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Hsüan-tsang

(c. 600—664)


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(596–664).

A Chinese monk who travelled in India for seventeen years collecting scriptures and studying languages. The second of the great translators after Kumārajīva, Hsüan-tsang left for India without government leave in 629, primarily to pursue an interest in Vijñānavāda or ‘consciousness-only’ philosophy. He returned in 645, bringing many texts and gifts from famous Indian monasteries and kings. The emperor questioned him for many days about his travels, and offered him an official post, which Hsüan-tsang refused. He dedicated the remainder of his life to translating the texts he brought back. Because his output was so extensive (73 items in all) and of such high quality, and because he retranslated many texts that already existed in Chinese using new vocabulary of his own devising as translation equivalents, his activity is held to mark the transition from the ‘old translation’ period (dominated by Kumārajīva's work) to the ‘new translation period’. In addition to his translations, Hsüan-tsang also published a travelogue called The Record of Western Lands of the Great T'ang [Dynasty] (Ta T'ang hsi-yü chi, 2087 in the Taishō canon), which has proved an invaluable source for Indian history. This work also became the basis for the Chinese literary classic, The Journey to the West.

Subjects: Buddhism.


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