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Kumarajiva (kōmärˈəjĭvə) [key], 344–413, Buddhist scholar and missionary, b. Kucha, in what is now Xinjiang, China. When his mother, a Kuchean princess, became a nun, he followed her into monastic life at the age of seven. He grew up in centers of Hinayana Buddhism, but he was converted to Mahayana Buddhism in his teens and became a specialist in Madhyamika philosophy. In 383, Chinese forces seized Kucha and carried Kumarajiva off to China. From 401 he was at the Ch'in court in the capital Chang'an (the modern Xi'an), where he taught and translated Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. More than 100 translations are attributed to him. Of these only about 24 can be authenticated, but they include some of the most important titles in the Chinese Buddhist canon. Kumarajiva's career had an epoch-making influence on Chinese Buddhist thought, not only because he made available important texts that were previously unknown, but also because he did much to clarify Buddhist terminology and philosophical concepts. He and his disciples established the Chinese branch of the Madhyamika, known as the San-lun, or "Three Treatises" school.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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