Buddhism in Sarnath: An Account of Two Chinese Travellers

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Anuradha Singh


This paper aims to draw the religious life in Sarnath (and Varanasi) as accounted by the Chinese travellers—Fa-Hien and Hiuen-tsang. The accounts not only talk about the stupas, pillars, statues built by King Ashoka; vihars and monks (bhikshus) living in those vihars but also contain the first preachings of Lord Buddha, establishment of Sangha and the story of Mrigajataka that remain significant. With the increased popularity of Buddha dharma in China, the Chinese were attracted towards travelling to India. They came to India mainly with the intentions to visit the places related to the fond memories of Lord Buddha, to study the Buddha religion and philosophy and carry the copies of the Buddhist compositions. Fa-Hien and Hiuen-tsang occupy significant places among these Chinese travellers. These accounts can be associated with ancient history as well as with historical geography, religion and philosophy. While Fa-hien in his journey details had described about the Buddha Empire, Hiuen-tsang highlighted the civilisation of India and its cultural landscape, albeit it has been often accepted by the historians that these accounts of their journeys should be considered as significant only when they are backed by historical evidences. They opine that these travellers were mainly influenced by the Buddha dharma and therefore, their accounts are liable to containing exaggerated journey details. It is true that the journey details contain few imaginary instances; nevertheless, these accounts have been validated by the remnants, stupas and vihars at the sites.


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How to Cite
Singh, A. (2014). Buddhism in Sarnath: An Account of Two Chinese Travellers. Space and Culture, India, 2(2), 42-48. https://doi.org/10.20896/saci.v2i2.87
Author Biography

Anuradha Singh, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India

Assistant Professor, Department of History, Faculty of Social Sciences
Received 2014-11-16
Accepted 2014-11-16
Published 2014-11-01


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