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Summary The Three-Treatise (or Sanlun) school is the orthodox Chinese Mādhyamika tradition, which was pioneered by Kumārajīva (344?−413?), a prestigious thinker and translator of Indian extraction, and his distinguished disciple Sengzhao (Seng-chao; 374?−414), and later vigorously revived by Jizang (Chi-tsang; 549−623). The school derives its name “three-treatise” from its emphasis on the three translation texts of early Indian Madhyamaka, the Middle Treatise (Zhong lun), the Twelve Gate Treatise (Shiermen lun), and the Hundred Treatise (Bai lun). Both Sengzhao and Jizang, the two leading philosophers of the school, uphold the view that all things are indeterminate and empty. Sengzhao affirms the nonduality of motion and rest, the myriad things and emptiness, and also the subject and the object. Jizang highlights the notion of nonacquisition (or nonattachment) and famously reinterprets and reconstructs the Mādhyamika doctrine of two truths.
Key works Liebenthal 1968 contains a complete, though often inaccurate, English translation of Sengzhao’s main work, the Zhaolun; a few essays in the work are available in English in Chan 1963 and Robinson 1976. Jizang’s main writings include the Profound Meaning of the Three Treatises (Sanlun xuanyi), the Meaning of the Two Truths (Erdi yi), and A Commentary on the Middle Treatise (Zhongguan lun shu). However, none of the texts is available in English.
Introductions Robinson 1976; Liu 1994.
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  1. Muchael Berman (1997). Time and Emptiness in the Chao-Lun. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 24 (1):43-58.
  2. Brian Bocking & Youxuan Wang (2006). Signs of Liberation?—A Semiotic Approach to Wisdom in Chinese Madhyamika Buddhism. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 33 (3):375–392.
  3. Zongqi Cai (1993). Derrida and Seng-Zhao: Linguistic and Philosophical Deconstructions. Philosophy East and West 43 (3):389-404.
  4. Chung-Yuan Chang (1974). Nirvana is Nameless. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 1 (3‐4):247-274.
  5. G. Chatalian (1972). A Study of R. H. Robinson's Early Mādhyamika in India and China. Journal of Indian Philosophy 1 (4):311-340.
  6. Hsüeh-Li Cheng (1982). Causality as Soteriology: An Analysis of the Central Philosophy of Buddhism. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 9 (4):423-440.
  7. Hsueh-Li Cheng (1981). Chi-Tsang's Treatment of Metaphysical Issues. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 8 (3):371-389.
  8. Hsueh-Li Cheng (1980). Motion and Rest in the Middle Treatise. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 7 (3):229-244.
  9. Bart Dessein (2011). Time, Temporality, and the Characteristic Marks of the Conditioned: Sarvāstivāda and Madhyamaka Buddhist Interpretations. Asian Philosophy 21 (4):341 - 360.
    According to the Buddhist concept of ?dependent origination? (prat?tyasamutp?da), discrete factors come into existence because of a combination of causes (hetu) and conditions (pratyaya). Such discrete factors, further, are combinations of five aggregates (pañ caskandha) that, themselves, are subject to constant change. Discrete factors, therefore, lack a self-nature (?tman). The passing through time of discrete factors is characterized by the ?characteristic marks of the conditioned?: birth (utp?da), change in continuance (sthityanyath?tva), and passing away (vyaya); or, alternatively: birth (j?ti), duration (sthiti), (...)
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  10. Jeffrey Dippmann, Sengzhao. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  11. Alan Fox (1992). Self-Reflection in the Sanlun Tradition: Madhyamika as the "Deconstructive Conscience" of Buddhism. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 19 (1):1-24.
  12. Alan Fox (1986). Book Review of Hsueh-Li Cheng's Empty Logic: Madhyamike Buddhism From Chinese Sources. [REVIEW] Journal of Chinese Philosophy 13 (3):361-364.
  13. Chien-Hsing Ho, The Way of Nonacquisition: Jizang’s Philosophy of Ontic Indeterminacy.
    For Jizang (549−623), a prominent philosophical exponent of Chinese Madhyamaka, all things are empty of determinate form or nature. Given anything X, no linguistic item can truly and conclusively be applied to X in the sense of positing a determinate form or nature therein. This philosophy of ontic indeterminacy is connected closely with his notion of the Way (dao 道), which seems to indicate a kind of ineffable principle of reality. However, Jizang also equates the Way with nonacquisition as a (...)
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  14. Chien-Hsing Ho (2014). Emptiness as Subject-Object Unity: Sengzhao on the Way Things Truly Are. Routledge.
    Sengzhao (374?−414 CE), a leading Chinese Mādhyamika philosopher, holds that the myriad things are empty, and that they are, at bottom, the same as emptiness qua the way things truly are. In this paper, I distinguish the level of the myriad things from that of the way things truly are and call them, respectively, the ontic and the ontological levels. For Sengzhao, the myriad things at the ontic level are indeterminate and empty, and he equates the way things truly are (...)
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  15. Chien-Hsing Ho (2013). Ontic Indeterminacy and Paradoxical Language: A Philosophical Analysis of Sengzhao's Linguistic Thought. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 12 (4):505-522.
    For Sengzhao 僧肇 (374−414 CE), a leading Sanlun 三論 philosopher of Chinese Buddhism, things in the world are ontologically indeterminate in that they are devoid of any determinate form or nature. In his view, we should understand and use words provisionally, so that they are not taken to connote the determinacy of their referents. To echo the notion of ontic indeterminacy and indicate the provisionality of language, his main work, the Zhaolun 肇論, abounds in paradoxical expressions. In this essay, I (...)
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  16. Chien-Hsing Ho (2012). One Name, Infinite Meanings: Jizang's Thought on Meaning and Reference. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39 (3):436-452.
    Jizang sets forth a hermeneutical theory of “one name, infinite meanings” that proposes four types of interpretation of word meaning to the effect that a nominal word X means X, non-X, the negation of X, and all things whatsoever. In this article, I offer an analysis of the theory, with a view to elucidating Jizang's thought on meaning and reference and considering its contemporary significance. The theory, I argue, may best be viewed as an expedient means for telling us how (...)
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  17. Chien-Hsing Ho (2012). The Nonduality of Speech and Silence: A Comparative Analysis of Jizang’s Thought on Language and Beyond. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (1):1-19.
    Jizang (549−623 CE), the key philosophical exponent of the Sanlun tradition of Chinese Buddhism, based his philosophy considerably on his reading of the works of Nāgārjuna (c.150−250 CE), the founder of the Indian Madhyamaka school. However, although Jizang sought to follow Nāgārjuna closely, there are salient features in his thought on language that are notably absent from Nāgārjuna’s works. In this paper, I present a philosophical analysis of Jizang’s views of the relationship between speech and silence and compare them with (...)
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  18. Chien-Hsing Ho (2008). The Finger Pointing Toward the Moon: A Philosophical Analysis of the Chinese Buddhist Thought of Reference. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 35 (1):159-177.
    In this essay I attempt a philosophical analysis of the Chinese Buddhist thought of linguistic reference to shed light on how the Buddhist understands the way language refers to an ineffable reality. For this purpose, the essay proceeds in two directions: an enquiry into the linguistic thoughts of Sengzhao (374-414 CE) and Jizang (549-623 CE), two leading Chinese Madhyamika thinkers, and an analysis of the Buddhist simile of a moon-pointing finger. The two approaches respectively constitute the horizontal and vertical axes (...)
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  19. Leon Hurvitz (1975). The First Systematizations of Buddhist Thought in China. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 2 (4):361-388.
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  20. Shohei Ichimura (1992). On the Paradoxical Method of the Chinese Mādhyamika: Seng-Chao and the Chao-Lun Treatise. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 19 (1):51-71.
  21. Hans-Rudolf Kantor (2011). Ambivalence of Illusion:A Chinese Buddhist Perspective. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (2):274-292.
  22. Hans-Rudolf Kantor (2011). 'Right Words Are Like the Reverse'—The Daoist Rhetoric and the Linguistic Strategy in Early Chinese Buddhism. Asian Philosophy 20 (3):283-307.
    ?Right words are like the reverse? is the concluding remark of chap. 78 in the Daoist classic Daodejing. Quoted in treatises composed by Seng Zhao (374?414), it designates the linguistic strategy used to unfold the Buddhist Madhyamaka meaning of ?emptiness? and ?ultimate truth?. In his treatise Things Do not Move, Seng Zhao demonstrates that ?motion and stillness? are not really contradictory, performing the deconstructive meaning of Buddhist ?emptiness? via the corresponding linguistic strategy. Though the topic of the discussion and the (...)
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  23. Aaron K. Koseki (1984). Chi-Tsang's "Sheng-Man Pao-K'u:" The True Dharma Doctrine and the Bodhisattva Ideal. Philosophy East and West 34 (1):67-83.
  24. Aaron K. Koseki (1981). The Concept of Practice in San-Lun Thought: Chi-Tsang and the "Concurrent Insight" of the Two Truths. Philosophy East and West 31 (4):449-466.
  25. Whalen W. Lai (1983). Once More on the Two Truths: What Does Chi-Tsang Mean by the Two Truths as 'Yüeh-Chiao'? Religious Studies 19 (4):505 - 521.
  26. Whalen W. Lai (1980). Further Developments of the Two Truths Theory in China: The "Ch'eng-Shih-Lun" Tradition and Chou Yung's "San-Tsung-Lun". Philosophy East and West 30 (2):139-161.
  27. Whalen W. Lai (1978). Sinitic Understanding of the Two Truths Theory in the Liang Dynasty (502-557): Ontological Gnosticism in the Thoughts of Prince Chao-Ming. [REVIEW] Philosophy East and West 28 (3):339-351.
  28. Ming-Wood Liu (1994). Madhyamaka Thought in China. E.J. Brill.
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  29. Ming-Wood Liu (1993). A Chinese Madhyamaka Theory of Truth: The Case of Chi-Tsang. Philosophy East and West 43 (4):649-673.
  30. Ming-Wood Liu (1987). Seng-Chao and the Mādhyamka Way of Refutation. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 14 (1):97-110.
  31. Ming-Wood Liu (1985). The Yogācārā and Mādhyamika Interpretations of the Buddha-Nature Concept in Chinese Buddhism. Philosophy East and West 35 (2):171-193.
  32. Robert Magliola (2004). Nagarjuna and Chi-Tsang on the Value of "This World": A Reply to Kuang-Ming Wu's Critique of Indian and Chinese Madhyamika Buddhism. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 31 (4):505–516.
  33. Tan Mingran (2008). Emptiness, Being and Non-Being: Sengzhao's Reinterpretation of the Laozi and Zhuangzi in a Buddhist Context. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 7 (2):195-209.
  34. Siddha Nāgārhuna (1966). Nāgārhuna's Philosophy as Presented in the Mahā-Prajñāpāramitā-Sāstra. Rutland, Vt.,Published for the Harvard-Yenching Institute [by] C. E. Tuttle Co..
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  35. Galia Patt-Shamir (2011). The “Dual Citizenship” of Emptiness: A Reading of the Bu Zhenkong Lun. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (3):474-490.
  36. Richard H. Robinson (1976). Early Madhyamika in India and China. Motilal Banarsidass.
    This book gives a descriptive analysis of specific Madhyamika texts. It compares the ideology of Kumarajiva (a translator of the four Madhyamika treatises 400 A.D.) with the ideologies of the three Chinese contemporaries - HuiYuan, Seng-Jui and Seng-Chao. It envisages an intercultural transmission of religious and philosophical ideas from India to China.
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  37. Richard H. Robinson (1959). Mysticism and Logic in Seng-Chao's Thought. Philosophy East and West 8 (3/4):99-120.
  38. Kuang-Ming Wu (2006). Response to Robert Magliola's Review Article on My View of Madhyamika Buddhism. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 33 (2):299–301.