siamiwako wrote:I was told that Buddhist texts written in classic Chinese were actually colloquial during the T'ang dynasty to make it easier for commoners to read and understand.
I recall reading something similar a while back. There is an interesting parallel with POJ instead of characters, for spreading Christianity in Southern China in the 19th and early 20th century.
My theory is that in any established society, there are mechanisms in place for preserving the status quo. One of these mechanisms in the past was the form "Classical Chinese", which was far removed from daily speech, and hence difficult to master. Another of these was the Chinese character script, which itself (even in its vernacular form) took many years of effort to master*. When a group of people wanted to introduce a new religion to the country, they wanted to reach the "common people" so they used forms of the written language which would be more accessible. So, for the spread of Buddhism, they used colloquial Tang speech rather than Classical Chinese**, and for the spread of Christianity, they used POJ instead of characters.
Another parallel to these is the use of (the embryonic forms of) English, German, Dutch instead of Latin, for the spread of Protestantism in North Western Europe.
*: preserving the status quo. I'm not trying to imply that the preservation of status quo was necessarily an "evil plot" by the landed gentry or official mandarin class or anything like that. It could just as much be just a "natural process", where all segments of society respect and admire Classical Chinese instead of colloquial Chinese (respectively characters instead of POJ).
**: I'm aware that Buddhism was introduced to China before the Tang (from memory, in the Han, but perhaps even earlier), but I'm just sticking to "Tang", as mentioned by siamiwako, also because I'm aware that this was a period when Buddhism particularly started to flourish in China. The colloquial texts mentioned above are both a cause and a result of this blossoming.
PS. I should add a qualification that despite this particular "take" I have on the situation of Classical Chinese vs colloquial Chinese, traditional characters vs POJ, (and, for that matter traditional characters vs simplified characters), I'm not
against the first member of each of the pairs. I highly admire Classical Chinese (even though I don't know any - I like is as a concept!), and I like traditional characters. In fact, I like them all, including simplified characters (as mentioned in earlier postings) and POJ. I think they all
have a role to play in the whole complex which is "culture and history".