2021: 31, 82–83). In 1253 King Trần Thái Tông (r. 1226–58) issued a decree to invite domestic Confucian scholars to the Temple of Confucius to provide lectures on the Four Books and Six Classics (四書六經).45 In the Trần dynasty, Chu Văn An (1292–1370) composed Tứ Thư Thuyết Ước 四書說約 (Thơ Văn Lý Trần 1978: 52). This shows that, after the request for the Nine Classics (九經) in 1009, there was some transmission of Confucian classics into Đại Việt from the late twelfth century to the early thirteenth century. The reason why Đại Việt did not ask for copies during the thirteenth century may be because they had enough for use at that time and were in no need to update the printing of the canons during the Song dynasty. Đại Việt society was relatively stable in the twelfth century. Toward the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Song dynasty was gradually weakened by the Yuan dynasty. During this period, Đại Việt fought three times against Yuan invasions in 1258, 1285, and 1287. These three wars destroyed most of the books. Hence, Đại Việt had to ask the Yuan dynasty to grant them the lost canons again. The Brief History of An Nam recorded King Trần's request for the Dazangjing: “I am living in a hot and wild country and used to take refuge in Buddhism. I love chanting the pattra sūtra (bei ye 貝葉) disseminated from China. In the past, during the Tang and Song dynasties, we used to come to your country to sincerely ask for copies of the canon and bring them back on white horses. Since your great army [of the Yuan dynasty] entered our country, the texts have been burned to ashes.” Therefore, he had to “ask for 15,000 sutras to be sent by sea to save millions of vulnerable people.”46 After defeating the Yuan army, Đại Việt repeatedly sent envoys to China to apologize and ask the Yuan dynasty to confer a title on its king in order to establish good diplomatic relations. In 1294, the Trần dynasty assigned envoys to the Yuan dynasty to request a title conferment for the newly crowned King Trần Anh Tông 陳英宗 (r. 1293–1314) and ask for a set of the Dazangjing. The Yuan dynasty did not confer any title but agreed to grant a copy of the Dazangjing to the Trần dynasty. In the spring of 1295, envoy Xiao Taideng 簫泰登 from the Yuan dynasty escorted the Dazangjing to Đại Việt, and King Trần Anh Tông sent Trần Khắc Dụng and Phạm Thảo to welcome him and receive the canon. It was then placed in Thiên Trường prefecture (today's Nam Định province) for carving new woodblocks and making copies.47 It is likely that the canon at this time was either the Puning Canon (Puningzang 普寧藏) of the Baiyun School (carved during the reign of Emperor Shizu of Yuan [1277–90], in 559 cases, 1,430 sets, and 6,004 volumes) or the Hongfa Canon (Hongfazang 弘法藏), the official version (carved in 1264–94 in 7,182 volumes and 1,644 sets) and perhaps some other older editions (Lê 2016: 81).
Table 1 shows that the Early Lê, Lý, and Trần dynasties asked for copies of the canon at least nine times (Zhang 1958: 151–53; Qian 2004: 326). Specifically, the Dazangjing was requested eight times, the Daozangjing one time, and the Nine Classics of Confucianism one time. We know that the Nine Classics is a form of the Confucian classics established by the Tang and Song dynasties as a standard set of texts for their education system (Taylor and Choy 2005: 453). Requests for copies of texts of the classics of the Three Teachings were an important activity of the imperial courts in the diplomatic process with China. The neighboring countries offered rare and precious specialties to Chinese dynasties in exchange for the classics and political benefits. The realms of Đại Việt argued that the ownership of religious canons could strengthen themselves and protect the kingdom. In another parallel example, the Korean kings had requested the Kaibao canon from the Song emperors for the security of their country. They also carved their own canon as a method to defend themselves against other invasions (Wu and Chia 2016: 3). The Song and Yuan dynasties granted copies of the classics together with the conferment of positions, titles, seals, and so on. In some cases, the classics became a “bridge” between countries who had just fought with each other. Đại Việt had supported the Song dynasty in fighting against the Yuan dynasty. After the Song dynasty was wiped out and the Yuan dynasty was defeated three times in Đại Việt, the Yuan imperial court granted copies of the classics but did not confer any official titles for Trần dynasty. The acquisition of copies of the Buddhist canon was considered the first success in diplomatic relations between Đại Việt and the Yuan imperial court at that time. In short, asking for copies of the canon was not simply a religious practice but also constituted an important diplomatic task. Each set of the canon brought back to Đại Việt embodied the value of spreading LS within the country, while acting as an endorsement of the country's level of civilization. It also represented the political and cultural power of both the giver and receiver, thereby accelerating their deeper and stronger integration into the multireligious political community of East Asia.
From Manuscript to Print Culture: Pious Copying and Religious Expansion
After asking for copies of the canon in 1010, 1014, and 1020, the Lý dynasty had at least three sets of the Buddhist Tripiṭaka, one set of Confucian classics, and one set of the Taoist canon. If the two sets possessed by the Early Lê dynasty count, Đại Việt then had four or five different sets of the canons. The canons were stored as the kingdom's treasures in the capital, where the Lý dynasty ordered the mandarins to copy them to develop and promote education. In 1021, an octagonal archive was built to store the canons in Thăng Long (Yu Lina and Koiwa Masaki 2017: 2701–11; Phạm and Phạm 2019: 55–79). In 1023, King Lý Thái Tổ issued a decree to copy a set of the Dazangjing and store it in the Đại Hưng archive.52 In 1027 the king issued a decree to copy a set of the Sanzangjing for the second time.53 In 1034 the Trùng Hưng archive was built at Trùng Quang monastery, Mount Tiên Du (in today's Bắc Ninh province) to store the canon. In 1036, the Sanzangjing was copied and placed in the Trùng Hưng Tạng archive.54 In the period from 1020 to 1081, the Lý dynasty popularized the Dazangjing in manuscripts. In addition to the state's canon, the major monasteries in the country would also come to these archives to make their own copies. For example, monk Bảo Giám (?–1173) manually copied all the texts of the canon in Bảo Phúc monastery (Thiền Uyển Tập Anh 1225: 24b). It is evident that copying the canon was not only a part of the circulation of texts to the public, but also a religious practice of monks and Buddhists. The Lý dynasty built many large archives to store copies of the canon, such as Bát Giác and Đại Hưng archives (Thăng Long, Hà Nội), and Trùng Hưng archive at Trùng Quang monastery, Mount Tiên Du (Bắc Ninh).
In the middle of King Lý Nhân Tông's reign, in 1126, the imperial court held a ceremony to celebrate the five sets of the canon at Thọ Thánh monastery 壽聖寺.55 The inauguration ceremony for these five sets of the canon was not organized for manuscript copies (as had been the case a hundred years before) but was likely for the first woodblock prints of the Dazangjing in Đại Việt. If this judgment holds true, after more than one hundred years of requesting copies of the canon from Chinese dynasties, Đại Việt successfully cracked the woodblock printing technique. In fact, despite its real difficulties, this technique is not something impossible in comparison to inscriptions on steles, horizontal lacquered boards, or wood couplets (對聯). At the end of the Lý dynasty, Zen Master Tín Học's family specialized in the transmission of carved copies of the canon (世業雕經) (Thiền Uyển Tập Anh 1225: 27a). This information shows that carving technique was popularized throughout Đại Việt and even extended to private carvers. Learning the printing technique of the Song dynasty offered more means to print copies of the canon and expand educational teachings. From then on, the classics of the Three Teachings were duplicated in both ways, that is, via manuscript and print. In multireligious communities, hand copies or printed versions of the scriptures were considered the embodiment of “dharma relics.” Books were not only effective tools for recording the words of sage-kings, gods, and Buddhas but also became the central sacred symbols of East Asian civilization—a phenomenon called the Cult of the Canon by Wu and Chia (2015: 965).
Around the years 1247–50, King Trần Thái Tông set up a woodblock-carving guild at Thắng Nghiêm monastery 勝嚴寺 in the south of Thăng Long capital and invited monk Phù Vân to oversee the carving of copies of the canon. The monk read A Guide to Songs of the Zen Sect (Thiền Tông Chỉ Nam Ca 禪宗指南歌), compiled by King Trần Thái Tông after his enlightenment after ten years of reading the Diamond Sūtra, and ordered carvers to turn it into a carved book (Trần Thái Tông Ngự Chế Khóa Hư 1943: 29b; Hưng Yên Tỉnh An Mĩ Huyện 1807: 157b; Thơ Văn Lý Trần 1989: 25). In 1287, the war against the Yuan dynasty ended and was followed by diplomatic activities. In 1295, after obtaining a copy of the Dazangjing from the Yuan dynasty, the Trần dynasty carried out the carving of new versions of these texts. If copying through handwriting made book duplication both laborious and time-consuming, then with the carving technique, Đại Việt could now easily make copies to issue the official version across the country. In 1299 Buddhist Rites (Phật Giáo Pháp Sự 佛教法事), New Ritual Documents for the Monastery (Đạo Tràng Tân Văn 道塲新文), and Standardized Forms for Ritual Documents (Công Văn Cách Thức 公文格式) were woodblock printed and issued nationwide.56 In 1308 King Trần Nhân Tông handed over twenty small cases of the Dazangjing arranged in Sanskrit binding style (folded canons) that he “[bled] himself” to write and handed them over to monk Pháp Loa 法螺 (1284–1330) for widespread teaching.57 In 1311 King Trần Anh Tông requested monks Pháp Loa and Bảo Sái to carve the Dazangjing.58 In 1314 he presented Siêu Loại monastery with five hundred cases of the Dazangjing to be under the permanent possession of the monastery.59 At the beginning of 1319, monk Pháp Loa encouraged monks and Buddhists, who were predestined, to bleed themselves to carve five thousand volumes of the Dazangjing and stored them at Quỳnh Lâm monastery 瓊林院. King Trần Anh Tông bled himself to write twenty small cases of the Dazangjing to present to monk Pháp Loa.60 The Dazangjing, which consisted of more than five thousand volumes, previously written out in blood by King Trần Anh Tông, his wife, and his concubines, was fully completed. At this point, he had stepped down from his emperorship and became the so-called Thái Thượng Hoàng (太上皇, an honorific for the king's father). For the Dazangjing to be user-ready, he then issued a decree for monk Pháp Loa to write an afterword in 1321.61 In 1322 the Four Part Vinaya (Si fen lu 四分律) was carved and made into five thousand copies.62 In 1323 the monk Pháp Loa carved the Annotated Redaction of the Dhāraṇī Sūtra at Diamond Monastery (Jingangchang tuoluonijing kezhu 金剛場陀羅尼經科註).63 In 1329 he carved another set of the Dazangjing.64 In 1341, the imperial court assigned Trương Hán Siêu and Nguyễn Trung Ngạn to compile the August Ceremony of the Imperial Court (Hoàng Triều Đại Điển 皇朝大典) and the Book of Criminal Law (Hình Thư 刑書) and take these books for printing.65 In 1396 the Thông Bảo Hội Sao (通寳會鈔) paper currency notes were printed.66 The historical sources on requesting and carving the Dazangjing are quite abundant and outnumber those concerning Confucian and Taoist sources. Meanwhile, the Temple of Confucius was established in 1070, the foundation of the Imperial Academy (Quốc Tử Giám 國子監) was acknowledged in 1076, and the first Confucian exam was organized in 1075, preceding the exams on the Three Teachings (1195) by more than one hundred years. This shows that Confucianism took a more crucial role in comparison to Buddhism because it served as an important form of recruitment for the state administrative apparatus.
East Asia is a multireligious and multi-faith political community in which different groups of people shared a common sense of ownership of common classics, sacred texts, a sacred language (Literary Sinitic), and participated in the same textual culture—the “Cult of the Book” and the “Cult of the Canon” (Wu and Chia 2016: 46–78). It comes as a surprise that Đại Việt did not know printing techniques until the end of the twelfth century; the xylographic printing technique was probably not the prerogative of any state/dynasty and seems to have been the traditional technique of Buddhist monasteries. Korea had printed texts since 704–51, Japan since 764–70 (with its printed Dhāraṇī Sūtra), and China since at least 868 with its printed Diamond Sūtra. By the tenth century, printing centers (both state-owned and private printing houses) were ubiquitous, from Luoyang and Kaifeng to Sichuan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, and elsewhere. The carved contents also expanded to Confucian classics, Taoist classics, literary works (collections of poetry and literature), calendrical guides, histories, and encyclopedias (Qian 2004: 134–39). It should be noted that these are only the surviving texts. The time of the invention of printing techniques was probably even earlier, as seen from the history of stele inscriptions and handwritten templates. It would be illogical if printing techniques were not known in Giao Châu when it was still under the domination of the Tang dynasty. For example, the dhāraṇī system carved on dhāraṇī pillars from 973 to 1005 shows that Đại Việt did have a continuous connection with the Sinitic culture of the East Asian community (Hà 2002: 83–129; Howard 1997: 33–72; 76–80; Liu 1996: 145–93). It is recorded in official histories that King Trần Thái Tông ordered the Buddhist canon to be printed in the early thirteenth century, a late date which is probably due simply to incomplete historical records. We can infer that the profession was passed down through at least three generations and that printing was introduced to Đại Việt sometime in the twelfth century. Throughout the centuries, the copying, carving, and printing of the canons of the Three Teachings was always carried out. Copying and printing were both tools to expand knowledge of the Three Teachings in social life and the means for multi-religious followers to conduct moral and ritual practices.
Sinitic Documents: Sacred Scripts and Political Texts
On the basis of the Song-Yuan classics, intellectuals from Đại Việt successfully built a Sinitic culture in five hundred years based on what they learned from the classics of the Three Teachings. The number of works circulating in Đại Việt relied largely on the inspiration and data from the classics. The use of the classics, thought, and Confucian state models and practice of the Three Teachings rites was aimed at making Đại Việt an integral part of East Asian civilization so that Chinese dynasties could recognize Đại Việt as a “domain of manifest civility” (Kelley 2003: 63–76). Over thousands of years of history and many wars, most of the classics and works of Đại Việt during the tenth to fourteenth centuries were lost. It is impossible to know the number of lost books, but some sixty Buddhist works are mentioned in extant stele inscriptions and books (Lê 2016: 120–50). Some of the lost Confucian books (of which only the titles are still known now) are as follows: Criminal Law (Hình Luật 刑律, composed in 1077) of the Lý dynasty, The Historical Records (Sử Kí 史記, 1127) by Đỗ Thiện, History of Yue (Việt Chí 越誌, 1233) by Trần Chu Phổ, The Historical Records of Great Yue (Đại Việt Sử Kí 大越史記, 1272) by Lê Văn Hưu, Veritable Records of the War against the Yuan Dynasty (Trung Hưng Thực Lục 中興實録, 1289), the Great Code of the Imperial Court (Hoàng Triều Đại Điển 皇朝大典, 1341), Criminal Law (Hình Luật 刑律, 1341), Garble Essay of the Four Books (Tứ Thư Thuyết Ước 四書說約, 1341–69) by Chu Văn An, and Lighten Doctrine (Minh Ðạo 明道, 1392) by Hồ Quý Ly of the Trần dynasty.
The number of remaining works is very small (table 2). Most of the steles, books, maps, historical records, and other documents of the Kingdom of Đại Việt were destroyed during the wars with the Yuan and Ming dynasties. Through the efforts of many generations of scholars, we can determine that the remaining volumes of Sino-Nom literature of the Lý and Trần dynasties and works compiled by Vietnamese people is quite modest. Group 1 comprises poetry and literature in the Lý and Trần dynasties, including 901 works and excerpts (Thơ Văn Lý Trần 1977, 1978, 1989). Group 2 comprises stele inscriptions collected from three inscriptions in the tenth century, 20 steles of the Lý dynasty, and 53 steles of the Trần dynasty (Văn Bia Thời Lý 2010; Văn Bia Thời Trần 2016). Group 3 comprises diplomatic correspondence between Đại Việt and Chinese dynasties, including 27 works (Phạm 2008: 19–28). And Group 4 comprises the long works, which remain available now, including the translation of the Sūtra on Deep Indebtedness to One’s Father and Mother as Spoken by the Buddha (Phật Thuyết Đại Báo Phụ Mẫu Ân Trọng Kinh 佛說大報父母恩重經; length of the text: 11,000 characters), identified as having been translated in the Lý dynasty; Essays on Emptiness (Khoá Hư Lục 課虛錄: 10,000 characters) by King Trần Thái Tông (1218–77); Recorded Conversations of Tuệ Trung Thượng Sĩ (Tuệ Trung Thượng Sĩ Ngữ Lục 慧忠上士語錄: 7,000 characters) by Tuệ Trung Thượng Sĩ (1230–91); The Complete Secrets for Buddhist Monks in the Practice of Precious Rites (Bảo Đỉnh Hành Trì Bí Chỉ Toàn Chương 寶鼎行持秘旨全章: 27,000 characters); Book of Practice of Precious Rites (Chư Phẩm Kinh 諸品經: about 9,500 characters) by Monk Pháp Loa (1284–1330); Biographies of Eminent Chan Masters (Thiền Uyển Tập Anh 禪苑集英: 15,000 characters); Recorded Conversations of Sage Monks (Thánh Đăng Ngữ Lục 聖燈語錄: 9,000 characters), A True History of Three Monks (Tam Tổ Thực Lục 三祖實錄: 18,000 characters); the translation of Essays on Emptiness (Thiền Tông Khoá Hư Ngữ Lục 禪宗課虛語錄: 11,000 characters) by Tuệ Tĩnh; Arrayed Tales of Selected Oddities from South of the Passes (Lĩnh Nam Chích Quái 大嶺南摭怪: 30,000 characters) by Trần Thế Pháp; Departed Spirits of the Viet Realm (Việt Điện U Linh 粵甸幽靈, 1329) by Lý Tế Xuyên; A Brief History of Đại Việt (Đại Việt Sử Lược 大越史略, 32,000 characters); and Đia Đạo Dận Giải Chương Cú Tập Chú Di Biên (地道引解障句集註遺編, 5,000 characters) by Chu An.
LS in Vietnam during the Lý and Trần dynasties (eleventh to fourteenth centuries) was developed from Buddhist Chinese texts in the Tang and Song dynasties. Sinitic Buddhist texts from Đại Việt during this period absorbed the characteristics of both LS and Vernacular Sinitic—two completely different languages (Mair 1994: 707–51). This situation was also expressed in terms of genres (體裁), terminology (法數), classics (經典), Zen kōan (公案), and literary allusions (典故). The ability of authors during this period to express themselves in both Literary and Vernacular Sinitic was on a par with Chinese writers. Therefore, the LS period during the Lý and Trần dynasties is called the classical period and served as a model for Sinitic literature of successive dynasties in Vietnam. In terms of genres, Confucian texts included administrative documents (decrees, petitions, proclamations, appeals, and so on), ritual texts (state worship rites), poetry, and historical records.
The group of Buddhist texts includes ceremonial books, recorded sayings, translations, poetry, and others. The language of these works also reaches the classical level. For example, some paragraphs of the stele inscriptions are borrowed from the Diamond Sūtra, Flower Ornament Sūtra, Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, and others (Mai 2021: 90–133). However, the highlights include recorded texts of Zen meditation in Recorded Conversations of Tuệ Trung Thượng Sĩ, Recorded Conversations of Sage Monks, and Biographies of Eminent Chan Masters. Reproduction of the language and content of the recorded texts represented the views and epiphany abilities of the monks. This is because we know that recorded texts are a type of text that uses Zen kōan (dialogue meditation) as a method to reach enlightenment quickly, as well as a way to “bring the Buddha down to earth” (Buckelew 2019: 357–400; Berling 1987: 56–88). Historical records show that at that time, intellectuals in Đại Việt read and delivered lectures on books such as the Jingde-era Record of the Transmission of the Lamp (Jingde chuandeng lu 景德傳燈錄), Compendium of the Five Lamps (Wudeng huiyuan 五燈會元), Recorded Sayings of Chan Master Dahui (Dahui yulu 大慧語錄) by Dahui Zonggao (1088–1163), and Recorded Sayings of Chan Master Xuedou (Xuedou yulu 雪竇語錄) by Xuedou Chongxian (980–1052) (Nguyen 1997: 32–35). The language of these Buddhist texts reflects the structure and vocabulary of Medieval Vernacular Sinitic. For instance, it uses vernacular phrases such as shénme (甚麼), dàjiā (大家), nà (那), le (了), zhe (著), jiāng (將), dāng (當), yīng (應), yīng xū (應須), yào (要), kěn (肯), etc. (Phạm 2006: 39–42; Xu 2015: 166–70; Trịnh 2015: 34–86). These traces show the deep impression of living medieval vernacular Chinese in the Tang and Song dynasties on Sinitic literary compositions of the Lý and Trần dynasties, which were formed on the basis of learning from sacred texts in the Buddhist classics.
Meanwhile, administrative documents, especially the system of diplomatic correspondence, evince profound imitation of the classical language of Confucianism (Phạm 2006: 34). These are basically prose texts, which were sometimes interspersed with some bianwen-type phraseology (駢文). The genres used have regular correspondences in names as well as administrative functions with those in China. Specifically, decrees are the king's texts, petitions are the mandarin's statements to the king, and appeals are calls upon people to do something. The language used in these administrative documents often bore clear imprints of LS, with phraseology and vocabulary cited from the Confucian classics. For example, the Imperial Decree on Moving the Capital (Thiên Đô Chiếu 遷都詔, 1010) by King Lý Thái Tổ referred to Emperor Pan Geng of Shang and Emperor Cheng of Zhou with their decisions on moving their capitals. This document also used ancient words in the classics such as jué 厥 (its, his, their) and wăng 罔 (no, not) or words expressing Confucian thought such as “Mandate of Heaven” (tianming 天命) and “wishes of the people” (min yuan 民願). State documents clearly indicate the political ideology of the dynasty. Due to the establishment of Confucianism as the state ideological model, the administrative documents simulated administrative documents under the Huaxia political system. Such documents were written with a formulaic structure and strict linguistic rules. In diplomatic activities, sinographs, LS, and religious classics were important bridges for the political purposes of diplomacy between kingdoms. In this way, the texts (even if they were only silent conversations or brush conversations) were sacred and carried the same value as official documents. Chinese literary texts were both a means and content to reach a general agreement on a political system that used documents to operate the country's institutions. As Liam Kelley puts it, south-to-north missions (scholars) were an integral part of how their world was structured, in the same manner as the stars heading toward the fixed North Star (Kelley 2005: 94–96).
To sum up, during the Early Lê, Lý, and Trần dynasties, copies of the core canonical texts of the Three Teachings (the Dazangjing of Buddhism, the Daozangjing of Taoism, and the Nine Classics or Four Books—Six Classics/ Five Classics of Confucianism) came to Đại Việt through official diplomatic routes. This shows that the Kingdom of Đại Việt, despite being a Confucian government, maintained the connections of “Sinographic culture” simultaneously with both Buddhism and Taoism. The coexistence and cooperation of the Three Teachings (三教並行) was a characteristic of the East Asian political community, which resulted in virtually no religious wars in East Asia for millennia. This is a quite different feature from other religious communities (Christianity, Hinduism, among others). I argue that the East Asian Sinographic Cosmopolis was a multicultural, multi-religious political community, in which Confucianism played an ideological role and coordinated the state model, while Buddhism and Taoism existed in the royal family and folkloric contexts to complement Confucianism. Although Confucianism was considered the state ideology and Confucian examinations played an important role in recruiting mandarins for the country, it seems that the state also prioritized Buddhist and Taoist canons as an important part of its integration into the multi-religious community. A common script and common classic texts helped create common identities for communities, or polities, and were used as markers to claim membership in and belonging to the Sinographic Cosmopolis. This identification allowed Đại Việt to join the broader translocal political system and to participate in the sacred emotions offered by that religious political community. As the Buddhist canon puts it, “the moon reflected in a thousand rivers,” sacred religious texts and sacred writing systems were the signs signifying that doctrine(s) transcended boundaries between north and south.
I wish to express my gratitude to Nguyễn Nam (Vietnam Fulbright University), Nguyễn Duy Chính (USA), Phạm Thị Thảo (VNU), Phùng Ngọc Kiên (VASS), Nguyễn Thụy Đan (Columbia University), and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions. Support for this project (QG.20.64) was provided by the Institute of Trần Nhân Tông Studies, Vietnam National University.
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 275, 4: 129): 庚戌神武二年 (1070)， 。。。秋八月，脩文廟，塑孔子、周公及四配像，畵七十二賢像，四時享祀。 皇太子臨學焉。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之三/李紀/聖宗皇帝, 3: 5a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 10, 4: 160): 乙卯十年(1195)， 。。。試三教，賜出身。 (《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之三/李紀/高宗皇帝, 3: 22a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 25, 39, 4: 184): 癸丑三年 (1253), 。。。 九月，詔天下儒士詣國子院,講《四書六經》。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之五/陳紀/太宗皇帝, 4:19a)。壬申十五年 (1272), 。。。冬十月，詔求賢良：明經者為國子監司業，能講諭《四書五經》之義入侍經幄。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之五/陳紀/聖宗皇帝, 4: 33b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 25, 4: 209): 甲辰十二年 (1304)， 三月。。。其試法：先以《醫國》篇、《穆天子傳》暗寫汰冗。次則經疑、經義并詩題(即古詩五言長篇)用“王度寬猛”。詩律用“才難” 、“射雉”，賦題用“帝德好生洽于民心” 八韻體。三塲：制、詔、表。四塲：對策。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之六/ 陳紀/ 英宗皇帝/, 6: 19a).
癸亥(1072)， 詔以四場試進士。(Xin jiaoben Songshi 1987: 281).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 212, 4: 92): 辛未二年 (971)， 。。。 劉基爲都護府士師。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之一/丁紀/先皇帝/, 1: 3b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 230, 4: 102): 壬寅九年 (1002)， 春三月定律令。 (《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之一/黎紀/大行皇帝/, 1: 23b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 263, 4: 124): 詔改元明道元年 (1042)， 頒《刑書》。初天下獄訟煩擾，法吏拘律文務為深刻，甚者或至枉濫。帝為之惻然，命中書刪定律令，參酌時世之所適用者，敘其門類，編其條貫，别為一代刑書，使觀者易知。書成,詔頒行之，民以為便。 (《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之二/李紀/太宗皇帝, 2: 31a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 263, 4: 133): 丁巳英武昭勝二年 (1077)， 。。。 二月試吏員，以書筭、刑律 。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之三/李紀/仁宗皇帝, 3: 10a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 263, 4: 133): 庚寅六年 (1230)， 春三月，考前代諸例,定為《國朝通制》，反改刑律禮儀，凣二十卷。。。，編國朝事務為《國朝常禮》十卷。 (《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之五/陳紀/太宗皇帝, 5: 6a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 22, 4: 174): 甲辰十三年 (1244)， 。。。 定制律諸格。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之五/陳紀/太宗皇帝, 5: 14a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 155, 4: 174): 辛亥二年 (1371)， 。。。夏四月，立弟恭宣大王曔為皇太子，制《皇訓》十四章賜之。。。冬十月， 。。。 定《國朝通制》，及諸禮儀。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之五/陳紀/太宗皇帝, 5: 14a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 212, 4: 92): 辛未二年 (971)， 初定文武僧道，僧綂吳真流賜號匡越大師，張麻尼爲僧錄，道士鄧玄光授崇真威儀。 (《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之一/丁紀/丁先皇帝, 1: 3b).
Jilu (記籙): The ritual letters of Taoism used to call forth deities and to exorcize evil forces.
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 255, 4: 100): 辛未四年 (1031)， 。。。 冬十月朔，道士鄭智空奏請賜道士受記籙于太清宫，制可。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之二/李紀/太宗皇帝, 2: 19b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 255, 4: 118): 辛未天成四年 (1031)， 。。。， 詔發錢賃工，造寺觀于鄕邑，凡百五十所。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之二/李紀/太宗皇帝, 1: 19b).
辛巳龍符元化元年 (1101)， 。。。 秋七月,。。。 造開元觀。(Đại Việt Sử Lược 1987: 65).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 300, 4: 143): 戊辰 (1128)， 帝幸太清、景靈二宫及城内諸寺觀，拜謝佛道冥祐公平敗真臘人之恩。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之三/陳紀/神宗皇帝, 3: 30b).
癸丑天彰寳嗣元年(1133)， 。。。冬十一月，造延生五岳觀，。。。 設慶成大醮于延生殿。(Đại Việt Sử Lược 1987: 72).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 308, 4: 148): 乙卯三年 (1135)， 。。。， 夏四月， 。。。， 帝幸五岳觀慶成金銀三尊像。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之三/陳紀/神宗皇帝, 3: 39a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 21, 4: 148): 戊申十七年 (1248), 夏四月,造臨波橋於真教禪寺,跨玩蟾池,抵景靈宫、太清觀,極其奢麗。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之三/陳紀/神宗皇帝, 4: 39a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2:26, 4: 177): 丁卯五年 (1255), 。。。皇第六子日燏生。先是，太清宫道士名甚，為帝祈嗣拜章畢。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之五/陳紀/太宗皇帝, 5: 20a).
Chongdian (冲典): Authentic Scripture on the Ultimate Virtue of Unfathomable Emptiness (列子冲虛真經) or Book of Master Lie (Liezi 列子). In 742, Liezi was designated a Taoist classic by Emperor Tang Xuanzong and titled the Liezi Chongxu zhenjing. During the reign of Song Zhenzong, Liezi was honored as the Chongxu zhide zhenjing 冲虛至德真經 (Min and Li 1994: 493; Pregadio 2008: 654–55).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 120, 4: 226): 庚午開祐二年(1330)， 。。。日燏。。。又涉獵史籍，篤慕玄教，通於《冲典》,，。。。，時以該博稱。上皇方幼孺，在閣有疾，常命行安鎮符法，其被氅加冠，如道士状。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之七/陳紀/憲宗皇帝, 7: 4a).
Huanglu 黃籙: Liturgies for the Yellow Register Retreat (Huanglu zhaiyi 黃籙齋儀), completed by Du Guangting 杜光庭 (850–933) in 901.
武林洞：昔，安南四世國主陳仁王棄位，隠其中以成道，號曰：竹林道士，有《香海印詩集》傳於世。(An Nam Chí Lược 2002: 61, 376; An Nam Chí Nguyên 2017: 259).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 3: 20, 4: 174): 甲辰十三年 (1244)， 。。。三月，授馮佐周父馮佐湯為左街道籙，爵㪚郎。時凣王侯授僧道官則呼“左街”，盖不使齒諸朝列。左街僧道之極品，非通練本教則不妄與。今以命佐湯，是優禮也。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之五/陳紀/太宗皇帝, 5: 14a).
The Song dynasty (960–1279) carved woodblock editions of the Dazangjing as follows: (1) the Kaibao Canon 開寶藏, carved in Yizhou (Chengdu now) from 971 to 983; (2) the Chongning Canon 崇寧藏, carved in Fuzhou from 1080 to 1112; (3) the Pilu Canon 毗盧藏, carved in Fuzhou from 1112 to 1172; (4) the Yuanjue Canon 圓覺藏, carved in Huzhou (Zhejiang now) in 1132; (5) the Zifu Canon 資福藏, carved in Ange (Zhejiang now) in 1175; and (6) the Qisha Canon 磧砂藏, carved in Pingjiang (Suzhou now) from 1231 to 1321. Each set of woodblocks of the Dazangjing includes five thousand to seven thousand volumes (Qian 2004: 143; Lê 2016: 67–98; Wu and Chia 2016: 21–23, 145–52).
端拱。。。二年 (989)， 遣使來貢，。。。 先是，治遣僧如可賷表來覲，請《大藏經》，至是賜之。。。其國多有中國典籍，。。。又求印本《大藏經》，詔亦給之。二年，隨台州寧海縣商人鄭仁德船歸其國。(Xin jiaoben Songshi 1987: 14039–135).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 231, 4: 102): 甲辰十一年 (1004), 。。。遣行軍王明提稱攝驩州刺史，聘于宋。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之一/黎紀/大行皇帝/ 1:24a–b).
宋景德元年(1004)六月，桓遣其子黎明提來貢。。。是月，賜黎桓應《大藏經》，從其請也。(An Nam Chí Lược 2002: 230, 475).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998: 1: 234, 4: 102): 甲辰十一年 (1004)， 遣行軍王明提稱攝驩州刺史，聘于宋。明提至汴，懇求恩使宣撫遐裔。宋帝許之。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之一/黎紀/大行皇帝/, 1: 24a–b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 4: 104): 丁未十四年(1007)， 帝仍應天年號，宋景德四年春，遺弟明昶，掌書記黃成雅獻白犀于宋，乞《大藏》經文。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之一/黎紀/大行皇帝/, 1: 28b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 235, 4: 105): 己酉二年 (1009)春，明昶自宋還，得《大藏》經文。 (《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之一/黎紀/大行皇帝/ 1: 29a).
乙亥，交州來貢，賜黎龍廷《九經》、及佛氏書。辛巳，以龍廷為靜海軍節度、交阯郡王，賜名“至忠”。(Xin jiaoben Songshi 1987: 134; Wu and Chia 2016: 152–53).
大中祥符三年(1014)， 。。。十二月，公蘊遣使賀禮 汾陰、后土，又表乞《大藏經》， 及御禮八體書法，從之，仍頒《大藏經》，太宗御書一百軸。(An Nam Chí Lược 2002: 476). “大中祥符三年(1014)， 。。。，十二月，公蘊遣使節度判官長州刺史梁任文、副使觀察巡官黎再嚴來貢方物，賀親祀汾陰、后土，又表乞賜《大藏經》、及御劄八體書法，從之，仍賜太宗御製御書一百卷軸，及降詔書示諭。(《宋會要輯稿》 / 蕃夷 / 蕃夷四 / 交趾 / 真宗 / 大中祥符三年, 29).
天禧二年(1018)五月，賜公蘊《道藏經》，從其請也。(《宋會要輯稿》 / 蕃夷 / 蕃夷四 / 交趾 / 真宗 / 天禧二年, 71421).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 246, 4: 112): 戊午九年 (1018)夏六月，遣員外郎阮道清、范鶴如宋，乞《三藏經》。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之二/李紀/太祖皇帝, 2: 8b) . . . 己未十年 (1020) 秋九月，阮道清使回，得《三藏經》，詔僧綂費智往廣州迎之。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之二/李紀/太祖皇帝, 2: 8b).
熙寧 (1072)， 。。。 十二月，遣使進馬，贖《大藏經》，詔賜之，而還其馬。(Xin jiaoben Songshi 1987: 14135).
辛酉英武昭勝六年 (1081)， 。。。 使員外郎梁用律如宋，請《大藏經》。 (Đại Việt Sử Lược 1987: 104).
元豐五年(1082), 。。。八月，詔賜交阯郡王李乾德釋典一《大藏》。(Song Huiyao Jigao 2021: 45).
戊寅會豐七年 (1099)，遣貟外郎阮文信如宋，乞《三藏經》。(Đại Việt Sử Lược 1987: 65)
元符二年(1099)， 。。。交州南平王李乾德言乞釋典一《大藏》，詔印經院印送賜之. (Song Huiyao Jigao 2021: 41).
寳鑑禪師。。。幼習儒業，《詩》、《書》、《禮》、《易》無所不究。(Thiền Uyển Tập Anh 1225: 24b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 25, 4: 177): 癸丑三年 (1253)， 。。。 九月，詔天下儒士詣國子院，講四書六經。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之五/陳紀/太宗皇帝, 5: 19a).
臣僻處炎荒，夙依皇覺，緬懷貝葉，傳自中華。唐宋之時，曾馱來於白馬；大兵至日，已化作於死灰。。。 賜萬五千馀卷之經；遵海而南，救百姓億兆民之苦。(An Nam Chí Lược 2002: 434).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 73, 4: 201): 乙未三年 (1295)，春二月朔，元使箫泰登來。帝遣内貟外郎陳克用、范討偕行，收得《大藏經》部回，留天長府，副本刊行。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之六/陳紀/英宗皇帝, 6:3a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 277, 4: 132): 乙卯四年 (1075)， 春二月，詔選明經博學，及試儒學三場。黎文盛中選，進侍帝。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之二/李紀/仁宗皇帝, 2: 8a).
交趾陳元旦。。。其人通曉曆法，甞着《百世通紀》書，上考堯甲辰，下至宋元日月，交蝕星辰纏度，與古人符合。奉道精煉，祇雨有應，自號冰壺子。 (Lê Trừng, Nam Ông Mộng Lục 南翁梦錄; Chen and Wang 1987: 23–24).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn thư (1998, 2: 184, 4: 258): 季犛作《明道》十四篇，。。。以韓愈為盗儒，謂周戊叔、程顥、程頤、楊時、羅仲素、李延平、朱子之徒：學博而才疎，不切事情，而務為剽窃。上皇賜詔奬諭之。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之七/陳紀/太宗皇帝, 7: 22a–b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 190, 3: 258): 丙子九年(1396)， 。。。冬十一月，季犛作《國語詩義》并序，令女師教后妃及宫人學習。序中多出己意，不從朱子《集傳》。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之八/陳紀/順宗皇帝, 8: 27b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998: 1: 241, 4: 113): 癸亥十四年 (1023)， 秋九月，詔寫《三藏經》留於大興藏。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之二/李紀/太祖皇帝, 2: 9b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 247, 4: 113): 丁卯十八年 (1027)， 詔寫《三藏經》。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之二/李紀/太祖皇帝, 2: 10b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 258, 4: 113): 李太宗通瑞三年 (1036)， 二月，詔寫《大藏經》留于重興藏。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之二/本紀卷之六/陳紀/英宗皇帝, 2: 9b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 1: 294, 4: 140): 丙午七年(1126)， 。。。 三月，設慶賀五經，禮于壽聖寺。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之一/本紀卷之六/李紀/仁宗皇帝, 1: 24a).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 78, 4: 203): 己亥七年 (1299), 。。。八月,。。。 印行《佛教法事》、《道塲新文》及《公文格式》頒天下。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之六/陳紀/英宗皇帝, 6: 8a).
興隆十六年(1308)戊申正月初一日，。。。調御陞座說法，。。。又以經史外書百函，及所刺血寫《大藏》小夾二十函付師，以廣内外學。(Épigraphie en Chinois du Viet-Nam 1998: 423–65).
興隆十九年辛亥(1311)，奉詔續刊《大藏經》板。師命寶剎主其事。(Épigraphie en Chinois du Viet-Nam 1998: 429).
大慶元年(1314)甲寅，太上皇即位。。。 英宗賜《大藏經》五百函以為其寺常住。(Épigraphie en Chinois du Viet-Nam 1998: 430).
大慶六年己未(1319), 。。。十二月、師募僧俗有緣者刺血印《大藏》五千餘卷,置瓊林院。英宗親刺玉血寫《大藏》小夾二十函賜師。 (Épigraphie en Chinois du Viet-Nam 1998: 430).
大慶八年辛酉 (1321), 。。。 奉詔為昭慈皇太妃安法號,寫《大藏經後跋》。先是英宗與太后及宮嬪等刺血寫《大藏經》五千餘卷既畢。至是,太上皇詔師跋其後。(Épigraphie en Chinois du Viet-Nam 1998: 432).
大慶九年壬戌(1322), 。。。檢校司徒文惠王請師就安隆第講《首楞經》,刊《四分律》,删補抄板印施凡五千餘本。(Épigraphie en Chinois du Viet-Nam 1998: 432).
大慶十年癸亥(1323), 。。。撰《金剛場陀羅尼經科註》,刊板印行。(Épigraphie en Chinois du Viet-Nam 1998: 432).
開祐元年(1329)， 己巳七月，。。。立僧二百餘名，度僧尼一萬五千餘人，印大藏經一部。(Épigraphie en Chinois du Viet-Nam 1998: 434).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 127, 4: 229): 辛巳十四年 (1341)， . . . 命張漢超、阮忠彦編定《皇朝大典》，考撰《刑書》，頒行。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之六/陳紀/憲宗皇帝, 6:10b).
Đại Việt Sử Kí Toàn Thư (1998, 2: 189, 4: 260): 丙子九年明洪武二十九年 (1396), 。。。夏四月,初行通寳會鈔。印成,令人換錢,每錢一鏹取鈔一緍二陌。(《大越史記全書》/本紀卷之八/陳紀/順宗皇帝, 8: 26a).