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...

Chapter 1 - Country of Tseh-kia (Takka)

Note: Ṭakka or Ṭakkadeśa, the country of the Bāhīkas, is named in the Rājataraṅgiṇī (v. 150), and said to be a part of the kingdom of Gurjjara.[1]

This kingdom is about 10,000 li in circuit. On the east it borders on the river Pi-po-che (Vipāśā);[2] on the west it borders on the Sin-tu river. The capital of the country is about 20 li in circuit. The soil is suitable for rice and produces much late-sown corn. It also produces gold, silver, the stone called teou,[3] copper and iron. The climate is very warm, and the land is subject to hurricanes. The people are quick and violent, their language coarse and uncultivated. For clothing they wear a very shining white fabric which they call kiau-che-ye (Kauśeya, silk), and also morning-red cloth (chau hia),[4] and other kinds. Few of them believe in Buddha; many sacrifice to the heavenly spirits (Devas and spirits). There are about ten saṅghārāmas and some hundreds of temples. There were formerly in this country many houses of charity (goodness or happiness—Puṇyaśālās) for keeping the poor and the unfortunate. They provided for them medicine and food, clothing and necessaries; so that travellers were never badly off.

To the south-west of the capital about 14 or 15 li we come to the old town of śākala[5] (She-kie-lo). Although its walls are thrown down, the foundations are still firm and strong. It is about 20 li in circuit. In the midst of it they have built a little town of about 6 or 7 li in circuit; the inhabitants are prosperous and rich. This was the old capital of the country. Some centuries ago there was a king called Mo-hi-lo-kiu-lo (Mahirakula),[6] who established his authority in this town and ruled over India. He was of quick talent, and naturally brave. He subdued all the neighbouring provinces without exception.[7] In his intervals of leisure he desired to examine the law of Buddha, and he commanded that one among the priests of superior talent[8] should wait on him. Now it happened that none of the priests dared to attend to his command. Those who had few desires and were content, did not care about distinction; those of superior learning and high renown despised the royal bounty (glitter). At this time there was an old servant in the king's household who had long worn the religious garments. He was of distinguished ability and able to enter on discussion, and was very eloquent. The priests put him forward in answer to the royal appeal. The king said, "I have a respect for the law of Buddha, and I invited from far any renowned priest (to come and instruct me), and now the congregation have put forward this servant to discuss with me. I always thought that amongst the priests there were men of illustrious ability; after what has happened today what further respect can I have for the priesthood?" He then issued an edict to destroy all the priests through the five Indies, to overthrow the law of Buddha, and leave nothing remaining.

Bālāditya[9] -rāja, king of Magadha, profoundly honoured the law of Buddha and tenderly nourished his people. When he heard of the cruel persecution and atrocities of Mahirakula (Ta-tso), he strictly guarded the frontiers of his kingdom and refused to pay tribute. Then Mahirakula raised an army to punish his rebellion. Bālāditya-rāja, knowing his renown, said to his ministers,"I hear that these thieves are coming, and I cannot fight with them (their troops); by the permission of my ministers I will conceal my poor person among the bushes of the morass."

Having said this, he departed from his palace and wandered through the mountains and deserts. Being very much beloved in his kingdom, his followers amounted to many myriads, who fled with him and hid themselves in the islands[10] of the sea.

Mahirakula-rāja, committing the army to his younger brother, himself embarked on the sea to go attack Bālāditya. The king guarding the narrow passes, whilst the light cavalry were out to provoke the enemy to fight, sounded the golden drum, and his soldiers suddenly rose on every side and took Mahirakula alive as captive, and brought him into the presence (of Bālāditya).

The king Mahirakula being overcome with shame at his defeat, covered his face with his robe. Bālāditya sitting on his throne with his ministers round him, ordered one of them to tell the king to uncover himself as he wished to speak with him.

Muhirakula answered, "The subject and the master have changed places; that enemies should look on one another is useless; and what advantage is there in seeing my face during conversation?"

Having given the order three times with no success, the king then ordered his crimes to be punished, and said, "The field of religious merit connected with the three precious objects of reverence is a public[11] blessing; but this you have overturned and destroyed like a wild beast. Your religious merit is over, and unprotected by fortune you are my prisoner. Your crimes admit of no extenuation and you must die."

At this time the mother of Bālāditya was of wide celebrity on account of her vigorous intellect and her skill in casting horoscopes. Hearing that they were going to kill Mahirakula, she addressed Bālāditya-rāja and said, "I have understood that Mahirakula is of remarkable beauty and vast wisdom. I should like to see him once."

Bālāditya-rāja (Yeou-jih) ordered them to bring in Mahirakula to the presence of his mother in her palace. Then she said, "Alas! Mahirakula, be not ashamed! Worldly things are impermanent; success and discomfiture follow one another according to circumstances. I regard myself as your mother and you as my son; remove the covering from your face and speak to me."

Mahirakula said, "A little while ago I was prince of a victorious country, now I am a prisoner condemned to death. I have lost my kingly estate and I am unable to offer my religious services;[12] I am ashamed in the presence of my ancestors and of my people. In very truth I am ashamed before all, whether before heaven or earth. I find no deliverance.[13] Therefore I hide my face with my mantle." The mother of the king said, "Prosperity or the opposite depends on the occasion; gain and loss come in turn. If you give way to events (things), you are lost; but if you rise above circumstances, though you fall, you may rise again. Believe me, the result of deeds depends on the occasion. Lift the covering from your face and speak with me. I may perhaps save your life."

Mahirakula, thanking her, said, "I have inherited a kingdom without having the necessary talent for government, and so I have abused the royal power in inflicting punishment; for this reason I have lost my kingdom. But though I am in chains, yet I desire life if only for a day. Let me then thank you with uncovered face for your offer of safety." Whereupon he removed his mantle and showed his face. The king's mother said, "My son is well-favoured;[14] he will die after his years are accomplished." Then she said to Bālāditya, "In agreement with former regulations, it is right to forgive crime and to love to give life. Although Mahirakula has long accumulated sinful actions, yet his remnant of merit is not altogether exhausted. If you kill this man, for twelve years you will see him with his pale face before you. I gather from his air that he will be the king of a small country; let him rule over some small kingdom in the north."

Then Bālāditya-rāja, obeying his dear mother's command, had pity on the prince bereft of his kingdom; gave him in marriage to a young maiden and treated him with extreme courtesy. Then he assembled the troops he had left and added a guard to escort him from the island.

Mahirakula-rāja's brother having gone back, established himself in the kingdom. Mahirakula having lost his royal estate, concealed himself in the isles and deserts, and going northwards to Kaśmīr, he sought there an asylum. The king of Kaśmīr received him with honour, and moved with pity for his loss, gave him a small territory and a town to govern. After some years he stirred up the people of the town to rebellion, and killed the king of Kaśmīr and placed himself on the throne. Profiting by this victory and the renown it got him, he went to the west, plotting against the kingdom of Gandhāra. He set some soldiers in ambush and took and killed the king. He exterminated the royal family and the chief minister, overthrew the stūpas, destroyed the saṅghārāmas, altogether one thousand six hundred foundations. Besides those whom his soldiers had killed there were nine hundred thousand whom he was about to destroy without leaving one. At this time all the ministers addressed him and said, "Great king! Your prowess has gained a great victory, and our soldiers are no longer engaged in conflict. Now that you have punished the chief, why would you charge the poor people with fault? Let us, insignificant as we are, die in their stead."

The king said, "You believe in the law of Buddha and greatly reverence the mysterious law of merit. Your aim is to arrive at the condition of Buddha, and then you will declare fully, under the form of Jātakas,[15] my evil deeds, for the good of future generations. Now go back to your estates, and say no more on the subject."

Then he slew three ten myriads of people of the first rank by the side of the Sin-tu river; the same number of the middle rank he drowned in the river, and the same number of the third rank he divided among his soldiers (as slaves). Then he took the wealth of the country he had destroyed, assembled his troops, and returned. But before the year was out he died.[16] At the time of his death there was thunder and hail and a thick darkness; the earth shook and a mighty tempest raged. Then the holy saints said in pity, "For having killed countless victims and overthrown the law of Buddha, he has now fallen into the lowest hell,[17] where he shall pass endless ages of revolution."[18]

In the old town of śākala (She-ki-lo) is a saṅghārāma with about 100 priests, who study the Little Vehicle. In old days Vasubandhu (Shi-t'sin) Bodhisattva composed in this place the treatise called Shing-i-tai (Paramārthasatya śāstra).

By the side of the convent is a stūpa about 200 feet high; on this spot the four former Buddhas preached the law, and here again are the traces of their walking to and fro (king-hing).

To the north-west of the saṅghārāma 5 or 6 li is a stūpa about 200 feet high built by Aśoka-rāja. Here also the four past Buddhas preached.

About 10 li to the north-east of the new capital we come to a stūpa of stone about 200 feet in height, built by Aśoka. This is where Tathāgata, when he was going northward on his work of conversion, stopped in the middle of the road. In the records of India (In-tu-ki) it is said, "In this stūpa are many relics; on holidays they emit a bright light."

From this[19] going east 500 li or so, we come to Chi-na-po-ti (Chīnapati) country.

Footnotes and references:


Ṭakkadeśa, the country of the Bāhīkas, is named in the Rājataraṅgiṇī (v. 150), and said to be a part of the kingdom of Gurjjara, which Rāja Alakhāna was obliged to cede to Kashmir between the years 883 A.D. and 901 A.D. (Cunningham, Geog., 149). The Ṭakkas were a powerful tribe living near the Chenāb, and were at one time the undisputed lords of the Panjab. The kingdom of Tsih-kia is probably, therefore, that of the Ṭakkas. Asiat, Res., vol. xv. pp. 108 f; Lassen, I. A., vol. i. p. 973. Julien restores it to Tcheka. It seems that Hiuen Tsiang kept to the south-west from Rājapuri, and crossed the Chenāb after two days' march near the small town of Jammu or Jambu (perhaps the Jayapura of Hwui-lih), and then pressed on the next day to the town of śākala, where he arrived the day after. The distance would thus be about 700 li, or 140 miles (Cunningham's Anc. Geog., map vi., compared with Elphinstone's map (India); on this last map the trade route is so marked). In the translation of Hwui-lih, M. Julien has made the distance from Rājapuri to Tcheka to be 200 li (p. 96); it should be 700 li, as in the original. He has also translated "how jih" by "tomorrow (lendemain)", instead of "the day after the morrow."


The Vipāśā or Vipāt, the Biyas river, the most eastern of the five rivers of the Panjab, the Hyphasis (Hyphasis) of Arrian (Anab., lib. vi. c. 8, Ind., cc. 2, 3, 4; Diodoros, lib. xvii. c. 93). Pliny (lib. vii. c. 17, 21) and Curtius (lib. ix. c. 1) call it Hypasis, and Ptolemy (lib. vii. c. i. 26, 27) has Bibasis, while Strabo has Hypanis. It rises in the Himālaya, and, after a course of about 220 miles, joins the Satlaj south-east of Amritsar.


The teou-shih, of which such frequent mention is made by Hiuen Tsiang, is said to be a compound of equal parts of copper and calamine (silicate of zinc). See Julien in loc., n. 2. Medhurst (Dict. s. v.) calls it "native copper."


The chau-hia robe. This may mean either court-red or morning-red; it may refer to its colour, but more probably to its lightness. We should have expected a phonetic combination in this name, as in the preceding, viz., Kauśeya, but chau-hia has no phonetic value, although it might be compared with the Sanskrit sūksh (ma).


śākala Pānini (iv. 2, 75) has Sāṅkala, the Saggala of Arrian (Anab. Alex., lib. v. c. 22), and probably the same place as Ptolemy (lib. vii. c. i. 46) designates by Sagala hê kai Euthudêmia śākala occurs in the Mahābhārata (ii. 1196, viii. 2033) as the capital of the Madras. Burnouf, Introd., pp. 559 f.; Ind. Ant., vol. i. pp. 22 f.; Wilson, Ariana Ant., pp. 196 f; As. Res., vol. xv. pp. 107 f.; J.A.S.Ben.,vol. vi. pp. 57 f.; Lassen, Zeitsch. f. d. K. d. Morg., vol. i. p.353, vol. iii. pp. 154 f., 212; ind. Alt., vol., i, p. 801. śākala has been identified by General Cunningham with Sāṅglawāla-Tiba to the west of the Rāvī (Anc. Geog. of India, p. 180). The capital of the country is not named by Hiuen Tsiang. It appears from Hwui lih that the pilgrim went straight to Sākala, and did not visit the capital. He places it 14 or 15 li to the north-east of śākala. Although the route taken is differently described in "The Life" and in the Si-yu-ki, yet in the main it is sufficiently clear, After leaving Rājapuri the pilgrim travels south-west for two days, and, crossing the Chenāb, he lodged for one night in a temple belonging to the heretics just outside Jayapura. The second day after leaving this town (direction not given) he arrived at śākala. Proceeding a little way to the eastward of a town called Narasiṃha (the situation of which is not given, but was probably a short distance east of śākala), he was robbed by brigands and lodged in a neighbouring village; starting from which on the next day, he passed the frontiers of the kingdom of Ṭakka, and reached a large town with many thousand inhabitants. This was probably Lahor, the old Lohāwar (the Rāvī was evidently the boundary de facto of Ṭakka). He remained here one month, and then proceeding eastward, he arrived at the capital of a country Chīnapati, 500 li from śākala This was probably the large old town of Patti, 10 miles to the west of the Biyas river. About 10 miles south-west of this (the Si-yu-ki has 500 li by mistake for 50) was a monastery; this would place us at the point of the confluence of the Biyas and Satlaj rivers. The question to be settled is whether at this point there is a mountain or a hill round which for a distance of 20 li monasteries and stūpas could be grouped. General Cunningham speaks of this neighbourhood as constituting the sandy bed of the Biyus river (op. cit., p. 201). But, at any rate, such a situation agrees with the next measurement of 140 or 150 li to Jālandhar. We should thus have a total cf 660 li (132 miles) eastward from śākala to Jālaṅdhara, which is as nearly as possible correct as projected on General Cunningham's map (op. cit. No. vi.)


For Mahirakula, see ante Book iii. n. I. The interpretation of the name is given by the Chinese editor as Ta-tso i.e., "great tribe or family;" but mahira or mihira signifies "the sun;" it should therefore be "the family of the sun."


The kingdoms of the neighbouring districts all submitted to him.


Or "eminent virtue;" but "tih" (virtue) refers to general gifts or endowments.


Bālāditya, explained by "yeou jih", i.e., the young sun or the rising sun. Julien translates it too literally, "le soleil de enfants." Julien has observed and corrected the mistake in the note, where the symbol is "wan" for "yeou". With respect to the date of Bālāditya, who was contemporary with Mahirakula who put Siṃha, the twenty-third Buddhist patriarch, to death, we are told that he was a grandson of Buddhagupta (Hwui-lih, p. 150, Julien's trans.), and according to General Cunningham (Archaolo Survey, vol. ix. p. 21) Buddhagupta was reigning approximately A.D. 349, and his silver coins extend his reign to A.D. 368. His son was Tathāgatagupta, and his successor was Bālāditya. Allowing fifty years for these reigns, we arrive at 420 A.D. for the end, probably, of Bālāditya's reign. This, of course, depends on the initial date of the Gupta period; if it is placed, as Dr. Oldenberg (Ind. Antiq., vol. x. p. 321) suggests, A.D. 319, then the reign of Buddhagupta will have to be brought down 125 years later, and he would be reigning 493 A.D.; in this case Bālāditya would be on the throne too late for the date of Siṃha, who was certainly many years before Buddhadharma (the twenty-eighth patriarch), who reached China A.D. 520. The earlier date harmonises with the Chinese records, which state that a Life of Vasubandhu, the twenty-first patriarch, was written by Kumārajīva A.D. 409, and also that a history of the patriarchs down to Siṃha, whom we place hypothetically about 420 A.D., was translated in China A.D. 472; both these statements are possible if the date proposed be given to Bālāditya.


It may be translated, "an island of the sea."


Belonging to the world or creatures born in the world.


The ancestral sacrifices.


Perhaps a better translation would be: "In truth I am ashamed; whether I cast my eyes downward or upward, in heaven or earth I am unable to find deliverance."


This is an obscure sentence; Julien translates it "have a care for yourself: you must accomplish the term of your life."


That is to say, when they had arrived at the condition of omniscience they would in future ages declare how Mahirakula was suffering under some form of birth or other, in consequence of his evil deeds. This was one of the methods of Buddha's teaching.


The expression "tsu lo" means "to wither away like a falling leaf."


The lowest hell is the Wu-kan-ti-yuh, the hell without interval (avīchi), i.e., without interval of rest, a place of incessant torment. It is the lowest of the places of torment. See Catena of Buddhist Scriptures, p. 59.


This may also mean that his torments even then, i.e., after this punishment, would not be finished. The Buddhist idea of the suffering in Avīchi was not connected with its eternal duration. See Eitel, Handbook, sub voc.


That is, from śākala; not from the large city (Lahor) on the frontiers of Ṭakka, as V. de St. Martin states (Mémoire, p. 330).

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