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 9 - Country of U-ch’a (Udra)

Note: Uḍra or Oḍra is Orissa (Mahābh., ii. 1174, iii. 1988); also called Uṭkala (Mahābh., vii. 122; Vishṇupur., vol. ii. p. 160).

This country is 7000 li or so in circuit, the capital city[1] is about 20 li round. The soil is rich and fertile, and it produces abundance of grain, and every kind of fruit is grown more than in other countries. It would be difficult to name the strange shrubs and the famed flowers that grow here. The climate is hot; the people are uncivilised, tall of stature, and of a yellowish black complexion. Their words and language (pronunciation) differ from Central India. They love learning and apply themselves to it without intermission. Most of them believe in the law of Buddha. There are some hundred saṅghārāmas, with 10,000 priests. They all study the Great Vehicle. There are fifty Deva temples in which sectaries of all sorts make their abodes. The stūpas, to the number of ten or so, point out spots where Buddha preached. They were all founded by Aśoka-rāja.

In a great mountain on the south-west frontiers[2] of the country is a saṅghārāma called Puṣpagiri (Pu-se-po-k'i-li); the stone stūpa belonging to it exhibits very many spiritual wonders (miracles). On fast-days it emits a bright light. For this cause believers from far and near flock together here and present as offerings beautifully embroidered (flower) canopies (umbrellas); they place these underneath the vase[3] at the top of the cupola,[4] and let them stand there fixed as needles in the stone. To the north-west of this, in a convent on the mountain, is a stūpa where the same wonders occur as in the former case. These two stūpas were built by the demons,[5] and hence are derived the extraordinary miracles.

On the south-east frontiers of the country, on the borders of the ocean, is the town Charitra (Che-li-ta-lo),[6] about 20 li round. Here it is merchants depart for distant countries, and strangers come and go and stop here on their way. The walls of the city are strong and lofty. Here are found all sorts of rare and precious articles.

Outside the city there are five convents[7] one after the other; their storeyed towers are very high, and carved with figures of saints exquisitely done.

Going south 20,000 li or so is the country of Siṃhala (Seng-kia-lo). In the still night, looking far off, we see the surmounting precious stone of the tooth-stūpa of Buddha brilliantly shining and scintillating as a bright torch burning in the air.

From this going south-west about 1200 li through great forests, we come to the kingdom of Kong-u-t'o (Konyodha).

Footnotes and references:


This capital is generally identified with Jaipura on the Baitani: Mr. Fergusson suggests Midnāpur (J. R. A. S., N. S., vol. vi. p. 249); his remarks (in this paper) on the whole of this part of the pilgrim's route are of great interest. He first noticed that the journey of Hiuen Tsiang to Kāmarūpa was made from Nālanda on his return to that monastery from South India; he also points out the errors made by his predecessors in the same inquiry and corrects them.


Remains, probably of a stūpa, have been found near āska (J. R. A. S., vol. xx. p. 105).


Literally, "underneath the dew-vessel or vase." Here we have another instance of the custom of crowning the stūpa with a dew-vase, or "vessel of immortality" (amara karka). The custom would appear to have originated in the idea that "sweet dew" thus collected in a vessel had miraculous qualities as "the water of life." Dr. Burgess remarks that these flags were probably fixed "on the capital of the stūpa, on which was placed the relic-casket (when not enshrined inside the capital over the garbha of the stūpa)."


It is satisfactory to find that Julien in this passage translates the "inverted vase or alms-dish" by cupola. It should have been so rendered throughout.


The expression "shin kwei" does not mean demons in a bad sense, but spiritual or divine beings. It might also be rendered "spirits and demons." Cunningham supposes the two hills named in the text to be Udayagiri and Khandagiri, in which many Buddhist caves and inscriptions have been discovered. These hills are 20 miles to the south of Kaṭak and 5 miles to the west of the grand group of temples at Bhuvaneśwara (Anc. Geog. of India, p. 512).


In Chinese, Fa-hian, "city of departure." This is exactly Ptolemy's to aphtêion tôneis tên chrusên empleontôn (lib. vii. c. 1, 15). Comp. Lassen, I. A., vol. i. p. 205, and vol. iii. p. 202. It is plain (from Hiuen Tsiang's remark, that the precious stone could be seen at a distance of 20,000 li) that he is confusing this Charitrapura with the one farther south, two days' sail from Ceylon.


M. Julien renders it "five stūpas" by mistake.

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