An Shigao


An Shigao was a prince of Parthia, nicknamed the "Parthian Marquis", who renounced his claim to the royal throne of Parthia in order to serve as a Buddhist missionary monk in China.

The prefix An in An Shigao's name is an abbreviation of Anxi, the Chinese name given to the regions ruled by the Arsacids. Most visitors from that country who took a Chinese name received the An prefix to indicate their Anxi origin. In 148 AD, An Shigao arrived in China at the Han Dynasty capital of Luoyang, where he produced a substantial number of translations of Indian Buddhist texts and attracted a devoted community of followers. More than a dozen works by An Shigao are currently extant, including texts dealing with meditation, abhidharma, and basic Buddhist doctrines. An Shigao's corpus does not contain any Mahāyāna scriptures, though he himself is regularly referred to as a "bodhisattva" in early Chinese sources. Scholarly studies of his translations have shown that they are most closely affiliated with the Sarvāstivāda school.

An Shigao is the first Buddhist translator to be named in Chinese sources. Another Anxi translator, a layman named An Xuan, worked in Luoyang (together with a Chinese collaborator, Yan Fotiao) slightly after An Shigao's time, producing a translation of a Mahāyāna scripture, the Ugraparipṛcchā­sūtra (in Chinese, the Fajing jing, Taishō no. 322) c. 181 AD.