The Light of the Three Ages: A Japanese Nun Illumines the Life of the Buddha in India


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Grants for Critical Editions and Scholarly Translations


Asian Languages and Cultures


This project will eventuate in the first English translation of The Light of the Three Ages (Miyo no hikari, ca. 1830). This life of the Buddha was written in neoclassical Japanese, but it reflects deep and critical engagement with biographical sources from the body of Chinese Buddhist canonical literature. Its author, a vinaya expert and nun named Kōgetsu Sōgi (1756-1833), stands out as a rare female author from early modern Japan whose work was put into print in her own day. Corollary aims for this project, to be undertaken primarily at Kyōto University, include (1) research into Kōgetsu’s Chinese-language sources and related eighteenth-century Japanese literature; (2) fieldwork in the (as-yet uncatalogued) archive of the convent which she co-founded; and (3) inquiry into the later history and influence of this book, her life’s work.