The present paper takes together three Tunhuang pieces (=fragments) TH-285 (I, II and III) from the Tunhuang collection of the Institute of Oriental Studies (St. Petersburg), being parts of a text that may be considered as representing a popular narrative and if precisely -- the one in the pien-wen genre.
In the late 1950's professor Cheng Chen-do when visited St. Petersburg (at that time -- Leningrad) showed a great interest in the Tunhuang collection and in regard with one of the three pieces mentioned above, namely, TH-285 III, (two other pieces were found in the St. Petersburg collection later) the famous Chinese scholar came out with a suggestion that this piece referred to a fragmentary text of the pien-wen "The Crown Prince has left home".
Proceeding to analyse the piece TH-285, III by comparing its text with that of the Buddhist sutra I hazarded to advance my own opinion that the text in question is extremely close to the "Sutra on the Crown Prince Sudhana"  and should be determined as a part of a pien-wen unknown before but undoubtedly related to the cycle "On Buddha's Life". (It is to be noted that there is no serious contradiction between prof. Cheng's suggestion and my guess.)
Later in the Tunhuang collection two other pieces (TH- 285, I and II) were found, which proved to be parts of the same text as the TH-285, III. A careful examination of these pieces of our text has shown that I was quite correct in my way of identifying TH-285, III as a part of an unknown pien-wen. Thus I have got sound reasons to assert that the pieces TH-285 I,II and III are nothing else but a fragmentary text of a pien-wen based on the "Sutra on the Crown Prince Sudhana".
When comparing the manuscript (hereafter MS) under consideration with the sutra in congruence, attention should be paid to some specific points.
Firstly. A formal feature for distinguishing the Buddhist pien-wen  is a certain proportion between a rather short quotation from the sutra preceding a vast enough text of the pien-wen itself. However such correlation is not typical for the pieces in question and the "Sutra on the Crown Prince Sudhana".
Secondly. Certain passages in our fragments agree completely with those of the sutra; others have some variations but they do not touch seriously the general meaning; in some cases there are passages in our MS that are not covered in full by the sutra and vice versa -- certain extracts of the sutra are not covered in full by the MS . I suppose that special attention should be paid to the passages in our MS (they may be rather short or lengthy) that have no relative to them in the sutra. Almost in all cases these extracts describe especially affective and moving events (such as, for example, the threatening scenes of all sorts of horrors that could happen to a person who had to stay in the wild mountains -- recounting all manner of horrors the Crown Prince tried by all means to persuade his wife not to follow him in the exile; another example is the episode when the officials appealed to the King with a complain against the Crown Prince who had given away the enemy the great white elephant and thus enormously weakened the Kingdom, see TH-285, I).
There are no sound reasons to assume that we are dealing with another Chinese translation of the same sutra : though there exists another translation but its text does not agree at all with that of our MS.
Today it is needless to prove the well known fact that the fundamental specific feature of pien-wen as a genre of popular narrative is precisely the alternating of prose and verse passages , or, in other words, the prosimetric form  .Therefore the presence of verses in the text of the piece TH-285, II, whereas the text of the Chinese translation of the "Sutra on the Crown Prince Sudhana" is entirely prosaic, may be taken as an argument in favour of the hypothesis that the MS in question is related to the genre of pien-wen. It is noteworthy that the verses occured in TH-285, II represent the Chinese original poetical system with its rhymes (I mean the five- and seven-syllable verses encountered accordingly in lines 3, 4-5), so they cannot be suspected as insertions from any other sutras; it must be also taken into account that the translation of the Buddhist psalms (gathas) has no rhymes.
Though it seems to be apparent if bearing in mind all the facts mentioned above that the text under examination is nothing else but a part of an unknown before pien-wen on the "Sutra on the Crown Prince Sudhana", still I shall try to be as careful as possible in my final judgement.
In all probability it may be considered that we are dealing with one of the earliest samples of the pien-wen running back to the rise of the genre. And right due to this condition the unstableness of the identifying features of the genre (if being compared with its "ripe" state) should be explained. From the very brief examination of our MS provided by comparison with the text of the "Sutra on the Crown Prince Sudhana" an observation can be made that in the making of pien-wen genre the following way is noteworthy: the Performer having no strict rules regularly step by step was turning aside from the canonical text of the sutra by enriching the narration by all means of his own colourful fantasy.
Taking into consideration the importance of researching in the field of pien-wen and related genres, a translation of the pieces (TH-285, I, II, III) with notes on it is presented below. A table of specific Tunhuang graphic-fonts of Chinese characters is given in the very end of the paper. Some decades ago I have made my first steps in preparing this paper. At that time I estimate justly my own lack of adequate knowledge necessary for carrying on this work. So I was (and surely I am!) profoundly grateful to Prof. L.N. Men'shikov whose vast fund of knowledge in the area of Buddhism and high skill in reading Tunhuang MSS were of a great help to me.include '../includes/navbar.html'; ?> include '../includes/footer.html'; ?>