Analysis of the List of World Canon

By Genres

Genre No. of Texts Comments
Religious /

One for each of seven traditions, except for European
tradition which does not recognize a separate beginning other than Greco-Roman and Christian origins. 

History 7 No texts included for Indian tradition which itself favors literary/mythical representation of the past rather than accurate historical recording - Xuanzang's text and Mahabharata (considered itihasa in Indian tradition) are selected instead. No texts included for European tradition which sees history as a discipline requiring knowledge accumulation - later texts usually considered superior. Also no major dominant historical text within the tradition.
Philosophy 14 More texts are selected as philosophical texts are typically shorter, while philosophy has many aspects of differentiation - topics (e.g. religious, metaphysical, political), geographies (e.g. Indian vs. Chinese Buddhism), and allegiances (e.g. Confucian vs. Daoist), and even inclinations (e.g. Plato vs. Aristotle). 
Literature 9 No Buddhist literature included. Asvaghosa's Buddhacarita could have been chosen, but Kalidasa considered more representative of classical Sanskrit literature. 2 texts selected for Indian tradition, given strength of Indian in imaginative story-telling. 3 texts selected for Chinese literature, where the highest achievement (Tang shi poetry), highest achiever (Su Shi) and highest popularity (The Story of the Stone) do not coincide. Possibly overweighted, but not completely out of balance given the Chinese has the longest continuous tradition of strong literacy (exam system starting the 7th c.; printing started around 1000A.D.) 

By Traditions

Tradition No. of
Indian  Number of texts selected limited by early end of creative period (Muslim presence and divergent sub-regional tradition development hinders strong canon formation after 1000A.D.) While tradition has an early start, most texts started to be written down several centuries before B.C.
Greco-Roman  Greek tradition's history are relatively short, but is early and is a key source for later Roman, Christian, Islamic and ultimately European traditions. Number of texts selected reflects the concept of this list which focuses on influence which prioritizes earlier texts. One Latin text is selected (Aeneid), reflecting Latin as a key but subordinate language in the terms of prestige within the learned tradition.   
Buddhist  Buddhism has only about 1/3 of adherents vs. Christianity or Islam nowadays, but had the longest history and for most of the time penetrated (as secondary tradition) the most densely populated areas of South and East Asia, which probably accounted for over half of world population before the Voyages of Discovery. Potential overweight, yet given reason for Xuanzang's inclusion it could also be counted in the Indian tradition instead. One Pali text is selected to reflect the southern transmission.
Chinese  May seem an overweight to casual observers, but not so. Contemporarily, adherent of tradition slightly bigger than each of Christianity, Islam or competent English users. It also had longest period of continuous tradition (at least 11th c. B.C. till now), which is more than twice as long as the Islamic tradition for example. Added to the focus on literacy early on, the Chinese tradition accounting for 25% of a list of World's Canonical texts is within proportion. On a regional basis, all Chinese texts selected (12 = 9+3 in Buddhist) is the same numbers as all Western texts selected (12 = 5 Greco-Roman + 4 Christian + 3 European), which arguably is an underpresentation for the Chinese tradition if factors such as population density and historical literacy are taken into account.    
Christian  Major contemporary religious tradition on par with Islam. However, dominant in home region of Europe only during the medieval period where Europe was less developed compared with Islamic, Indian or the Chinese civilizations. 
Islamic  Within these 5 texts, one Persian texts selected to reflect its secondary status within the Islamic tradition after Arabic. 
European  Arguably underpresented in this list which prioritizes earlier texts because of focus on canonicity and influence. However, rapid intellectual development (which disfavors texts becoming canonical) and relative retreat of Humanities (vs. Siences) when compared to other / earlier traditions could justify a shorter list. 

Potential Imbalances in "Representativeness"

1. Secondary civilizational traditions not represented. Examples include: Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Southeast Asian, Turkish.


2. Secondary traditions within primary traditions not represented. Examples include: Jainism, Bhakti Hinduism, Shiite / Ismaili Islam, Orthodox / Protestant Christianty, Judaism.


3. Secondary modern traditions not represented. Examples include: French, Spanish, Russian, American.


4. Heavy weights given to epics within literature. 5 epics included (Iliad, Mahabharata, Aeneid, Shanameh, Commedia) in list of 36.