About the Book:
The book fills up a significant gap about the information available on the life of the illustrious Buddhist scholar, Hsuan-tang, who visited India in the seventh century AD. While his experiences and observations from these travels are will documented and easily accessible to the English-speaking world, there is a silence on the years that followed his return to China in AD 645. Works that translated Chinese and Uigur tests on the life of Hsuan-tsang into German and French were in print as early as the 1850s, but have not been available to a wider audience.
This book brings together a selection of the available material, freshly translated into English. Devahuti's introduction and summary of life bring out, in sharp focus, the contributions and impact of Hsuan-tsang. This work stands out for its in-depth research and use of original sources. It will be a valuable addition to the existing literature on Hsuan-tsang and Buddhism of the time, and opens new areas for further research and analysis.
About the Author:
The late D. Devahuti (1929-88) specialized in ancient Indian and early South-east Asian history. She taught at the universities of Malaya and Queensland. Her last teaching assignment was with the history department of University of Delhi. Some of her other works include Harsha: A political Study, India and Ancient Malaya, Problems of Indian Historiography, and Bias in Indian Historiography.
Professor Devahuti, the author of Harsha: A Political Study; India and Ancient Malaya and numerous other articles in learned journals, was engaged in exploring the nature of interaction between India and its neighbouring civilizations of Central Asia, China, and Southeast Asia. She has left behind several finished and partly finished manuscripts and voluminous notes on a variety of subjects. The Unknown Hsuan-tsang is part of a considerably larger work on Central Asia. This study was undertaken by the author, as she herself said,....to rediscover links with civilizations which interacted for centuries with India's own. As I discovered by my study, these links continue to exist in Southeast Asia even in areas predominantly animist, Muslim or Christian. The same is true for Central Asia whether in the medieval or modem context.'
Indian scholars in general, and historians in particular, are aware of the fact that the Chinese have made a significant contribution to the modem reconstruction of ancient Indian history and culture. However, such an awareness remains largely without purpose until employed in an in-depth study. Devahuti, when she did her Ph.D. and later published the dissertation as Harsha: A Political Study (Oxford University Press, 3rd revised edition, 1998, originally published by Clarendon Press, 1970), had embarked on that course.
Unearthing Devahuti's personal archives we found many manuscripts. The Unknown Hsuan-tsang, now being published by the Oxford University Press, shall give readers access to hitherto unknown material.
The indepth enquiries and research in this book can lay the foundation for future scholars to study the exploits of this great cultural ambassador between India and China so that everything unknown about him may be learnt, well-preserved and perhaps provide a model for future interactions.
Devahuti's major field was ancient India, but her canvas extended to inter-continental, inter-civilizational, and inter-disciplinary dimensions. She was not a China scholar by training, but various circum- stances aroused in her a keen interest in Chinese history and culture.As far back as in the 1950s, during her doctoral research at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, she met and interacted with many Chinese scholars, particularly Professor Lau. Later a teaching stint at universities in Australia and visits to Malaysia and Singapore for academic exchanges brought her into contact with more Chinese scholars. Southeast Asia became for her a window to the ancient Chinese civilization and culture, one she peeped through off and on. She had examined-often with the help of experts and language specialists in their specific fields-original literary sources including formal compositions and folk literature, archaeological finds and art objects, in libraries and museums in Delhi, Dharamshala, (former) East and West Germany, the former USSR, and China.
More important was Devahuti's acquaintance with Professor Tan Chung, from the late 1960' s. Devahuti joined the Department of History, Delhi University while Professor Tan Chung was in the Department of Chinese and Japanese studies. This new department used the History Department as a platform to popularize Chinese studies among graduate students of the university. Devahuti and Tan Chung enjoyed a close personal friendship. In 1978, Tan Chung joined the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Devahuti and Tan Chung continued their academic association and they had even planned to take up a joint research project together. However, all plans for the future were cut short by her untimely death in 1988.
Apart from Tan Chung, Devahuti also had many good friends in China, one of whom was Professor Huang Xinchuan, former Director of the institute of South and Southeast Asian Studies (later renamed as the Institute of Asia Pacific Studies) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Beijing. Huang was introduced to Devahuti in 1979 when she first visited India. The two regularly exchanged correspondence and writings. Devahuti learnt many things from Huang about contemporary studies in China on ancient Sino-Indian contacts. Xuanzang (the new spelling of Hsuan-tsang) was a common academic interest between them. Both Huang and Tan Chung greatly miss Devahuti now that there is a renewed interest, both in China and India, in Hsuan-tsang.
I have alluded to Devahuti's strong spiritual ties with Tan Chung; they treated each other as friends, philosophers, and guides. Tan is the son of the luminous Chinese scholar, Tan Lun-shan, who was invited by the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, to India from Singapore, and who helped Tagore establish the renowned Cheena-Bhavana at Visva Bharati, laying a strong foundation for Sino-Indian studies. Tan Chung has since been, like his father, working ceaselessly in promoting India-China understanding.
Devahuti had always had a great admiration for the work done by Tan Chung's father, whom she described as the 'modem Hsuan-tsang'. Devahuti, her husband Damodar, Tan Chung and many others have all been quiet workers for the promotion of friendship and under-standing between the two great civilizations. The Unknown Hsuan-tsang is a reflection of Devahuti's efforts towards this lofty end.
Research is like a chain reaction. It can lead the inquisitive mind from one area to another, to yet another, endlessly. Devahuti's journey from Harshavardhana, an ancient north Indian ruler, to Hsuan-tsang, the talented Chinese monk-scholar, is the result of such a chain reaction. Both Devahuti and her husband, Professor Damodar Prasad Singhal, were great travellers and path-finders. In her meticulous attention to detail, Devahuti would be unmindful of time, effort, and expense. She tracked the forgotten traces of Hsuan-tsang by visiting libraries and museums in a number of countries. Travelling thus, she was only emulating the shining example of Hsuan-tsang himself.
I have just mentioned Damodar, my brother-in-law, and I know how greatly my sister Devahuti loved and admired him. They were symbiotic in their scholarship. He authored a dozen well-known books on historical subjects, the best-known being India and World Civilization (Michigan State University Press, 1969). In the concluding paragraph of this work, Professor Singhal spells out the universal outlook of a modern Indian mind:
In an era of increasing scientific and technological advancement the cultural isolation of one region could scarcely be possible. Without the impediment of colonial rule, Indian response to the West might have been even more unrestrained. Even so, although her choice of western learning was somewhat limited by British imperial needs, the initiative to select from what was offered was mainly her own. India elected to absorb voluntarily. She resisted western domination, but not western learning. (vol. 2, p. 313)
Even if Oxford University Press had not asked me to get involved with this publication, I would have invited myself into it, because it offers me a special privilege and pleasure in keeping my spiritual reunion with one of my dearest friends, Devahuti, and one of her favourite research themes-Hsuan-tsang. Like Devahuti, I, too, am endeared to Hsuan-tsang (or spelled as 'Xuanzang'), because not only is he an inspiration to me, he is also an icon that off and on smiles on a Chinese family settled in India-an icon that symbolizes a 'cultural envoy' or 'people's ambassador' .
When Veena, younger sister of Devahuti, showed me the unfinished manuscript of The Unknown Hsuan-tsang many years ago, I could not suppress my sense of loss that such an important project was left unfinished, and I was keen to see its completion. Partly because I was in the thick of a project absolutely unrelated to Hsuan-tsang, and partly because of a lack of confidence on my part, I could not undertake the work to complete it. The 'Hsuan-tsang scholarship' that Devahuti had attempted to build up requires one to have a mastery over history, geography, sociology, culture, and literature, and an ease with Chinese, English, Sanskrit, ancient Central Asian languages, and even Japanese, French, and other European languages so that one can incorporate the latest findings of Hsuan-tsang experts all over the world. I felt I was an intellectual pygmy before the height of such a scholarly challenge. I turned the manuscript to a very senior scholar of Sanskrit and archaeology, who was also conversant with Chinese, and particularly, Central Asian history. Having initially agreed, this scholar later gave up. All this reflects the height of the academic level of Devahuti's project, which deserves to be published as she had left it. It is like the magnificent wall paintings of the Dunhuang (or Tun-huang) caves illustrated by innumerable Chinese and foreign artists from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries spread in 492 grottoes. Some of these masterpieces are also 'unfinished', but they shine as magnificently as the finished ones.
Devahuti was a pioneer, and therefore, a loner in her Hsuan-tsang project. She had asked for my companionship in this vital academic pursuit. Much as I felt embarrassed to decline her request, I was at that time facing a number of challenges both in teaching and in research, in addition to academic administration duties in a university that I had only recently joined. Her acknowledgement of my help in the manuscript has put me to shame, as I regretfully reminisce about having left her alone in what she was doing. Devahuti started her quest for the 'unknown Hsuan-tsang' almost half a century ago, when she was treading a lonely path. Now, when the path is no longer lonesome, one laments that Devahuti is not with us to embark on it.
No description is more profound for the understanding of Hsuan- tsang than the word 'unknown' used by Devahuti. In Buddhist and also in Taoist logic, there is little that divides the known from the unknown. Even in Confucian thinking, the more you want to know, the more you find that you don't know. Like William Shakespeare, Hsuan-tsang has the dimension of a 'national industry' in the pursuit of wisdom, information, and understanding. Researchers can exhaust themselves, they cannot exhaust the now more or less established 'Hsuan-tsang Studies'.
Much scholarly work has been done in the name of 'Xuanzang (Hsuan-tsang) Studies' after Devahuti left our world. A common friend of her and mine, Professor Huang Xinchuan, a leading Chinese scholar on Indian philosophy, has become the driving spirit in the last several years to mobilize scholarly enthusiasm on Hsuan-tsang. He established a research institution-The Institute of Xuanzang Studies-in 1992, and organized an international seminar in 1994, commemorating the 1,330th anniversary of the birth of the pilgrim at his birth place, Luoyang, and the place of his major work and death, Xi' an (the modern location of the ancient imperial capital, Ch'ang-an). Had Devahuti lived several years longer, she would have presented her The Unknown Hsuan-tsang to this unprecedented international gathering of more than a hundred eminent admirers and spiritual disciples of the ancient pilgrim, where over sixty research papers on Xuanzang/Hsuan-tsang were presented.
Even before this event took place, many scholars from the renowned Beijing University had carried out significant research on Hsuan-tsang, synthesizing his 'travelogue' and 'biography' (as mentioned by Devahuti) and various other well-known, not-so-well-known, and unknown sources in Chinese and other languages. Their annotated volume of Xiyuji (Hsi Yu chi) is the most comprehensive research done so far on the pilgrim's historic travels to the Buddhist countries inside and outside India. (Ji Xianlin et aI., Da-Tang Xiyuji Jiaozhu or 'The Annotated Version of Xuanzang's "Records of the Western Regions" ' Beijing: Zhonghua Bookshop, 1985.) Yet, none of the contributors of this masterpiece would disagree with my conclusion that much work still should and can be done to carry the significance of Xuanzang further afield.
Ji Xianlin, Life Professor of Beijing University, is the doyen of Chinese scholars specializing in Indian and Sino-Indian studies. He has summarized the achievements of Xuanzang in four aspects. First, the translation of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Chinese. In total 1,335 fascicles (a fascicle is about a score of pages) were rendered into Chinese with great mastery by Xuanzang. As Professor Ji puts it: 'While China occupies a unique place in the history of translation in world literature, Xuanzang occupies a unique place in the history of translation in Chinese literature. Professor Ji also sees three stages in the evolution of translation techniques in China's gigantic and magnificent Sutra-translation (yijing) feat. The early pioneers from the first century onwards used the method of 'direct translation' (zhiyi), producing works which were not so readable, if not difficult to comprehend. Then arrived Kumarajiva in the 4th century who inaugurated a new stage of 'concept translation' (yiyz), making the end-products very readable, but a little too free to be faithful. Xuanzang combined the advantages and forte of both the above approaches, a method what we now call 'transcreation'.
Second, Xuanzang helped to establish a new school of Buddhist disciples known as the 'Weishi' (Vijnanamatra) or 'Faxiang' (dharma- laksana) sect, although the School did not endure. Third, Xuanzang had the marvellous achievement of getting diplomatic relations established between India (under king Harshavardhana) and China (under the Tang Dynasty). The pilgrim made Harsha (another one of Devahuti's favourite research topics) admire the Tang emperor, Taizong (or T'ai-tsung) who, in turn, was convinced by Xuanzang's accounts that India was a marvellous country. Several embassies were exchanged between these two rulers, which was unprecedented in the annals of India-China relations.
Hsuan-tsang, whose family name was Ch'en (Ch'in), was born in AD 602 at Chin-liu near the town of Kou-shih in the Honan province of China. He died at the age of 62 in the Yuh-fa (Jade Flower) Palace Monastery near the main capital Chang-an in AD 664. Hsuan-tsang spent fourteen years of his life, from AD 630-44, in India as a Buddhist pilgrim. The length of his sojourn at various places in the country was determined by what they had to offer by way of Buddhist lore and learning. He stayed in Kashmir for two years (631-3), at China-bhukti in eastern Punjab for fourteen months (633-4), at Nalanda for five years (637-42), and in what may be described as Buddha country, in and around Magadha, for two years (636-8). He spent the remaining years in other places, including the Deccan and the South. He left India in early 644, and after a few months' stay in Khotan reached the Chinese capital in April 645.
Hsuan-tsang carried back with him some relics and images of the Buddha, several hundred copied texts, some notes on the immense amount he had seen and heard, and much more besides, in memory. For the next two decades, until his death in AD 664, he worked ceaselessly on this material, carried out multifarious duties and catered to the genuine but often ostentatious Buddhist fervour of his royal patron.
In addition to the prodigious translation work-740 Sanskrit texts of various sizes with the help of amanuenses-Hsuan-tsang also copied scriptures, moulded arid painted images of the Buddha, initiated novices into the Samgha, instructed the student monks of the monasteries and sometimes the imperial officers who visited him, and even carried bricks and stones for the construction of the Tayen pagoda. He instructed the emperor in the subtleties of Buddhism, translated into Sanskrit Tai T'sung's letter to the thaumaturge/alchemist Narayana- svamin seeking youth and longevity, blessed the empress who was expecting a baby and then the new-born whom he temporarily ordained a monk, led grand processions to the palace and the monastery, wrote endless letters seeking the emperor's calligraphic messages as prologues for his writings and epigraphs for the monasteries, and sought royal decrees in favour of Buddhism when it was pitched against Taoism. He arranged for a decent reinterment of his parents' mortal remains in new tombs. He attended to his Indian guests and also translated some diplomatic papers.
However, details of Hsuan-tsang's life and activity from AD 645-64 are not sufficiently known to the English-speaking world. This is not for lack of material on the latter part of Hsuan-tsang's career but rather due to its neglect by the pioneer translators and commentators.
The two major sources on Hsuan-tsang's life are his biography: TaT'ang Ta Tz'u-en Ssu San-tsang Fa-shih Chuan (Life of the Master of the Law, Tripitaka of the Great Monastery of Motherly Love) by Hui-li and Yen-Ts'ung, and his travelogue, the Ta T'ang Hsi Yu Chi (Records of the Western Lands of the Great T'ang Period). Two lesser known sources which supplement the biography are a notice in the Hsu Kao Seng Chuan (,Continuation of the Lives of Eminent Monks') by Tao-hsuan (Takakusu 50, 446) and Ta Tang Ku San-tsang Hsuan-tsang Fa-shih Hsing-chuang ('Report on the Career of the Late Master of the Law, Tripitaka Hsuan-tsang of Great Tang') by Ming-hsiang (Takakusu 50, 214). We shall provide some essential data about these sources, working backwards from the latter-most.
The 'Report' by the monk Ming-hsiang was sent to the Bureau of History for entry in the official records, which probably explains the inclusion in the Chiu T'ang Shu (Old Tang History, chapter 191) of the brief but inaccurate accounts of the lives of three monks, one of whom is Hsuan-tsang. The 'Report' (c. 664) which is known through two early manuscripts preserved in Japanese monasteries contains many details not found elsewhere.
The monk Tao-hsuan (d. 667), who wrote the notice in the Hsu Kao Seng Chuan, was closely associated with Hsuan-tsang. He appears to have used some of the same sources as the 'Report'. Additions to this work, the first part of which appeared in AD 645, range between that year and AD 667 and also include a later notice by another hand about the reinterment of Hsuan-tsang's remains in AD 668 or 669. Among other details, the Hsu Kao Seng Chuan provides brief information for the year 647 which should have been dealt with in chapter VI of the Life (biography of Hsuan-tsang by Hui-li and Yen Ts'ung) but is missing for some reason.
The His Yu Chi or the account of Hsuan-tsang's pilgrimage was compiled by his assistants under his supervision, in just over a year after his return to China. The emperor had asked him to write this account. In the eighteenth century, an abridged version of this work, entitled Chen-po Than Gu Duskyi iGya-Gar ZhiriGi bKod Pahi Kar Chag bZhugs So, was prepared in Tibetan by Mgon-po-Skyabs (c. 1690- 1750). This was published in 1973 in Ulan Bator in Mongolia by S. Bira. In modern times Stanislas Julien translated the Hsi Yu Chi in French as Memoires sur les contrees occidentales ... in 1857-58, and Samuel Beal in English as the Buddhist Records of the Western World in 1884. In 1904-5, Thomas Watters published Yuan Chwang's Travels in India in which he para-phrased, translated and commented upon the Hsi Yu Chi. Each succeeding writer made extensive cross-references to earlier translations. These pioneering attempts made between 125 and 75 years ago are very valuable, but there is room for improvement in them from the viewpoints of linguistic proficiency and methodology.
We have selected for fresh translation' the general account of India as given in chuan II of the travelogue [chapter 4 of this work]. It carried the following subheadings: The names of India, measures of space, measures of time, cities and houses, dress and personal characteristics, written and spoken language, Buddhism, castes, army, social and legal matters, acts of salutation and reverence, sickness and death, revenue and taxation, and general products. Also included is a fresh translation of the section on Kanyakubja (Kanauj), the centre of power of the greatest contemporary Indian ruler Harsha, whom Hsuan-tsang visited twice. In fact Kanauj, the pride of the Maukharis and later the chosen capital of Harsha, continued to be the prime city of northern India under Yasovarman, the Pratiharas and the Gahadavalas almost until AD 1200.
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