Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Long and Winding Road

I have at last managed to return the photograph of the pagoda, taken by Nancy during her recent visit to China, to it's rightful place in a posting from over a week ago.

Here below is some information about the famous Buddhist priest associated with the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. If I have it right, the story of the priest Xuan Zhuang and his journey to India was told in The Journey to the West. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was both the starting and ending point of this epic journey.

And Nancy saw the actual scriptures brought back from this journey. Wow!

Travels of Xuan Zhuang -- Buddhist Pilgrim of the Seventh Century

Xuan Zhuang was born in AD 602. As a child he became already absorbed in the study of the Sacred Books of Chinese literature. While still a boy he was ordained as a Buddhist priest to the Temple of Heavenly Radiance in Hangchow, and soon there after was transferred to the Temple of Great Learning in Chang-an, a community of monks who devoted their lives to the translation of the Sacred Books from India. Listening to the variety of their interpretations young Xuan Zhuang conceived the bold plan to travel to India and bringing back more Sacred Buddhihs Books to China.

Xuan Zhuang traveled between AD 627-643. His detailed account provides the first reliable information about distant countries, terrain and customs. He traveled over land, along the Silk Road west toward India. However, the further west he traveled it became increasingly difficult to cross desert and mountain ranges. Of the Taklamaken desert he reports:

"As I approached China's extreme outpost at the edge of the Desert of Lop, I was caught by the Chinese army. Not having a travel permit, they wanted to send me to Tun-huang to stay at the monastery there. However, I answered 'If you insist on detaining me I will allow you to take my life, but I will not take a single step backwards in the direction of China'."

More here...

It turns out that last year I visit the temple in Taiwan where the relics of Xuan Zhuang are enshrined. And wouldn't you know it, the Silk Road that Xuan Zhuang traveled opened again on July 6th.

More tomorrow...