Digital Dictionary of Buddhism

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The project of the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism (usually referred to by the acronym DDB) was initiated by Charles Muller, a specialist in East Asian Buddhism, during his first year of graduate school when he realized the dearth of lexicographical works available for both East Asian Buddhism and classical Chinese. Since that time, he has continued to compile the terminology from the texts that he has studied and translated, extending for almost twenty years.

In 1995, with the advent of the Internet, Muller converted his data set from the word processor files in which they were originally stored, into HTML format, and placed them on his web site, with the aim of making his work-in-progress available to a broad audience, and to see if it would be possible to take advantage of the WWW to encourage collaboration in the project.

Both aims have been realized. Soon after setting this lexicon on the web, numerous scholars came forth to offer assistance in the form of both technical implementation and content contributions. Additionally, the project was able to secure a series of JSPS grants from 1997-2003, which greatly hastened the expansion of the coverage of both works. During this period, the storage format of the dictionaries was changed to SGML, and then XML. In 2001, with the help of Humanities Computing XML specialist Michael Beddow, the dictionaries were reset on the web in XML format with a search engine, which is the arrangement being used at present.

The DDB, as of May 2008, contains over 45,000 entries, including Buddhist terms, texts, schools, temples, and persons. Entries range in scope from short glossary type, to full-length encyclopedic articles. Now supported by dozens of collaborators with specialist's expertise in a wide range of areas in Buddhist studies, the expansion rate of the DDB has been exponential in recent years. A special dimension of both dictionaries is their usage of XML attributes to accredit contributors for their work at the level entry segments (XML "nodes") rather than only at the level of full entries. Being an ongoing digital project, entries and nodes of the work can be revised and expanded by their original authors, and supplemented by the contributions of others. Also, being a digital compilation, it is full-text searchable, and entries are hyperlinked. Unlike Wikipedia however, editorial privileges to the DDB are limited to accredited specialists in the field of Buddhist Studies, in order to avoid inaccuracies and various sectarian distortions.

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