By « Lives », we mean complete or summarized biographical accounts, including autobiographies, accounts of a particular event in the life of one or several individuals, as well as epitaphs and information inserted in a historiographical account or a travelogue.

« Buddhist actors » are not only monks and nuns, whether ’eminent’ or not, but also lay believers who exercised some influence (donor, witness or actor of a prodigy, employee at the monastery…).

The « Sinosphere » is the geographical area in which Chinese culture was imprinted, and where Chinese writing is or was used (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Central Asia). The focus will be placed on the periods during which classical Chinese was used to transmit Buddhist culture.

« Extra-canonical » is all that has not been included in the Sinicist historical canons or that deviates from canonical orthodoxy (i.e. from the genre of biographies of eminent monks), and which is transmitted through media such as manuscripts from Dunhuang and elsewhere, inscriptions, steles, biji, epitaphs, vernacular literature and non-Chinese sources.


One idea would be to show the diversity of sources and the variety of narrative forms, which are themselves imbued with local East Asian narrative traditions. We will observe the points of convergence and divergence between these different forms and we will also pay attention to the textual practices that guide the way these texts were produced, reproduced, annotated, commented and circulated (collection, exegesis, reproduction/imitation, etc.).

Another idea would be to show the tension between orthodox and unorthodox texts, and the existence of different degrees of orthodoxy. The fact that extracanonical sources circulated shows that they were at one time and within a certain perimeter, given the stamp of orthodoxy or authenticity. The notion of orthodoxy or authenticity is a social construction shaped by groups of followers who produced, transmitted and venerated these texts. It would be necessary to pay attention to the dynamics of these groups.


Three half-day workshops per year with presentations by two participants of their work in progress, followed by discussion. The cycle of workshops will end with the organisation of a colloquium or a panel at an international conference, which will result in the publication of proceedings or a special issue of a journal.

The creation of a research notebook is envisaged.

Since the program began in April 2023, two workshops have been held.

11 april 2023:

Yannick Bruneton (UPC): La problématique de la transmission dans la construction des biographies de religieux de l’école Sŏn au XIVe siècle : les cas de T’aego 太古, Na’ong 懶翁 et Paegun 白雲 du Koryŏ, disciples de Zhikong 指空, Pingshan 平山 et Shiwu 石屋 sous les Yuan.

Vincent Goossaert (EPHE):  Les saints bouddhistes dans les réseaux sociaux de dieux chinois.

12 september 2023:

Jean-Noël Robert (CDF): Le bouddhisme promu par ses ennemis ?

Daniela Campo (Uni. Strasbourg):  Instructions religieuses (kaishi 開示) et autobiographies bouddhiques en Chine au XXe siècle.

The third workshop will take place in December 2023. The April-September-December rhythm will be maintained in the following years.



biography-historiography religion



Sylvie Hureau (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Garance Chao Zhang (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

CRCAO members

Full members
Sylvie Hureau (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Liying Kuo (École française d'Extrême-Orient)
Alexis Lycas (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Jean-Noël Robert (Collège de France)

Associated members
Daniela Campo (University of Strasbourg)
Didier Davin (National Institute of Japanese Literature 国文学研究資料館)
Vincent Goossaert (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Yannick Bruneton (Université Paris Cité)

Research support
Garance Chao Zhang (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

Doctoral students
Junxi Long (School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences)

Outside Participants

Catherine Despeux (INALCO)
Xiaoming Hou (post-doctoral student, UC Berkeley)