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 2 - Country of Chen-chu (Ghazipur)

This kingdom is about 2000 li in circuit; its capital, which borders on the Ganges river, is about 10 li in circuit. The people are wealthy and prosperous; the towns and villages are close together. The soil is rich and fertile, and the land is regularly cultivated. The climate is soft and temperate, and the manners of the people are pure and honest. The disposition of the men is naturally fierce and excitable; they are believers both in heretical and true doctrine. There are some ten saṅghārāmas with less than 1000 followers, who all study the doctrines of the Little Vehicle. There are twenty Deva temples, occupied by sectaries of different persuasions.

In a saṅghārāma to the north-west of the capital is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja. The Indian tradition[1] says this stūpa contains a peck of the relics of Tathāgata. Formerly, when the Lord of the World dwelt in this place,[2] during seven days he preached the excellent law for the sake of an assembly of the Devas.

Beside this place are traces where the three Buddhas of the past age walked and where they sat.

Close by is an image of Maitreya Bodhisattva: although of small dimensions, its spiritual presence is great, and its divine power is exhibited from time to time in a mysterious manner.

Going east from the chief city about 200 li, we come to a saṅghārāma called 'O-pi-t'o-kie-la-na ("Ears not pierced"—Aviddhakarṇa[3]). The circuit (encircling wall) is not great, but the ornamental work of the building is very artistic. The lakes reflect the surrounding flowers, and the eaves of the towers and pavilions (or, the tower-pavilions) touch one another in a continuous line. The priests are grave and decorous, and all their duties are properly attended to. The tradition states: Formerly there were two or three śramaṇas, passionately fond of learning, who lived in the country of Tu-ho-lo[4] (Tukharā), to the north of the Snowy Mountains, and were of one mind. Each day during the intervals of worship and reciting the scriptures, they talked together in this way: "The excellent principles of religion are dark and mysterious, not to be fathomed in careless talk. The sacred relics (traces) shine with their own peculiar splendour; let us go together from place to place, and tell our faithful (believing[5]) friends what sacred relics we ourselves have seen."

On this the two or three associates, taking their religious staves,[6] went forth to travel together. Arrived in India, at whatever convent gates they called, they were treated with disdain as belonging to a frontier country, and no one would take them in. They were exposed to the winds and the rains without, and within they suffered from hunger; their withered bodies and pallid faces showed their misery. At this time the king of the country in his wandering through the suburbs of the city saw these strange priests. Surprised, he asked them, "What region, mendicant masters, come you from? and why are you here with your unpierced ears[7] and your soiled garments?" The śramaṇas replied, "We are men of the Tu-ho-lo country. Having received with respect the bequeathed doctrine,[8] with high resolve we have spurned the common pursuits of life, and following the same plan, we have come to see and adore the sacred relics. But alas! for our little merit, all alike have cast us out; the śramaṇas of India deign not to give us shelter, and we would return to our own land, but we have not yet completed the round of our pilgrimage. Therefore, with much fatigue and troubled in heart, we follow on our way till we have finished our aim."

The king hearing these words was much affected with pity, and forthwith erected on this fortunate (excellent) site a saṇghārāma, and wrote on a linen scroll the following decree: "It is by the divine favour of the three precious ones (Buddha, Dharma, Saṅgha) that I am sole ruler of the world and the most honoured among men. Having acquired sovereignty over men, this charge has been laid on me by Buddha, to protect and cherish all who wear the garments of religion (soiled or dyed garments). I have built this saṅghārāma for the special entertainment of strangers. Let no priest with pierced ears ever dwell in this convent of mine." Because of this circumstance the place received its name.

Going south-east from the convent of 'O-pi-t'o-kie-la-na about 100 li, and passing to the south of the Ganges, we come to the town Mo-ho-sa-lo (Mahāsāra),[9] the inhabitants of which are all Brāhmaṇs, and do not respect the law of Buddha. Seeing the śramaṇ, they first inquired as to his studies, and ascertaining his profound knowledge, they then treated him with respect.

On the north side of the Ganges[10] there is a temple of (Na-lo-yen) Nārāyaṇa-deva.[11] Its balconies and storied towers are wonderfully sculptured and ornamented. The images of the Devas are wrought of stone with the highest art of man. Miraculous signs, difficult to explain, are manifested here.

Going east from this temple 30 li or so, there is a stūpa built by Aśoka-rāja. The greater part (a great half) is buried in the earth. Before it is a stone pillar about 20 feet high, on the top of which is the figure of a lion. There is an inscription cut in it (i.e., the pillar) respecting the defeat of the evil spirits. Formerly in this place there was some desert[12] demons, who, relying on their great strength and (spiritual) capabilities, fed on the flesh and blood of men. They made havoc of men and did the utmost mischief. Tathāgata, in pity to living creatures, who were deprived of their natural term of days, by his spiritual power converted the demons, and led them, from reverence to him (kwai i[13]), to accept the command against murder. The demons, receiving his instruction respectfully, saluted him (by the pradakṣina). Moreover, they brought a stone, requesting Buddha to sit down, desiring to hear the excellent law (from his mouth), that they might learn how to conquer their thoughts and hold themselves in check. From that time the disciples of the unbelievers have all endeavoured to remove the stone which the demons placed for a seat; but though 10,000 of them strove to do so, they would be unable to turn it. Leafy woods and clear lakes surround the foundation on the right and left, and men who approach the neighbourhood are unable to restrain a feeling of awe.

Not far from the spot where the demons were subdued there are many saṅghārāmas, mostly in ruins, but there are still some priests, who all reverence the doctrine of the Great Vehicle.

Going south-east from this 100 li or so, we come to a ruined stūpa, but still several tens of feet high. Formerly, after the Nirvāṇa of Tathāgata, the great kings of the eight countries[14] divided his relics. The Brāhmaṇ who meted out their several portions, smearing the inside of his pitcher with honey,[15] after allotting them their shares, took the pitcher and returned to his country. He then scraped the remaining relics from the vessel, and raised over them a stūpa, and in honour to the vessel (pitcher) he placed it also within the stūpa, and hence the name (of Droṇa stūpa) was given it.[16] Afterwards Aśoka-rāja, opening (the stūpa), took the relics and the pitcher, and in place of the old[17] one built a great stūpa. To this day, on festival occasions (fast-days), it emits a great light.

Going north-east from this, and crossing the Ganges, after travelling 140 or 150 li, we come to the country of Fei-she-li (Vaiśālī).

Footnotes and references:


Or the work called "In-tu-ki," i.e., the Records of India.


Julien translates "in this convent," but the original names only "the place." It would be natural to suppose that Aśoka built the stūpa, and the saṅghārāma was erected subsequently.


The distance and bearing from Ghāzipur given in the text would indicate Baliya as the site of this convent. There is a village called Bikapur, about one mile east of Baliya, which Cunningham thinks may be a corruption of Aviddhakarṇapura. It may be the same vihāra as that called "Desert" by Fa-hian (cap. xxxiv.) But we can hardly accept Cunningham's restoration of Kwang ye (which simply means "wilderness" or "desert") to Vṛhadāraṇya or Bṛhadāraṇya, which he thinks may have been corrupted into Biddhkarn.


See vol. i. p. 37. For further remarks on the country Tu-ho-lo and the Tokhāri people see a pamphlet by G. de Vasconcellos-Abreu "On the probable origin of the Toukhari (De l'Origine probable des Toukhares)", Louvain, 1883. This writer combats the opinion of Baron Richtofen and others that the Yue-chi and the Tokhāri are identical. This is in agreement with vol. i. p. 57, n. 121, of the present work.


"Our non-heretical friends or relatives," or it may be simply "our attached friends."


There are two such foreign pilgrims with their staves sculptured at Amarāvatī. Tree and Serpent Worship, pl. lxxxii. fig. 1. Mr. Fergusson suggests they may be Scythians; probably they are these Tokhāri people. If this be so, their position beneath the palm-tree indicates the misery they endured, as described in the text; and the grouping may be compared with the "Judæa capta" medal.


Hence the name, Aviddhakarṇa.


That is, the bequest or testamentary doctrine of Buddha's religion.


The town of Mahāsāra, has been identified by M. V. de St. Martin with Masār, a village six miles to the west of ārā (Arrah).


According to Cunningham, the pilgrim must have crossed the Ganges above Revelganj, which is nearly due north of Masār exactly 16 miles. This point, near the confluence of the Ganges and Ghāgrā, is deemed especially holy.


That is, of Vishnu.


The expression used for "desert" (kwang ye) is the same as that found in Fa-hian, referred to above, n. 49.


The Chinese phrase kwai i corresponds with the Sanskrit śaraṇa, "to take refuge in." Hence General Cunningham traces the name of this district Sāran to the incident recorded in the text.


See above, pp. 40, 41.


This translation is somewhat forced. Literally the passage runs thus—"honey-smearing-pitcher-within."


The Droṇa stūpa (called the Kumbhān stūpa by Turnour, J. A. S. B., vol. vii. p. 1013) is said to have been built by Ajātaśatru (Aśokāvadāna, translated by Burnouf, Introd., p. 372). It may have stood near a village called Degwāra. It is named the "golden pitcher stūpa" by Aśvaghosha. Fo-sho, v. 2283 (compare Spence Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, p. 351). The Brāhmaṇ himself is sometimes called Droṇa or Droha, or Dauna. Droṇa corresponds to the Chinese p'ing, a pitcher or vase. Julien, in a note (p. 383, n. 1), seems to imply that Droṇa is simply a measure of capacity; and so he restores p'ing to karka. But it also means a vessel or vase; probably in this case the Brāhmaṇ's pitcher. Compare Fo-sho, v. 1408; see also Cunningham, Anc. Geog. of India, p. 442.


Julien translates, "then he reconstructed the monuments and enlarged it;" but in the original, as in all cases when speaking of Aśoka's building, it is implied that he destroyed the old erection, and in its place he built "a great stūpa." It would be gratifying if we could ascertain the character of the pre- Aśoka monuments. They are said by Cunningham to have been "mere mounds of earth," the sepulchral monuments of the early kings of the country even before the rise of Buddhism.—Anc. Geog. of India, p. 449.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: