Xuanzang was a Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator. He traveled to India in the seventh century and described the interaction between Chinese Buddhism and Indian Buddhism during the early Tang dynasty. He became famous for his seventeen-year overland journey to India, which is recorded in detail in the classic Chinese text Great Tang Records on the Western Regions.
About Xuanzang in brief
Xuanzang was a Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator. He traveled to India in the seventh century and described the interaction between Chinese Buddhism and Indian Buddhism during the early Tang dynasty. He became famous for his seventeen-year overland journey to India, which is recorded in detail in the classic Chinese text Great Tang Records on the Western Regions. Xuanzang’s journey was the inspiration for the novel Journey to the West written by Wu Cheng’en during the Ming dynasty, around nine centuries after his death. The sound written x in pinyin and hs in Wade–Giles, which represents the s- or sh-like in today’s Mandarin, was previously pronounced as the h-like in early Mandarin, which accounts for the archaic transliterations with h. Less common romanizations of Xuanzangs include Hyun Tsan, Hhuen Kwan, Hiuan Tsang, Hiouen Thsang, and Yuen Chwang. In some English-language fiction and English translations of Journey To the West, Xuanzans is addressed as ‘Tripitaka’ or ‘Sanzang Fashi’ (Chinese for ‘Buddhism Teacher’ or ‘Dharma’ or PaliPrakrit Dhamma) Xuanzan was born in Henan province on 6 April 602 and died on 5 February 664 in Yuhua Palace. His family was noted for its erudition for generations, and he was the youngest of four children.
His ancestor was Chen Shi, a minister of the Eastern Han dynasty. His great-grandfather Chen Qin served as the prefect of Shangdang during the Eastern Wei; his grandfather Chen Kang was a professor in the Taixue during the Northern Qi. His father Chen Hui was a conservative Confucian who served as magistrate of Jiangling County during the Sui dynasty. According to traditional biographies, he displayed a superb intelligence and earnestness by his careful observance of rituals at the age of eight. After the death of his father in 611, he lived with his older brother Chén Sén, known as jùng Zhéi, and later known as Xuanzng. He was ordained as a śrāmaṇera at the aged of 13. He later traveled 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 he 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. He gave up office and withdrew into seclusion to escape the political turmoil that gripped China towards the end of theSui dynasty, but later gave up his position as a magistrate. He died in 664 and was succeeded by his brother Sén.