Xuanzang at Khotan

                                 From THE LIFE OF HIUEN'TSIANG (Xuanzang)

                                          (Xuanzang’s Own Account of His Life)

                           Book V, pp. 202 to 211 of Beal Translation (pp. 256 to 265 of PDF)

                                          Upon Entering the Country of Khotan

                          (after Xuanzang has travelled from Kashgar en route to China)

Going east from this 800 li or so, we come to the country of Kustana (Khotan). This district is a great flat covered with sand and stones. The soil, however, is fit for the cultivation of cereals and is very productive. They manufacture carpets (rugs) from wool, fine haircloth, and silken taffeta; the soil produces much white jade and dark jade. The climate is temperate, and the common people understand politeness and right principles; they esteem learning and are fond of music. They are upright in their conduct and truthful, and in these respects differ from other Tartar tribes (Hu). Their literature (letters) resembles that of India with some slight differences. They greatly esteem the law of Buddha.

There are 100 monasteries here and about 5000 priests. They mostly study the Great Vehicle. The king is a polished and learned man, brave and versed in the arts of war. He is well affected towards virtuous people. He professes to be descended from Pi-sha-man (Vaisravana).

The great ancestor of the king was the eldest son of Asoka-raja, who dwelt in Takshasila. Afterwards, being banished from the kingdom, he went forth to the north of the Snowy Mountains. As he went looking for grass and water for his herds, he came to this place and built his chief residence here.

After a while, because he had no son, he went to worship in the Temple of Vaisravana Deva. The forehead of the god bursting open in front there came forth a male child, and the ground, fronting the temple, at the same time produced a wonderfully sweet-scented (substance like milk from the) breast; taking this for the nourishment of the child he grew up to maturity.

At the king's death he mounted the throne and established his rule in righteousness, and brought many countries under his power. The present king is his descendant. As his ancestor had been nourished by a breast of the earth, the name of U-tien (for Kustana) was given to it, meaning an earth-pap.

When the Master of the Law entered the frontiers of this kingdom, he came. to the city of Po-kia-i (Bhagpa ?). In this is a sitting figure of Buddha about seven feet high; on its head is a precious jewel-crown, and its appearance is perfect and complete (for majesty). The old people gave the following account of it.

The image originally belonged to Kashmir, and came to this place by invitation.

There was formerly an Arhat who had a Sramanera (as a disciple) whose body was afflicted with leprosy.

When he was near death he desired to have a cake of tso/i-mai (sour meal ?). His master by means of his divine sight saw that such food could be got in Kustana. Accordingly he transported himself there by his power of Irrdhi, and having begged some, returned and gave it to the Sramanura. Having eaten it he was filled with joy and desired to be born in that country. His earnest prayer could not be abortive, and so after his death he was born in the royal family.

After he had come to the throne, being sharp-witted and brave, he purposed to make a foray and seize some neighboring territory. Crossing the mountains therefore he attacked the old country of his birth.

The king of Kashmir accordingly chose his generals and marshaled his troops in order to repel the attack.

And now the Arhat said: "Do not attempt to use force : I myself will go to him."

Forthwith he went to the place where the king of Kustana was, and told him about the loss caused by the

covetousness and violence of the head-born (Murdhaja) king ; and then he showed him the garment he had worn when in his former person he had been a Sramanera.

The king seeing it, and arriving at knowledge of his former condition, was deeply ashamed, and forthwith formed an alliance with the king of Kashmir, and renounced his purpose of conquest. Returning to his country, he was accompanied by (or, he received as a guest) the image which he had formerly worshipped, and which now followed the army. When the image arrived at this spot it stood still and would go no farther. The king and all his army tried to move it forward by force, but it would not move. Accordingly the king raised above the image a little chapel, and invited the priests and their companions to come and worship it. Moreover he placed on the head of Buddha (i.e. the image) his own much-valued and magnificent headdress. This headdress is still to be seen, and is of priceless value on account of the jewels; all beholders are filled with exultation at the sight.

The Master of the Law remained here seven days.

The king of Khotan hearing that the Master was entering his territories, went forth in his own person to

Meet him, and the following day he conducted him on his way.

The king, arriving at his capital in advance, left his son to attend (the Master).

After proceeding thus for two days, the king further dispatched an official guide (ta Jcwari) to conduct him on his onward way.

When forty li from the town, he rested for the night.

The next day the king, with a number of clerics and laymen, taking with them sounding music, perfumes, and flowers, accompanied him along the road on the left side ; on his arrival he invited him to enter the city, and located him in a temple of the Little Vehicle, belonging to the school of the Sarvastivadins.

About ten li to the south of the city, there is a large Sangharama which was built by a former king of this country in honour of Vairochana Arhat.

Formerly, when this country had not yet received the benefit of the teaching of the Law, an Arhat came here from Kasmir, and sat down in silent meditation in the midst of a forest.

Some persons who saw him were frightened at his appearance and clothing.

Having told the king about it, he came in person to examine his appearance.

He then asked him who he was, living thus in the midst of a solitary wilderness.

He answered : " I am a disciple of Tathagata ; his law enjoins on me this solitary abode."

The king replied: "When you speak of Tathagata, whom do you mean ?"

He answered and said : "Tathagata is the distinctive title of Buddha. He was in former days the eldest son of Suddhodana-raja, his name being Sarvarthasiddha ; moved by tenderness for "all flesh" engulfed in the sea of sorrow, without a teacher and without any refuge, he rejected the seven gems belonging to a Chakravarttin, and the 1000 sons, and the sovereignty over the four continents (quarters, or islands), and in the solitary forest earnestly sought after wisdom (Bodhi) ; having obtained the fruit of his six years' discipline, his body yellow as gold, he reached the law which is acquired without a Master. He scattered sweet dew (i.e., preached on the deathless condition of Nirvdna) in the garden of deer, and caused the brightness of the Mani-gem to shine on the summit of the Ghridrakuta (i.e., declared the highest truth). For eighty years he published his doctrine for the profit and happiness (of all creatures). His connection with (conditioned) life being now broken, he peacefully passed away to the true condition of being, leaving his image and his body of doctrine as a perpetual legacy, and these still survive.

"And now the king by his meritorious conduct in previous states of life has established himself as a ruler of men ; he ought therefore to take charge of and enjoin obedience to, this religious system (wheel of the law)  that those who understand its purport may find in it their salvation (refuge). But why are you so dumb, as though you heard me not ?" 

The king replied : "My sins, accumulated and overflowing, have prevented me from hearing the name of

Buddha. But now, thanks to the down-pouring virtue of the holy man, what remnant of merit I have, has accrued to my benefit. May I be allowed to adore his image and obey the doctrine he has bequeathed to the world?"

The Arhat replied: "Yon must seek the joy of fulfilling your vows. First then build a Sangharama, then the divine image will of itself descend."

On this the king returned, and with his various ministers having selected a suitable site, and having summoned his workmen, he asked the Arhat for a plan of the building to be raised. He then proceeded with the work.

When the temple was finished, the king further inquired, "The Sangharama is completed, but where is the statue of Buddha ?"

He replied : "Let the king only seek the fullest assurance (insight) and the image will come forthwith."

On this the king and all the great ministers and the gentry and people, lighting their incense and scattering

flowers, stood still in profound meditation ; in a moment the image of Buddha came down from space with its precious dais, glittering and bright, and of a majestic appearance.

The king seeing it, was filled with joy, and congratulated himself on his extreme good fortune. Moreover, he requested the Arhat to preach the Law for the benefit of the people. Then, because he instituted for the people (or, among the people) a festival of dedication, this Sanghrama is (remembered as) the very first foundation in the country.

The Master of the Law, since he had previously lost his books in crossing the river, when he came here, immediately sent messengers to go to Kuchi and to Su-li (Kashgar), to seek for others ; and now, notwithstanding his delay with the king of Khotan, as they had not obtained the books, he sent forward a young man of Kau-chang with a written memorial, desiring him to follow in the train of the merchants, and to present it at court, with the tidings that he who had formerly gone to the country of the Brahmans to seek for the Law, had now returned so far as Khotan.

The memorial was couched in these words : "The words of the Sramana Hiuen-Tsiang : Hiuen has heard say of Ma-yung,  Ki-chen, and Ching-Kuan? that they were teachers of public morals : Fuh-sing was illustrious for his eminent talent: Cho-Tso  himself (founded) the schools to the south of the Tsih. Here we see the character of these learned men But if we admire these ancient masters for thus going afar in search (or, support of) learning, how much more those who search into the secret traces of the profit-bringing religion of the Buddhas, and the marvellous words of the three Pitakas, able to liberate from the snares of the world ? How can we dare to undervalue such labours, or not regard them with ardour ? Now I, Hiuen-Tsiang, long since versed in the doctrine of Buddha, bequeathed by him in the Western world, the rules and precepts of which had reached the East in an imperfect form, always pondered on a plan for searching out the true learning, without any thought for personal safety. Accordingly, in the fourth month of the third year of the period Cheng-Kwan (630, A.D.), braving dangers and obstacles, I secretly found my way to India. I traversed over vast plains of shifting sand: I scaled precipitous mountain-crags clad with snow: found my way through the scarped passes of the iron gates; passed along by the tumultuous waves of the hot sea. Beginning at the sacred city of Chang'an, I reached the new city of Rajagriha.

"Thus I accomplished a journey of more than 50,000 li; yet, notwithstanding the thousand differences of customs and manners I have witnessed, the myriads of dangers I have encountered, by the goodness of Heaven I have returned without accident, and now offer my homage with a body unimpaired, and a mind satisfied with the accomplishment of my vows. I have beheld the Ghridrakiita Mountain, worshipped at the Bodhi tree : I have seen traces not seen before ; heard sacred words not heard before ; witnessed spiritual prodigies, exceeding all the wonders of Nature ; have borne testimony to the high qualities of our august Emperor ; and won for him the high esteem and praise of the people. In my travels through successive kingdoms I have passed seventeen years, and now, having come from the country of Prayaga ; passed through Kapisa ; surmounted the precipices of the Tsung-Ling, traversed the valley of Pamir, I have reached Khotan.

" And now, because the great elephant (which I had) is perished in the waters, I have not yet succeeded in obtaining transport for the numerous books which I have brought back. On that account 1 have remained here a little while; but not having obtained (even here) the necessary mode of conveyance, I purpose at once to go forward and visit your majesty. With this view I have sent forward a layman belonging to Kau-Chang, whose name is Ma-huan-chi, in the company of certain merchants, respectfully to present this letter, and to announce my purpose."

After this, during a day and a night, he explained to the priests of Khotan the principles of the Yoga, the Abhidharma, the Kosha, and the Mahayana-samparigraha-Sastras.

The king with the clergy and lay-people all sought to do honour to his teaching, and many thousands embraced the faith daily.

Seven or eight months having elapsed, the messenger returned with a gracious message from the king, to this effect : " When I heard that the Master who had gone to far-off countries to search for religious books, had now come back, I was filled with joy without bounds. I pray you come quickly, that we may see each other. The priests of this kingdom who understand the Fan language and the explanation of the sacred books, I have also commanded to come and pay you greeting. I have ordered the bureaux of Khotan and other places to send with you the best guides they can procure, and conveyances as many as you require. I have commanded the magistrates of Tun-wang to conduct you through the desert of shifting sands, and I have desired the Shen-Shen (government) to send to meet you at Tso-moh."

The Master of the Law having respectfully received this letter of instructions, forthwith set forward. The king of Khotan provided him with a large store of provisions.