One of the first pilgrims to travel to India from China. timen -Ts iang was a monk whose journeys brought him in close contact with India's flourishing Buddhist culture, giving him a deep understanding of the political, social, and economic scenarios of the country
Translated in the mid-nineteenth century by Samuel Beal, this gripping account of a scholar's journeys, as recorded by his disciple Hwui Li. takes us across seventeen years of travel--through the Gobi desert, to the ancient monasteries of Kabul, and finally to the hotbed of Buddhism. India. Known as the Master of the Law Hiuen-Tsiang provided an insightful commentary on India's social structure during the times of monarchs such as Ashoka and Harsher A-book replete with undertones of adventure and wanderlust, The Life of Hitien-Tsiang is a riveting narrative about one of the world's most celebrated travellers.
Samuel Beal (1825-1889) was an Oriental scholar, notable, for being the first Englishman to translate several Chinese works on Buddhism into English He is also famous for exposing the identity of the Tycoon of Yedo in 1857. Who posed as the Emperor of Japan to sign treaties with foreigners
CENTURIES before biography became a business, before the peccadilloes of Royal mistresses and forgotten courtesans obtained a "market value," the writing of the Master's life by some cherished disciple was both an act of love and piety in the Far East. The very footprints of the famous dead became luminous, and their shadows shone in dark caves that once withheld them from the world. Memory looking back viewed them through a golden Laze; they were merged at last in ancient sunlight; they were shafts of God rayed in the tangled forests of time. In this spirit, then, the man of compassionate feeling (such is the rendering of the Sanscrit Shama), the Shaman Hwui-li, took up his tablets and wrote the life of Hiuen-Tsiang. The Master had already written his immortal Si-yu-kior Record of Western Countries, yet the sixteen years of that wonderful quest in far-off India, of cities seen and shrines visited, of strange peoples and stranger customs, cannot be crowded into one brief record. And so we watch the patient disciple waiting on those intervals of leisure when the task of translation from Sanscrit into Chinese is laid aside, when the long routine of a Buddhist day is ended, waiting for the impressions of a wandering soul in the birthland of its faith. The Life is supplement to the Record. What is obscure or half told in the one is made clear in the other.
Hwui-li begins in the true Chinese manner with a grand pedigree of his hero, tracing his descent from the Emperor Hwang Ti, the mythical Heavenly Emperor This zeal for following the remotest ancestors over the borders of history into the regions of fable may be largely ascribed to a very human desire to connect the stream of life with its divine source. We are chiefly concerned to know that he came of a family which had already given notable men to the State, and was launched "in the troublous whirl of birth and death" but a little distance from the town of Kou-Shih, in the province of Honan, in the year 600A.D. Here and there biography leaves us a glimpse of his outward appearance as boy and man. We are told that "at his opening life he was rosy as the eveningvapoursand round as the rising moon. As a boy he was sweet as the odour of cinnamon or the vanilla "tree." A soberer style does justice to his prime, and again he comes before us", a tall handsome man with beautiful eyes and a good complexion. He had a serious but benevolent expression and a sedate, rather stately manner." The call of the West came early to Hiuen-Tsiang. From a child he had easily outstripped his fellows in the pursuit of knowledge, and with the passing of the years he stepped beyond the narrow limits of Chinese Buddhism and found the deserts of Turkestan between him and the land of his dreams. Imperfect translations from the Sanscrit, the limited intelligence of the Chinese priesthood, the sense of vast truths dimly perceived obscurely set forth, the leaven of his first Confucian training—all contributed to the making of a Buddhist pilgrim. The period of his departure, 629 A.D., was an eventful one for China. T'ai-Tsung, the most powerful figure of the brilliant Tang dynasty, sat on the throne of his father Kaotsu, the founder of the line. The nomad Tartars, so long the terror of former dynasties, succumbed to his military genius, and Kashgaria was made a province of the Empire. Already the kingdom of Tibet was tottering to its fall, and Corea was to know the devastation of war within her boundaries. Ch'ang-an was now the capital, a city of floating pavilions and secluded gardens, destined to become the centre of a literary movement that would leave its mark for all time. But the days were not yet when the terraces of Teng-hiang-ting would see the butterflies alight on the flower-crowned locks of Yang-kuei-fei, or the green vistas re-echo to the voices of poet and emperor joined in praise of her. Only two wandering monks emerge furtively through the outer gates of the city's triple walls, and one of them looks back for a glimpse of Chang-an, the last for sixteen eventful years of exile.
Others had crossed the frontier before him, notably Fa-hian and Sung Yun, others in due course would come and go, leaving to posterity their impressions of a changing world, but this man stands alone, a prince of pilgrims, a very Bayard of Buddhist enthusiasm, fearless and without reproach. As we read on through the pages of Hwui-li the fascination of the Master of the Law becomes clear to us, not suddenly, but with the long, arduous miles that mark the way to India and the journey home.
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend