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Pali Canon/Timelines

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A timeline (or several) relating to Pali Canon.


  • c. 544: according to tradition, compilation of the Canon, with comparatively small amounts of material added later
  • c. 480–c. 400: according to most scholars, approximate dates of the Buddha, from whose teachings the Canon gradually developed
  • 4th century: according to the late Professor Warder, average date of the Canon
  • c. 250: according to Professor Holder, Canon completed by about this time; Professor Gombrich says only that it was much like its present form
  • last century: according to most authorities, Canon written down from oral tradition; some scholars say little or nothing was added after this

  • 2nd century: according to the late Professor Nakamura, earliest possible date for completion of the Canon
  • 4th or 5th century: Buddhaghosa, most important commentator on the Canon; according to Professor Samuel, the Canon itself largely derives from his and his colleagues' work; it seems from the context that what he means by this is that they were largely responsible for the choice of material from the much larger corpus in circulation at that time
  • 5th to 10th century: commentator(s?) Dhammapāla
  • 8th or 9th century: oldest known manuscript fragment of the Canon
  • 12th century: commentator Sāriputta
  • 15th century: oldest known manuscripts of substantial portions of the Canon
  • 1477/8: council at Chieng Mai (Thailand) to reedit the Canon
  • c. 1500: commentator Ñāṇakitti
  • 1753: King of Siam sends many manuscripts to Ceylon to replace lost texts
  • 1788/9: after many manuscipts lost in Siamese civil war, council held at Bangkok to reedit Canon
  • 1856: reediting begun in Burma
  • 1860s: reedited text inscribed on 729 marble slabs
  • 1871: inscriptions approved by [Fifth] Council, Mandalay
  • 1881: Pali Text Society founded in England by T. W. Rhys Davids to print the Canon and other texts
  • c. 1893: first attempt at a complete printed edition, Siam, incomplete
  • c. 1900: what seems to be the first complete printed edition of the Canon appears in Burma in 38 volumes
  • 1925-8: main Siamese edition, in 45 volumes
  • 1931-69: Khmer (parallel-text) edition, 110 volumes
  • 1954-6: Sixth Council, nominally ecumenical but Burmese-dominated, approves 40-volume edition
  • 1957-89: main Sinhalese (parallel-text) edition, 52 volumes in 58
  • 1988: digitization of the Canon completed in Thailand
  • 1994: Canon goes online