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 5 - Country of Kia-mo-lu-po (Kamarupa)

Note: Kāmarūpa extended from the Karatoyā river in Raṅgpur to the eastward.[1]

The country of Kāmarūpa is about 10,000 li in circuit. The capital town is about 30 li. The land lies low, but is rich, and is regularly cultivated. They cultivate the Panasa fruit and the Na-lo-ki-lo (Nārīkela)[2] fruit. These trees, though numerous, are nevertheless much valued and esteemed. Water led from the river or from banked-up lakes (reservoirs) flows round the towns. The climate is soft and temperate. The manners of the people simple and honest. The men are of small stature, and their complexion a dark yellow. Their language differs a little from that of Mid-India. Their nature is very impetuous and wild; their memories are retentive, and they are earnest in study. They adore and sacrifice to the Devas, and have no faith in Buddha; hence from the time when Buddha appeared in the world even down to the present time there never as yet has been built one saṅghārāma as a place for the priests to assemble. Such disciples as there are are of a pure faith, say their prayers (repeat the name of Buddha) secretly, and that is all. There are as many as 100 Deva temples, and different sectaries to the number of several myriads. The present king belongs to the old line (tso yan) of Nārāyaṇa-deva. He is of the Brāhmaṇ caste. His name is Bhāśkaravarman,[3] his title Kumāra (Keu-mo-lo). From the time that this family seized the land and assumed the government till the present king, there have elapsed a thousand successions (generations). The king is fond of learning, and the people are so likewise in imitation of him. Men of high talent from distant regions aspiring after office (?) visit his dominions as strangers. Though he has no faith in Buddha, yet he much respects śramaṇas of learning. When he first heard that a śramaṇa from China[4] had come to Magadha to the Nālanda saṅghārāma from such a distance, to study with diligence the profound law of Buddha, he sent a message of invitation by those who reported it as often as three times, but yet the śramaṇa (i.e., Hiuen Tsiang) had not obeyed it. Then śīlabhadra (Shi-io-po-t'o-lo), master of śāstras, said, "You desire to show your gratitude to Buddha; then you should propagate the true law; this is your duty. You need not fear the long journey. Kumāra-rāja's family respect the teaching of the heretics, and now he invites a śramaṇa to visit him. This is good indeed! We judge from this that he is changing his principles, and desires to acquire merit (or, from merit acquired) to benefit others. You formerly conceived a great heart, and made a vow with yourself to travel alone through different lands regardless of life, to seek for the law for the good of the world.[5] Forgetful of your own country, you should be ready to meet death; indifferent to renown or failure, you should labour to open the door for the spread of the holy doctrine, to lead onwards the crowds who are deceived by false teaching, to consider others first, yourself afterwards; forgetful of renown, to think only of religion (enlarge the law)."

On this, with no further excuses, he hastened in company with the messengers to present himself to the king. Kumāra-rāja said, "Although I am without talents myself, I have always been fond of men of conspicuous learning. Hearing, then, of your fame and distinction, I ventured to ask you here to visit me."

He replied, "I have only moderate wisdom, and I am confused to think that you should have heard of my poor reputation."

Kumāra-rāja said, "Well, indeed! from regard for the law and love of learning to regard oneself as of no account, and to travel abroad regardless of so great dangers, to wander through strange countries! This is the result of the transforming power of the king's government, and the exceeding learning, as is reported, of the country. Now, through the kingdoms of India there are many persons who sing about the victories of the Tsin king of the Mahāchina country. I have long heard of this. And is it true that this is your honourable birthplace?"

He said, "It is so. These songs celebrate the virtues of my sovereign."

He replied, "I could not think that your worthy self was of this country. I have ever had an esteem for its manners and laws. Long have I looked towards the east, but the intervening mountains and rivers have prevented me from personally visiting it."

In answer I said, "My great sovereign's holy qualities are far renowned, and the transforming power of his virtue reaches to remote districts. People from strange countries pay respect at the door of his palace, and call themselves his servants."

Kumāra-rāja said, "If his dominion is so great (covering thus his subjects), my heart strongly desires to bear my tribute to his court. But now śīlāditya-rāja is in the country of Kajūghira (Kie-chu-hoh-khi-lo), about to distribute large alms and to plant deeply the root of merit and wisdom. The śramans and Brāhmaṇs of the five Indies, renowned for their learning, must needs come together. He has now sent for me. I pray you go with me!"

On this they went together.

On the east this country is bounded by a line of hills, so that there is no great city (capital) to the kingdom. Their frontiers, therefore, are contiguous to the barbarians of the south-west (of China). These tribes are, in fact, akin to those of the Man[6] people in their customs. On inquiry I ascertained that after a two months' journey we reach the south-western frontiers of the province of Sz'chuen (Shuh). But the mountains and rivers present obstacles, and the pestilential air, the poisonous vapours, the fatal snakes, the destructive vegetation, all these causes of death prevail.

On the south-east of this country herds of wild elephants roam about in numbers; therefore, in this district they use them principally in war.

Going from this 1200 or 1300 li to the south, we come to the country of San-mo-ta-cha (Samataṭa).

Footnotes and references:


Kāmarūpa (its capital is called in the Purāṇas, Prāgjyotisha) extended from the Karatoyā river in Raṅgpur to the eastward (Stat. Acc. Bengal, vol. vii. pp. 168, 310; or M. Martin, East Ind., vol. iii. p. 403). The kingdom included Manipur, Jayntīya, Kachhār, West Asām, and parts of Maymansiṅgh, and Silhet (śrīhaṭṭa). The modern district extends from Goalpāra to Gauhaṭṭi. Lassen, I. A., vol. i. p. 87. vol. ii. p. 973; Wilson, V. P., vol. v. p. 88; As. Res., vol. xiv. p. 422; Lalita Vis., p. 416.


The bread-fruit and the cocoa-nut.


P'o-se-kie-lo-fa-mo, in Chinese, Yih-cheu, "helmet of the sun." See Hall's Vāsavadattā, p. 52.


The French translation is very confused. Julien appears to have overlooked the symbols Chi-na-kwo (the country of China).


To save all creatures (Jul.)


The 'Man people' (man lo) are the south-west barbarians (so named by the Chinese).

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