Buddhist records of the Western world (Xuanzang)

by Samuel Beal | 1884 | 224,928 words | ISBN-10: 8120811070

This is the English translation of the travel records of Xuanzang (or, Hiuen Tsiang): a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled to India during the seventh century. This book recounts his documents his visit to India and neighboring countries, and reflects the condition of those countries during his time, including temples, culture, traditions and fest...

Introduction (b): Shih Fa-hian or Faxian (A.D. 400)

In agreement with early custom, the Chinese mendicant priests who adopted the Buddhist faith changed their names at the time of their leaving their homes (ordination), and assumed the title of Sakyaputras, sons or mendicants of Sakya. So we find amongst the inscriptions at Mathura the title Sakya Bhikshunyaka or Sakya Bhikshor added to the religious names of the different benefactors there mentioned. The pilgrim Fa-hian, therefore, whose original name was Kung, when he assumed the religious title by which he is known to us, took also the appellation of Shih or the Sakyaputra, the disciple or son of Sakya. He was a native of Wu-Yang, of the district of Ping-Yang, in the province of Shan-si. He left his home and became a Sramanera at three years of age. His early history is recorded in the work called Ko-sang-chuen, written during the time of the Liang dynasty, belonging to the Suh family (502-507 A.D.) But so far as we are now concerned, we need only mention that he was moved by a desire to obtain books not known in China, and with that aim set out in company with other priests (some of whom are named in the records) from Chang’an, A.D. 399, and after an absence of fourteen years returned to Nankin, where, in connection with Buddhabhadra (an Indian Sramana, descended from the family of the founder of the Buddhist religion), he translated various works and composed the history of his travels. He died at the age of eighty-six.

Fa-hian’s point of departure was the city of Chang’an in Shen-si; from this place he advanced across the Lung district (or mountains) to the fortified town of Chang-yeh in Kan-suh; here he met with some other priests, and with them proceeded to Tun-hwang, a town situated to the south of the Bulunghir river, lat. 39 30' N., long. 95 E. Thence with four companions he pushed forward, under the guidance, as it seems, of an official, across the desert of Lop to Shen-shen, the probable site of which is marked in the map accompanying the account of Prejevalsky’s journey through the same district; according to this map, it is situated in lat. 38° N., and long. 87° E. It corresponds with the Cherchen of Marco Polo. Fa-hian tells us that Buddhism prevailed in this country, and that there were about 4000 priests. The country itself was rugged and barren. So Marco Polo says, “The whole of this province is sandy, but there are numerous towns and villages.” The Venetian traveller makes the distance from the town of Lop five days’ journey. Probably Fa-hian did not visit the town of Cherchen, but after a month in the kingdom turned to the north-west, apparently following the course of the Tarim, and after fifteen days arrived in the kingdom of Wu-i or Wu-ki. This kingdom seems to correspond to Karshar or Karasharh, near the Lake Tenghiz or Bagarash, and is the same as the’O-ki-ni of Hiuen Tsiang. Prejevalsky took three days in travelling from Kara-moto to Korla, a distance of about 42 miles,so that the fifteen days of Fa-hian might well represent in point of time the distance from Lake Lob to Karasharh. Our pilgrims would here strike on the outward route of Hiuen Tsiang. It was at this spot they fell in with their companions Pao-yun and the rest, whom they had left at Tun-hwang. These had probably travelled to Karasharh by the northern route, as it is called, through Kamil or Kamul to Pidshan and Turfan; for we read that whilst Fa-hian remained at Karasharh, under the protection of an important official, some of the others went back to Kao-chang (Turfan), showing that they had come that way.

From Karasharh Fa-hian and the others, favoured by the liberality of Kung sun (who was in some way connected with the Prince of Ts’in), proceeded south-west to Khotan. The route they took is not well ascertained; but probably they followed the course of the Tarim and of the Khotan rivers. There were no dwellings or people on the road, and the difficulties of the journey and of crossing the rivers “exceeded power of comparison.” After a month and five days they reached Khotan. This country has been identified with Li-yul of the Tibetan writers. There is some reason for connecting this “land of Li” with the Lichchhavis of Vaisali. It is said by Csoma Korosi “that the Tibetan writers derive their first king (about 250 B.c.) from the Litsabyis or Lichavyis.” The chief prince or ruler of the Lichchhavis was called the “great lion” or “the noble lion.” This is probably the explanation of Maha-li, used by Spence Hardy as “the name of the king of the Lichawis.” Khotan would thus be the land of the lion-people (Siṃhas). Whether this be so or not, the polished condition of the people and their religious zeal indicate close connection with India, more probably with Baktria. The name of the great temple, a mile or two to the west of the city, called the Nava-sangharama, or royal “new temple,” is the same as that on the south-west of Balkh, described by Hiuen Tsiang; and the introduction of Vaisravana as the protector of this convent, and his connection with Khotan, the kings of that country being descended from him, indicate a relationship, if not of race, at least of intercourse between the two kingdoms.

After witnessing the car procession of Khotan, Fa-hian and some others (for the pilgrims had now separated for a time), advanced for twenty-five days towards the country of Tseu-ho, which, according to Klaproth, corresponds with the district of Yangi-hissar, from which there is a caravan route due south into the mountain region of the Tsung-ling. It was by this road they pursued their journey for four days to a station named Yu-hwui, or, as it may also be read, Yu-fai'; here they kept their religious fast, after which, journeying for twenty-five days, they reached the country of Kie-sha. I cannot understand how either of the last-named places can he identified with Ladakh.Yu-hwui is four days south of Tseu-ho; and twenty-five days beyond this brings the pilgrims to the country of Kie-sha, in the centre of the Tsung-ling mountains.

Nor can we, on the other hand, identify this kingdom of Kie-sha (the symbols are entirely different from those used by Hiuen Tsiang, ii. p. 306, for Kashgar) with that of the Kossaioi of Ptolemy, the Kliasas of Manu, and the Ivhasakas of the Vishnu Purana. These appear to have been related to the Cushites of Holy Scripture.

Advancing for a month across the Tsung-ling range towards India, the pilgrims reached the little country of To-li, that is, the valley of Darail in the Dard country. This valley is on the right or western bank of the Indus, long. 73 44' E., and is watered by a river Daril. Still advancing south-west for fifteen days, they strike the Indus (or probably the Swat river), crossing which, they enter on the kingdom of Udyana, where they found Buddhism in a flourishing condition. Concerning this country and its traditions, we have ample records in Hiuen Tsiang, Book iii. (p. 119). Here then we may leave Fa-hian; his farther travels may be followed by the details given in his own writings, and to these we refer the reader.

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