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Xuanzang

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  • Born: 600
  • Died: 664
  • Chinese: 玄奘 (Xuánzàng)

Xuanzang was a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled in India in 629-645, and whose journeys inspired the classic legend, Journey to the West (Xī Yóu Jì).

Travel beyond the borders of the Tang Empire was outlawed at the time when Xuanzang began his journey, and so he was obliged to sneak his way out of the country. However, word of his exploits reached China, and when he returned, he was welcomed warmly by Emperor Tang Taizong.

During his lengthy journey, Xuanzang encountered numerous difficulties, including not only difficult weather and terrain, but also bandits, pirates, and the like. He also encountered a number of local rulers who sought to enlist him into their service. However, in the end, he arrived in India, and is said to have traveled to the very spot where the bodhi tree stood, where the Historical Buddha Shakamuni achieved enlightenment.

Upon his return to China, Xuanzang was encouraged by the emperor to join the court as an imperial advisor. Xuanzang refused, claiming his students and his religious/scholarly pursuits were of greater importance; he is said to have stated that pulling him back into secular life would be like pulling a boat from the water onto the land. He then devoted the rest of his life to translating sutras and other works that he had brought back from India.

References

  • Gallery labels, Pacific Asia Museum.[1]
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