The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions
- About the Book
This is an account of the travels in Central Asia and India of the seventh-century Chinese scholar-monk Xuanzang. An epoch-making figure in the history of Chinese Buddhism, the Master had a strong impulse to solve theoretical uncertainties by searching for the missing, untranslated original Sanskrit texts, particularly the Yogacara-bhumi-sastra. Violating a government ban on emigration, he slipped out of the empire without official permission. During his sojourn of sixteen years in India, he studied the said sastra and other texts under the tutelage of the Venerable Silabhadra. He visited all the important Buddhist sites and ruins, enjoyed great popularity in India through his learning as an outstanding Buddhist scholar and won the support of the reigning monarchs such as Siladitya and others of India.
Upon his return, he was requested by the Emperor to write a book about the journey for his reference. The Record was completed in 646 C.E., the year after his return to the capitol. It was appended some seven hundred years after the time of Xuanzang to include Zheng He's visit to Sri Lanka during the reign of Emperor Chengzu (r. 1403-24) of the Ming dynasty.
The Record has been of great value to Western historians and archaeologists, who used it to fill in certain gaps in the history of India and locate the sites of India's former glories. With its exact descriptions of distances and locations of different places, the Record served as a guidebook for the excavation and rediscovery of such important ancient sites as the old city of Rajagrha, the Temple of the Deer Park at Sarnath, the grottoes of Ajanta, the ruins of the well-known Nalanda Monastery in Bihar, etc. Thus it is not merely a book to be studied by students of Buddhism, but also a substantial and interesting book of reference, providing rich information about medieval India for the general reader.
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