Earliest translation of a Buddhist text into English

What was the earliest translation of a Buddhist text into English? (Here)

To be technically precise, the translation could be from any Buddhist tradition, and could be a translation of a translation. (Chinese -> French -> English) It does not have to be a translation of a complete text. Here is what I have so far:

Simon de la Loubère, Du Royaume de Siam, 1691.
English Translation: Kingdom of Siam, 1693. (Here)

“Indeed, La Loubere himself says that the second volume of his book, which contains descriptions of Siamese religion, linguistics, mathematics, natural history, and astronomy, and includes translations from Pali, the language of Theravada Buddhist texts, was written by other unspecified authors.” (Here.)

[This is a Pali -> French -> English or Pali -> Thai -> French -> English translation. It is only a translation of fragments. I have yet to find the fragments in it.]

The Catechism of the shamans, or, The laws and regulations of the priesthood of Buddha in China, translated by Karl Friedrich Neumann. Appears to be a translation of a Mahayana Vinaya. (Here).

“Buddhism in the West began in 1844, when Unitarian Elizabeth Palmer Peabody translated a section of the Lotus Sutra into English.” (Here)

Unfortunately, this claim leaves a lot to be desired. Here is a more complete account:

Introduction à l’histoire du buddhisme indien, Eugène Burnouf [French].

Also 1844:
“The Preaching of the Buddha”, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (Unitarian), in The Dial (transcendentalist U.S. magazine). Translated a part of the Lotus Sutra from Burnouf’s text. (Here)

[We can see examples as early as 1816 and earlier of Buddhism discussed in Western texts. It’s simply incorrect to argue that the West had no knowledge of it before 1844. Here is an example, even if it’s a rather ridiculous one.]


Thanks for the interesting question. The Catechism of the Shamans, thanks to the wonder of the Internet Archive, is available:


It gives the ten precepts for the novice with commentary, as well as a section on their duties. I cannot tell whether this is a Chinese or Indian text. But it is amazing to see this very early attempt at grappling with the simplest of Buddhist ideas.

I can’t find Peabody’s text online, though.


Thank you, Bhante. I have updated a lot of the information in my original post for the benefit of everyone. May the search continue!

Found it here:


Apparently it’s her work, but was not attributed.

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