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 20 - Country of Po-la-sse (Persia)

Note: This country does not belong to India (Ch. Ed.) Hiuen Tsiang did not visit it personally; he writes from report.

This kingdom is several myriad of lis in circuit. Its chief town, called Su-la-sa-t'ang-na (Surasthāna), is about 40 li in circuit. The valleys are extensive, and so the climate differs in character, but in general it is warm. They draw the water up to irrigate the fields. The people are rich and affluent. The country produces gold, silver, copper, rock-crystal (sphāṭika), rare pearls, and various precious substances. Their artists know how to weave fine brocaded silks, woollen stuffs, carpets, and so on. They have many "shen" horses and camels. In commerce they use large silver pieces. They are by nature violent and impulsive, and in their behaviour they practise neither decorum nor justice. Their writing and their language are different from other countries. They care not for learning, but give themselves entirely to works of art. All that they make the neighbouring countries value very much. Their marriage-customs are merely promiscuous intercourse. When dead their corpses are mostly abandoned. In stature they are tall: they tie up their hair (arrange their head-dress) and go uncovered. Their robes are either of skin, or wool, or felt, or figured silk. Each family is subject to a tax of four pieces of silver per man. The Deva temples are very numerous. Dinava[1] (Ti-na-po) is principally worshipped by the heretics. There are two or three saṅghārāmas, with several hundred priests, who principally study the teaching of the Little Vehicle according to the Sarvāstavādin school. The pātra of śākya Buddha is in this (country), in the king's palace.[2]

On the eastern frontiers of the country is the town of Ho-mo (Ormus?). The city inside is not great, but the external walls are in circuit about 60 li or so. The people who inhabit it are all very rich. To the north-west this country borders on the kingdom of Fo-lin,[3] which resembles the kingdom of Persia in point of soil, and manners, and customs; but they differ in point of language and appearance of the inhabitants. These also possess a quantity of valuable gems, and are very rich.

To the south-west of Fo-lin, in an island of the sea, is the kingdom of the western women:[4] here there are only women, with no men; they possess a large quantity of gems and precious stones, which they exchange in Fo-lin. Therefore the king of Fo-lin sends certain men to live with them for a time. If they should have male children, they are not allowed to bring them up.

On leaving the kingdom of 'O-tien-p'o-chi-lo, and going north 700 li or so, we come to the country of Pi-to-shi-lo.

Footnotes and references:


Julian restores this name, doubtfully, to Dinabha. Dinava, or Dinapa, however may be a contraction for Dinapa(ti), "the lord of the day," or "the sun."


For the wanderings of the pātra of Buddha, see Fa-hian, chap. xxxix. It is interesting to know that there were Buddhist temples and a community of priests in Persia at the time of Hiuen Tsiang. As they belonged to the school of the Little Vehicle, it is probable they had been established there from an early date.


Fo-lin (polin) is generally supposed to represent the Byzantine Empire.


For some references to the island or kingdom of the western women, see Marco Polo, chap. xxxi., and Colonel Yule's note (vol. ii. p. 339).

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