Xuanzang

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Xuanzang(600/602 - 664) 
玄奘

Xuanzang [ɕɥɛ̌n.tsâŋ] (Chinese: 玄奘; fl. c. 602 – 664) was a Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveller, and translator who travelled to India in the seventh century and described the interaction between Chinese Buddhism and Indian Buddhism during the early Tang dynasty.[1][2]

During the journey he visited many sacred Buddhist sites in what are now Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. He was born in what is now Henan province around 602, from boyhood he took to reading religious books, including the Chinese classics and the writings of ancient sages.

While residing in the city of Luoyang (in Henan in Central China), Xuanzang was ordained as a śrāmaṇera (novice monk) at the age of thirteen. Due to the political and social unrest caused by the fall of the Sui dynasty, he went to Chengdu in Sichuan, where he was ordained as a bhikṣu (full monk) at the age of twenty. He later travelled throughout China in search of sacred books of Buddhism. At length, he came to Chang'an, then under the peaceful rule of Emperor Taizong of Tang, where Xuanzang developed the desire to visit India. He knew about Faxian's visit to India and, like him, was concerned about the incomplete and misinterpreted nature of the Buddhist texts that had reached China.[3]

He became famous for his seventeen-year overland journey to India (including Nalanda), which is recorded in detail in the classic Chinese text Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, which in turn provided the inspiration for the novel Journey to the West written by Wu Cheng'en during the Ming dynasty, around nine centuries after Xuanzang's death.[4]

During Xuanzang's travels, he studied with many famous Buddhist masters, especially at the famous center of Buddhist learning at Nalanda. When he returned, he brought with him some 657 Sanskrit texts. With the emperor's support, he set up a large translation bureau in Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), drawing students and collaborators from all over East Asia. He is credited with the translation of some 1,330 fascicles of scriptures into Chinese. His strongest personal interest in Buddhism was in the field of Yogācāra (瑜伽行派), or Consciousness-only (唯識).

The force of his own study, translation and commentary of the texts of these traditions initiated the development of the Faxiang school (法相宗) in East Asia. Although the school itself did not thrive for a long time, its theories regarding perception, consciousness, karma, rebirth, etc., found their way into the doctrines of other more successful schools. Xuanzang's closest and most eminent student was Kuiji (窺基) who became recognized as the first patriarch of the Faxiang school. Xuanzang's logic, as described by Kuiji, was often misunderstood by scholars of Chinese Buddhism because they lack the necessary background in Indian logic.[32] Another important disciple was the Korean monk Woncheuk.

Xuanzang was known for his extensive but careful translations of Indian Buddhist texts to Chinese, which have enabled subsequent recoveries of lost Indian Buddhist texts from the translated Chinese copies. He is credited with writing or compiling the Cheng Weishi Lun as a commentary on these texts. His translation of the Heart Sutra became and remains the standard in all East Asian Buddhist sects; as well, this translation of the Heart Sutra was generally admired within the traditional Chinese gentry and is still widely respected as numerous renowned past and present Chinese calligraphers have penned its texts as their artworks.[33] He also founded the short-lived but influential Faxiang school of Buddhism. Additionally, he was known for recording the events of the reign of the northern Indian emperor, Harsha. (Source Accessed Feb 5, 2020)

notes

1. Wriggins, Sally (27 November 2003). The Silk Road Journey With Xuanzang (1 ed.). Washington DC: Westview press (Penguin). ISBN 978-0813365992.
2. Upinder Singh (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education. p. 563. ISBN 9788131716779.
3. Wriggins, Sally (27 November 2003). The Silk Road Journey With Xuanzang. New York: Westview (Penguin). ISBN 978-0813365992.
4. Cao Shibang (2006). "Fact versus Fiction: From Record of the Western Regions to Journey to the West". In Wang Chichhung (ed.). Dust in the Wind: Retracing Dharma Master Xuanzang's Western Pilgrimage. p. 62. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
32. See Eli Franco, "Xuanzang's proof of idealism." Horin 11 (2004): 199-212.
33. "Heart Sutra Buddhism". Vincent's Calligraphy. Retrieved 16 March 2017.

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On the topic of this person

Other names

  • Chen Hui (or Chen Yi) · other names

Affiliations & relations

  • Faxiang school · religious affiliation
  • Kuiji (窺基) · student
  • Woncheuk · student