7th century Chinese Buddhist monk and scholar

Xuanzang (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.

The ordinary people … are upright and honourable... They are faithful to their oaths and promises... In their behavior there is much gentleness and sweetness. ~ Xuanzang


  • The ordinary people … are upright and honourable... They are faithful to their oaths and promises... In their behavior there is much gentleness and sweetness.
    • Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang/Yuan Chwang in the 7th century commenting on the people of India. Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 2
  • [Nalanda university] had ten thousand students, one hundred lecture- rooms, great libraries, and six immense blocks of dormitories four stories high; its observatories, said Yuan Chwang, "were lost in the vapors of the morning, and the upper rooms towered above the clouds." The old Chinese pilgrim loved the learned monks and shady groves of Nalanda so well that he stayed there for five years. "Of those from abroad who wished to enter the schools of discussion" at Nalanda, he tells us, "the majority, beaten by the difficulties of the problem, withdrew; and those who were deeply versed in old and modern learning were admitted, only two or three out of ten succeeding."" The candidates who were fortunate enough to gain admission were given free tuition, board and lodging, but they were subjected to an almost monastic discipline. Students were not permitted to talk to a woman, or to see one; even the desire to look upon a woman was held a great sin, in the fashion of the hardest saying in the New Testament. The student guilty of sex relations had to wear, for a whole year, the skin of an ass, with the tail turned upward, and had to go about begging alms and declaring his sin. Every morning the entire student body was required to bathe in the ten great swimming pools that belonged to the university. The course of study lasted for twelve years, but some students stayed thirty years, and some remained till death." The Mohammedans destroyed nearly all the monasteries, Buddhist or Brahman, in northern India. Nalanda was burned to the ground in 1197, and all its monks were slaughtered; we can never estimate the abundant life of ancient India from what these fanatics spared.
  • They are pure of themselves, and not from compulsion. Before every meal they must have a wash; the fragments and remains are not served up again; the food utensils are not passed on; those which are of pottery or of wood must be thrown away after use, and those which are of gold, silver, copper or iron get another polishing. As soon as a meal is over they chew the tooth-stick and make themselves clean. Before they have finished ablutions they do not come in contact with each other.
  • They do not practice deceit, and they keep their sworn obligations. . . . They will not take anything wrongfully, and they yield more than fairness requires.”
  • The whole establishment is surrounded by a brick wall, which encloses the entire convent from without. One gate opens into the great college, from which are separated eight other halls standing in the middle (of the Sangharama) [monasteries]. The richly adorned towers, and the fairy-like turrets, like pointed hill-tops are congregated together. The observatories seem to be lost in the vapours (of the morning), and the upper rooms tower above the clouds.
  • Scholars who had passed its rigorous programme were honoured throughout the Buddhist world. Yuan Chwang’s – Hieun Tsang’s – telling expression gives a glimpse: ‘…Hence foreign students came to the establishment to put an end to their doubts and then became celebrated, and those who stole the name (of Nalanda Brother) were all treated with respect wherever they went….’
    • Yuan Chwang, quoted in Shourie, Arun (2014). Eminent historians: Their technology, their line, their fraud. Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India : HarperCollins Publishers.
  • He (Indian emperor Harsha) was indefatigable,” says Yuan Chwang, “and the day was too short for him; he forgot sleep in his devotion to good works.
    • Quoted in Durant, Will (1963). Our Oriental heritage. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • If any one here can find a single wrong argument and can refute it, I will let him cut off my head.
    • Quoted in Durant, Will (1963). Our Oriental heritage. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • He went from east to west subduing all who were not obedient; the elephants were not unharnessed, nor the soldiers unhelmeted.
    • About Harsha. Yuan Chawang, quoted in Misra, R. G. (2005). Indian resistance to early Muslim invaders up to 1206 A.D. p.4

Quotes about XuanzangEdit

  • Even though China had a different belief system but Buddha has maintained his influence on China as well. Recently, I went to China and found that their government was introducing me to Buddhist elements of their culture with great pride. I got to know that China is making a film on Hiuen-Tsang. I took a pro-active role and wrote to those people saying that they should not forget the part about his stay in Gujarat. Hiuen-Tsang lived for a long time in the village where I was born. He has written about a hostel in that village where 1,000 student monks resided. After I became chief minister, I got the area excavated and found archeological evidence of things described by Hiuen-Tsang. This means Mahatma Buddha’s philosophy would have had some influence on my ancestors.
    • Narendra Modi, quoted from Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.388-389
  • In his diary, Hsuan Tsang has recorded that India was divided into five divisions or to use his language, there were ‘five Indies': (1) Northern India, (2) Western India, (3) Central India, (4) Eastern India and (5) Southern India and that these five divisions contained 80 kingdoms.... It is true that when Hsuan Tsang came, not only the Punjab but what is now Afghanistan was part of India and further, the people of the Punjab and Afghanistan were either Vedic or Buddhist by religion.

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