17. A Chinese Monk in Ancient India
How did South Asian Buddhism catch on in China? How did the interaction between South and East Asia shape the intellectual and economic evolution of Eurasia? Luckily for us, in the early 400s CE, the remarkable 60-year old Chinese monk Faxian actually walked all the way to India to collect scriptures from his holy land in an epic journey of nearly twenty years, helping us answer these difficult questions. This is his story, a tale of human resilience and grit that still resonates 1600 years from then, a story of the interconnectedness and innovations of the ancient world.
Voice Credits & Notes Below.
Voice Credits (in order of appearance):
Narrator - Anirudh
Chinese Translator - Zoya
Faxian - Abbas
Tansen Sen's work on historical India-China relations is INCREDIBLE and I highly recommend his Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400. University of Hawaii Press, 2003; and India, China, and the World: A Connected History. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. I also relied on his "The Travel Records of Chinese Pilgrims Faxian, Xuanzang, and Yijing: Sources for Cross-Cultural Encounters Betweeen Ancient India and China.” Education about Asia 11, no. 3 (2006): 24–33.
On early Buddhism in China, see Funayama, Toru. “THE ACCEPTANCE OF BUDDHIST PRECEPTS BY THE CHINESE IN THE FIFTH CENTURY.” Journal of Asian History 38, no. 2 (2004): 97–120.
On Buddhism in the Gupta Empire, see Gokhale, BG. "Buddhism in the Gupta Age." in Smith, Bardwell L., ed. Essays On Gupta Culture. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983.
Some fun reading on the Sogians: https://sogdians.si.edu/believers-proselytizers-translators/
I quote Faxian from Fahien, and James Legge (Trans.). A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1886.