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...

Note: The beginning of this Book consists of an introduction, written by Chang Yueh, the author of the preface.--Jul.

If we examine in succession the rules of the emperors,[1] or look into the records of the monarchs,[2] when P'au I[3] began to adjust matters[4] and Hien-yuen[5] began to let fall his robes,[6] we see how they administered the affairs, and first divided the limits of the empire.[7]

When T'ang(-ti) Yao[8] received the call of heaven (to rule), his glory reached to the four quarters; when Yu(-ti) Shun[9] had received his map of the earth, his virtue flowed throughout the nine provinces. From that time there have come down clear[10] records, annals of events; though distant, we may hear the previous doings (of eminent men), or gather their words from the records of their disciples. How much rather when we live under a renowned government, and depend on those without partial aims.[11] Now then our great T'ang emperor (or dynasty), conformed in the highest degree to the heavenly pattern,[12] now holds the reins of government, and unites in one the six parts of the world, and is gloriously established. Like a fourth august monarch, he illustriously administers the empire. His mysterious controlling power flows afar; his auspicious influence (fame or instruction) widely extends: like the heaven and the earth, he covers and sustains (his subjects), or like the resounding wind or the fertilising rain. The eastern barbarians bring him tribute;[13] the western frontiers are brought to submission. He has secured and hands down the succession, appeasing tumult, restoring order.[14] He certainly surpasses the previous kings; he embraces in himself the virtues of former generations. Using the same currency[15] (or literature), all acknowledge his supreme rule. If his sacred merit be not recorded in history, then it is vain to exalt the great (or his greatness); if it be not to illumine the world, why then shine so brilliantly his mighty deeds?[16]

Hiuen Tsiang, wherever he bent his steps, has described the character of each country. Although he has not examined the country or distinguished the customs (in every case), he has shown himself trustworthy.[17] With respect to the emperor who transcends the five and surpasses the three, we read how all creatures enjoy his benefits, and all who can declare it utter his praises. From the royal city throughout the (five) Indies, men who inhabit the savage wilds, those whose customs are diverse from ours, through the most remote lands, all have received the royal calendar, all have accepted the imperial instructions; alike they praise his warlike merit and sing of his exalted virtues and his true grace of utterance. This is the first thing to be declared. In searching through previous annals no such thing has been seen or heard of. In all the records of biography no such an account has been found. It was necessary first to declare the benefits arising from the imperial rule: now we proceed to narrate facts, which have been gathered either by report or sight, as follows:

This Sahaloka[18] (Soh-ho) world is the three-thousand-great-thousand system of worlds (chiliocosm), over which one Buddha exercises spiritual authority (converts and controls). In the middle of the great chiliocosm, illuminated by one sun and moon, are the four continents,[19] in which all the Buddhas, lords of the world,[20] appear by apparitional birth,[21] and here also die, for the purpose of guiding holy men and worldly men.

The mountain called Sumeru stands up in the midst of the great sea firmly fixed on a circle of gold, around which mountain the sun and moon revolve; this mountain is perfected by (composed of) four precious substances, and is the abode of the Devas.[22] Around this are seven mountain-ranges and seven seas; between each range a flowing sea of the eight peculiar qualities.[23] Outide the seven golden mountain-ranges is the salt sea. There are four lands (countries or islands, dvīpas) in the salt sea, which are inhabited. On the east, (Pūrva)videha; on the south, Jambudvīpa; on the west, Godhanya; on the north, Kurudvīpa.

A golden-wheel monarch rules righteously the four; a silver-wheel monarch rules the three (excepting Kuru); a copper-wheel monarch rules over two (excepting Kuru and Godhanya); and an iron-wheel monarch rules over Jambudvīpa only. When first a wheel-king[24] is established in power a great wheel-gem appears floating in space, and coming towards him; its character -- whether gold, silver, copper, or iron -- determines the king's destiny[25] and his name.[26]

In the middle of Jambudvīpa there is a lake called Anavatapta,[27] to the south of the Fragrant Mountains and to the north of the great Snowy Mountains; it is 800 li and more in circuit; its sides are composed of gold, silver, lapis-lazuli, and crystal; golden sands lie at the bottom, and its waters are clear as a mirror. The great earth Bodhisattva,[28] by the power of his vow, transforms himself into a Nāga-rāja and dwells therein; from his dwelling the cool waters proceed forth and enrich Jambudvīpa (Shen-pu-chau).[29]

From the eastern side of the lake, through the mouth of a silver ox, flows the Ganges (King-kia)[30] river; encircling the lake once, it enters the south-eastern sea.

From the south of the lake, through a golden elephant's mouth, proceeds the Sindhu (Sin-to)[31] river; encircling the lake once, it flows into the south-western sea.

From the western side of the lake, from the mouth of a horse of lapis-lazuli, proceeds the river Vakṣu (Po-tsu),[32] and encircling the lake once, it falls into the north-western sea.

From the north side of the lake, through the mouth of a crystal lion, proceeds the river Sītā (Si-to),[33] and encircling the lake once, it falls into the north-eastern sea. They also say that the streams of this river Sītā, entering the earth, flow out beneath the Tsih[34] rock mountain, and give rise to the river of the middle country (China).[35]

At the time when there is no paramount wheel-monarch, then the land of Jambudvīpa has four rulers.[36]

On the south "the lord of elephants;"[37] the land here is warm and humid, suitable for elephants.

On the west "the lord of treasures;"[38] the land borders on the sea, and abounds in gems.

On the north "the lord of horses;"[39] the country is cold and hard, suitable for horses.

On the east "the lord of men;"[40] the climate is soft and agreeable (exhilarating), and therefore[41] there are many men.

In the country of "the lord of elephants" the people are quick and enthusiastic, and entirely given to learning. They cultivate especially magical arts. They wear a robe[42] thrown across them, with their right shoulder bare; their hair is done up in a ball on the top, and left undressed on the four sides. Their various tribes occupy different towns; their houses are built stage over stage.

In the country of "the lord of treasures" the people have no politeness or justice. They accumulate wealth. Their dress is short, with a left skirt."[43] They cut their hair and cultivate their moustache. They dwell in walled towns and are eager in profiting by trade.

The people of the country of "the lord of horses" are naturally (t'ien tsz') wild and fierce. They are cruel in disposition; they slaughter (animals)[44] and live under large felt tents; they divide like birds (going here and there) attending their flocks.

The land of "the lord of men" is distinguished for the wisdom and virtue and justice of the people. They wear a head-covering and a girdle; the end of their dress (girdle) hangs to the right. They have carriages and robes according to rank;[45] they cling to the soil and hardly ever change their abode; they are very earnest in work, and divided into classes.

With respect to the people belonging to these three rulers, the eastern region is considered the best; the doors of their dwellings open towards the east, and when the sun rises in the morning they turn towards it and salute it. In this country the south side is considered the most honourable. Such are the leading characteristics in respect of manners and customs relating to these regions.

But with regard to the rules of politeness observed between the prince and his subjects, between superiors and inferiors, and with respect to laws and literature, the land of "the lord of men" is greatly in advance. The country of "the lord of elephants" is distinguished for rules which relate to purifying the heart and release from the ties of life and death; this is its leading excellency. With these things the sacred books and the royal decrees are occupied. Hearing the reports of the native races and diligently searching out things old and new, and examining those things which came before his eyes and ears, it is thus he (i.e., Hiuen Tsiang) obtained information.

Now Buddha having been born in the western region and his religion having spread eastwards, the sounds of the words translated have been often mistaken, the phrases of the different regions have been misunderstood on account of the wrong sounds, and thus the sense has been lost. The words being wrong, the idea has been perverted. Therefore, as it is said, "it is indispensable to have the right names, in order that there be no mistakes."

Now, men differ according to the firmness or weakness of their nature, and so the words and the sounds (of their language) are unlike. This may be the result either of climate or usage. The produce of the soil differs in the same way, according to the mountains and valleys. With respect to the difference in manners and customs, and also as to the character of the people in the country of "the lord of men," the annals sufficiently explain this. In the country of "the lord of horses" and of "the lord of treasures" the (local) records and the proclamations explain the customs faithfully, so that a brief account can be given of them.

In the country of "the lord of elephants" the previous history of the people is little known. The country is said to be in general wet and warm, and it is also said that the people are virtuous and benevolent. With respect to the history of the country, so far as it has been preserved, we cannot cite it in detail; whether it be that the roads are difficult of access, or on account of the revolutions which have occurred, such is the case. In this way we see at least that the people only await instruction to be brought to submission, and when they have received benefit they will enjoy the blessing of civilization (pay homage). How difficult to recount the list of those who, coming from far, after encountering the greatest perils (difficulties), knock at the gem-gate[46] with the choice tribute of their country and pay their reverence to the emperor. Wherefore, after he (Hiuen Tsiang) had travelled afar in search of the law, in his moments of leisure he has preserved these records of the character of the lands (visited). After leaving the black ridge, the manners of the people are savage (barbarous). Although the barbarous tribes are intermixed one with the other, yet the different races are distinguishable, and their territories have well-defined boundaries. Generally speaking, as the land suits,[47] they build walled towns and devote themselves to agriculture and raising cattle. They naturally hoard wealth and hold virtue and justice in light esteem. They have no marriage decorum, and no distinction of high or low. The women say, "I consent to use you as a husband and live in submission, (and that is all)."[48] When dead, they burn the body, and there is no determined period for mourning. They scar their faces and cut their ears. They crop their hair and tear their clothes.[49] They slay their herds and offer them in sacrifice to the manes of the dead. When rejoicing, they wear white garments; when in mourning, they clothe themselves in black. Thus we have described briefly points of agreement in the manners and customs of these people. The differences of administration depend on the different countries. With respect to the customs of India, they are contained in the following records.

Leaving the old country of Kau-chang,[50] from this neighbourhood there begins what is called the 'O-ki-ni country.

Footnotes and references:


That is, of the "three sovereigns" called (by some) Fuh-hi, Shen-nung, and Hwang-ti; others substitute Chuh Yung for Hwang-ti.--Mayers, op. cit., p. 367 n.


That is, the five kings (Ti) who followed Hwang-ti. The records of these kings and monarchs are, of course, mostly apocryphal.


P'au I is the same as Fuh-hi or T'ai Hao; the name is interpreted as "the slaughterer of beasts."--Mayers.


To "adjust matters," so it seems the expression chuh chan must be interpreted. The symbol "chan" occupies the place of the East in Wan's arrangement of the Trigrams, and symbolises "movement." It is a1so used for "wood," because, as some say, "the East symbolises spring, when the growth of vegetation begins." Others say that the symbol "wood" as the analogue of "chan" is a misprint for "yi", signifying increase (vid. Legge, Yi King, p. 248). But in any case, in the text the idea is of "movement towards order." Fuh-hi, like his sister Nu-kwa, is said to have reigned "under wood."


Hien Yuen is the same as Hwang-ti; it is the name of the hill near which the emperor dwelt.


Hwang-ti, among other things, "regulated costume." It is probably to this the text refers.


Hwang-ti "mapped out his empire in provinces, and divided the land into regular portions."--Mayers.


The great emperor Yao, with his successor Shun, stand at the dawn of Chinese history. His date is 2356 B.C. He was called the Marquis or Lord (hau) of T'ang, because he moved from the principality of T'ao to the region of T'ang.


That is, Shun, of the family of Yeou-yu: he succeeded Yao, by whom he was adopted after he had disinherited his son Tan Chu, B.C. 2258. He is said to have received the "map of the earth," an expression derived from "the map of the empire into provinces," by Hwang-ti.


I have so translated this passage, although Julien takes the opposite sense. I suppose "hung" to mean "clear" or "plain."


"Without partial aims," rendered by Julien "qui pratique le non-agir." The expression wou-wei generally means "absence of self" or "selfish aims."


Julien renders this "gouverne à l'instar du ciel," which no doubt is the meaning of the text.


Are enrolled as tribute-bearers.


Referring to the troubles of the last years of the Sui dynasty, which was followed by the T'ang.--Jul.


The symbol "wan" probably refers to the literature used alike by all the subjects of the Great T'ang. It can hardly mean that they all spoke the same language.


This at least appears to be the meaning of the passage. Julien translates as follows: "Si les effets merveilleux de cette administration sublime n'étaient point consignés dans l'histoire, comment pourrait-on célébrer dignement les grandes vues (de l'empereur)? Si on ne les publiait par avec éçlat, comment pourrait-on mettre en lumière un règne aussi florissant?"


I do not like this tranalation; I should prefer to suppose Chang Yueh's meaning to be that Hiuen Tsiang wherever he went exalted the name of China (Fung t'u; Fung being the name of Fuh-hi), and that he left this impression respecting the emperor who transcends the five and excels the three, etc.


The Soh-ho (or So-ho) world is thus defined by Jin-Ch'au (Fa-kiai-lih-t'u, part i. fol. 2): "The region(t'u) over which Buddha reigns is called Soh-ho-shi-kiai; the old Sūtras change it into Sha-po, i.e., sarva. It is called in the Sūtras 'the patient land;' it is surrounded by an iron wall, within which are a thousand myriad worlds (four empires)." It seems from this that (in later times at least) the Soh-ho world is the same as the "great chiliocosm of worlds." The subject of the expansion of the Buddhist universe from one world (four empires) to an infinite number of worlds is fully treated by Jin-ch'au in the work above named and in the first part of my Catena of Buddhist Scriptures. There is an expression, "tolerant like the earth," in the Dhammapada, vii. 95; from this idea of "patience" attributed to the earth was probably first derived the idea of the "patient people or beings" inhabiting the earth; and hence the lord of the world is called Sahāmpati, referred first to Mahābrahma, afterwards to Buddha. Childers says (Pāli Dict. sub voc.): "I have never met with Sahaloka or Sahalokadhātu in Pāli." Dr. Eitel in his Handbook translates a passage quoted as if the Saha world were the capital of the great chiliocosm (sub voc. Saha). I should take the passage to mean that the Saha world is the collection of all the worlds of the great chiliocosm.


The four continents or empires are the four divisions or quarters of the world.--Catena of Buddhist Scriptures, p. 35.


Lords of the world, or honourable of the age, a title corresponding to lokanātha, or (in Pāli) lokanātho, "protector or saviour of the world."--Childers, sub voc.


I cannot think Julien is right in translating this passage by "y répandent l'influence de leurs vertus." The expression "fa-in-sang" must refer to the apparitional mode of birth known as anupapādaka; and the body assumed by the Buddhas when thus born is called Nirmāṇakāya.


The abode of the Devas, or rather, "where the Devas wander to and fro and live." The idea of Sumeru corresponds with Olympus. On the top of each is placed the "abodes of the gods." In the case of Sumeru, there are thirty-three gods or palaces. Buddhist books frequently explain this number thirty-three as referring to the year, the four seasons or quarters, and the twenty-eight days of the month.


For the eight distinctive qualities, see Catena, p. 379.


A wheel-king is a king who holds the wheel or discus of authority or power--Chakravarttī Rāja.


That is, as the text says, whether he is to rule over four, three, two, or one of the divisions of the earth.


His name (i.e., gold-wheel-king, silver-wheel-king, etc..) is derived from this first sign or miraculous event.


Defined in a note as "without the annoyance of heat," i.e., cool; an + avatapta. As. Res., vol. vi. p. 488.


I have translated tai-ti-p'u-sa as "the great earth Bodhisattva," although Julien renders it "the Bodhisattva of the great universe," because there is such a Bodhisattva, viz., Kshitigarbha, who was invoked by Buddha at the time of his temptation by Māra; and because I do not think that "tai ti" can be rendered universe. The reference appears to be to one Nāga, viz., Anavatapta Nāga-rāya.


In the Chinese Jambudvīpa is represented by three symbols, Shen-pu-chau; the last symbol means an "isle" or "islet," and therefore the compound is equivalent to Jambudvīpa.


The King-kia or Ganges river was anciently written Hang-ho or River Hang. It was a1ao written Hang-kia (Ch. Ed.)


Sin-to, the Sindhu or Indus; formerly written Sin-t'au (Ch. Ed.)


The Vakshu (Po-tsu, formerly written Poh-ch'a) is the Oxus or Amu-Daria (Idrisi calls it the Wakhsh-ab), which flows from the Sarīk-kul lake in the Pamir plateau, lat. 37°27' N., long. 73°40' E., at an elevation of about 13,950 feet. It is supplied by the melting snows of the mountains, which rise some 3500 feet higher along its southern shores. It is well called, therefore, "the cool lake" (Anavatapta). The Oxus issues from the western end of the lake, and after "a course of upwards of a thousand miles, in a direction generally north-west, it falls into the southern end of the lake Aral" (Wood). This lake Lieut. Wood intended to call Lake Victoria. Its name, Sarik-kul,--"the yellow valley"--is not recognised by later travellers, some of whom call it Kul-i-Pāmir-kulān, "the lake of the Great Pamir." Wood's Oxus, pp. 232, 233, note 1; Jour. R. Geog. Soc., vol. xi. (1870), pp. 122, 123, 449, 450, vol. xlii. p. 507, vol. xlvi. pp. 390 ff., vol. xlvii. p. 34, vol. xlviii. p. 221; Bretschneider, Med. Geog., pp. 166 n, 167.


The śītā (Si-to, formerly written Si-t'o) is probably the Yarkand river (the Zarafshan). This river rises (according to Prejevalsky) in the Karakorum mountains, at an elevation of 18,850 feet (lat. 35°30' N. long. 77°45' E.) It takes a north and then a westerly course, and passing to the eastward of Lake Sarīk-kul, bends to the north and finally to the east. It unites with the Kashgar and Khotan rivers, and they conjointly form the Tarim, which flows on to Lake Lob, and is there lost. The śītā is sometimes referred to the Jaxartes or the Sarīk-kul river (Jour. Roy. As. Soc., N.S., vol. vi. p. 120). In this case it is identified with the Silis of the ancients (Ukert, Geographie der Griechen und Romer, vol. iii. 2, p. 238). It is probably the Side named by Ktesias,--"stagnum in India in quo nihil innatet, omnia mergantur" (Pliny, H. N., lib. xxxi. 2, 18). This agrees with the Chinese account that the Yellow River flows from the "week water" (Josh wai), which is a river "fabled to issue from the foot of the Kwun-lun mountain." It owes its name to the peculiar nature of the water, which is incapable of supporting even the weight of a feather" (Mayers, sub voc.) This last remark agrees curiously with the comment on Jātaka xxi., referred to by Minayef in his Pāli Grammar (p. ix. Guyard's translation), which derives the name of Sīdā from sad + ava, adding that "the water is so subtle that the feather of a peacock cannot be supported by it, but is swallowed up" (Pāli, sīditi, from root sad, "to sink") A river śilā is mentioned in the Mahābhārata (vi. 6, sl. 219), north of Meru. Megasthenes mentions both a fountain and river Silas which had the same peculiarity. Conf. Schwanbeck, Megasthenes, pp. 37, 88, 109; Ind. Ant., vol. vi. pp. 121, 130, vol. v. pp. 88, 334, vol. x. PP. 313, 319; Diodorus, lib. ii. 37; Arrian, Indika, c. vi., 2; Strabo. lib. xv. c.i. 38; Boissonade, Anecd. Græc., vol. i. P. 419; Antigonus, Mirab., c. 161; Isidorus Hisp., Origg., xiii. 13; Lassen, Zeitschrift f. Kunde des Morgens., vol. ii. p. 63, and Ind. Alterth. (2d edit.), vol. i. p. 1017, vol. ii. p. 657; Asiat. Res., vol. viii. pp. 313, 322, 327; Humboldt, Asie Cent., tom. ii. pp. 404-412; Jour. R. Geog. Soc., vol. xxxviii. p. 435, vol. xlii. pp. 490, 503 n.


The Tsih rock, or the mountain of "piled up stones" (tsih-shih-shan). This mountain is placed in my native map close to the "blue sea," in the "blue sea" district (the region of Koko-nor). It may probably correspond with the Khadatu-bulak (rock fountain) or the Tsaghan Ashi-bantu (white rock) in Prejevalsky's map. Both of these are spurs of the Altyn-Tāgh range of mountains. Dr. Eitel, in his Handbook (sub voc. śītā), says that "the eastern outflux of the Anavatapta lake...loses itself in the earth, but reappears again on the āśmakūṭā mountains, as the source of the river Hoangho." Here, I assume, the āśmakūṭā mountains correspond with the Teih-shih-shan of the text.


The "River of China" is the Yellow River. Concerning its source consult Baron Richthofen's remarks on Prejevalasky's Lob Nor (p. 137, seq.) The old Chinese opinion was that the source of the river was from the Milky Way -- Tin-ho (Mayers, p. 311). It was found afterwards that the source was in the Sing-suh-hai, i.e., the "starry sea," which is marked on the Chinese map, and is probably the same as the Oring-nor.


This clause might also be rendered "when there is no wheel-king allotted to rule over Jambudvīpa, then the earth (is divided between four lords."


Gajapati, a name given to kings; also the name of an old king of the south of Jambudvīpa (Monier Williams, Sansk. Dict. sub voc.) Abu Zaid al Hassan says this was the title given by the Chinese to the "king of the Indies" (Renaudot, Mohamm. Trav. (Eng. edit., 1733), p. 53.)


Chattrapati or Chattrapa, "lord of the umbrella," a title of an ancient king in Jambudvīpa (hence Satrap). Julien, p. lxxv. n.; Monier Williams, sub voc.


Aśvapati (Jul.) I have translated "king" by "hard." Julien has omitted it.


Narapati, one of the four mythical kings of Jambudvīpa (Mon. Williams, sub voc.) It was assumed the dynasty ruling at Vijayanagara by in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Arab travellers of the ninth century say the Chinese gave this title to the emperor of China, and also to "the king of Greece" (Renaudot, u. s., p. 53). Compare the Homeric epithet,Anax andrôn.


I have taken the "therefore" to be part of this sentence, not of the next.


This seems to me to be the meaning--"they wear a cross-scarf." Julien translates, they wear a bonnet, "posé en travers."


This passage seems to mean that their clothes, which are cut short, overlap to the left--literally, "short, fashion, left, overlapping" (jin, the place where garments overlap.--Medhurst, Ch. Dict., sub voc.)


So I take it. The expression "sha luh" means "to slaughter." I do not understand Julien's "et tuent leurs semblables." There is a passage, however, quoted by Dr. Bretschneider (Notices of the Mediaval Geography, etc.., of Western Asia, p. 114), from Rubruquis, which alludes to a custom among the Tibetans corresponding to that in Julien's translation--"post hos sunt Tebet, homines solentes comedere parentes suos defunctus." But, which is not the case in the text, the barbarians are made to slay their kin in order to eat them. Conf. Reinaud, Relat., tom. i. p. 52; Renaudot., Mokam. Trav. (Eng. ed., 1733), pp. 33, 46, and Remarks, p. 53; Rennie, Pcking, vol. ii. p. 244; Yule's Marco Polo, vol. i. pp. 292, 302.


Literally, carriages and robes have order or rank. It might also, without violence, be translated "(they possess) carriages and robes, and schools."


The gem-gate, I should think, is the Yuh-mun, the western frontier of the empire, not the gate of the emperor's palace.


Julien translates this "generally speaking they are sedentary."


This sentence appears to allude to the custom of polyandry, or rather to the custom of the province of Kamul (Yule's Marco Polo, bk. i. ch. xli. vol. i. pp. 212, 214). It amounts to this: the woman says, "I consent whilst using you as a husband to submit," or "I consent to use you as a husband whilst dwelling under the roof." Julien translates it: "Ce sont les paroles des femmes qu'on suit; les hommes sont places audessus d'elles."


They do all this when bereaved, that is, of their relatives, and when they mourn.


Leaving the ancient land of Kau-chang, i.e., the land which had long been occupied by the Uïgurs or Turks. The route of Hiuen Tsiang up to this point is detailed in his life. Leaving Liang-chau (a prefecture in Kansuh), he proceeded to Kwa-chau; he then crossed the Hulu river (Bulunghir) and advanced northward and westward through the desert. Having passed Hami and Pidshan, keeping westward, he comes to Turfan, the capital of the Uïgur country. He then advances to 'O-ki-ni.

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