An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Da-Tang xiyu ji 大唐西域記

Jul 17, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Da-Tang xiyu ji 大唐西域記 "Records from the Regions West of the Great Tang" is a report of the countries west of China, on the way to India, compiled during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) by the Buddhist monks Xuanzang 玄奘 (c. 600-664) and Bianji 辯機.

Xuanzang left Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi), the capital of the Tang empire, in 627, traveled along the caravan routes through central Asia and passed the Hindukush mountains to go on to India, where he stayed for more than ten years. He was back nineteen years later and started, on imperial command, compiling a geographical description of all the countries he had crossed. Xuanzang actually did not write the book but orally narrated what he had seen, while his disciple Bianji wrote down the text. Bianji also took part in the translation of the many Buddhist writings Xuanzang had brought with him from India.

The 12-juan long book describes 138 different city states and countries in Central and Southern Asia. The descriptions are arranged according to the travel routes Xuanzong chose to go, the greatest part of the book covers places in India, the first and last juan the travel to India and back, respectively. Xuanzang describes the geographical conditions of the places he passed through, the waterways, climate, local products, customs and habits of the inhabitants, the language, calendar, political aspects, and of course, also the Buddhist monasteries in these places and many stories about the monk communities living there.

The book is of great value for the study not only of the geographical and political conditions of Inner and Southern Asia at tht time, but it also provides valuable information about the situation of Buddhism in its home country India. Xuanzang also informs his readers about some aspects of Indian history.

A large amount of studies has been made on the Da-Tang xiyu ji, especially concerning place names and history of Buddhism, but also in the field of ethnography and linguistics. There are a lot of editions of this book. The oldest extant, fragmentary version has been found as a manuscript in Dunhuang 敦煌, Gansu. There is a fragment from Fuzhou 福州, Fujian, from the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126), and one fragment from Zhaocheng 趙城, a city in the territory of the Jin empire 金 (1115-1234). These fragements were published in 1981 by the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 with the title Da-Tang xiyu ji guben sanzhong 大唐西域記古本三種.

The oldest fully surviving version dates from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). There are several modern editions, like the edition of the Shanghai Renmin Press from 1977, with a commentary by Zhang Xun 章巽, or the commentary by Ji Xianlin 季羡林 from 1985. There is also a Japanese version from 1911.

The Da-Tang xiyu ji was translated into many foreign languages.

Beal, Samuel (1884). Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World, by Hiuen Tsiang (London: Trübner).
Deeg, Max (2012). "'Show me the Land where the Buddha Dwelled...' Xuanzang's 'Record of the Western Regions' (Xiyu ji): A Misunderstood Text?", China Report, 48/1-2: 89-113.
Grousset, René (2007 [1929]). Sur les traces du Bouddha (Paris: L'Asiathèque).
Haidar, Salman (2005). "On the Trail of Xuanzang", India International Centre Quarterly, 32/1; 158-160.
Hu Youheng 胡有恒 (1994). "Da-Tang xiyu ji 大唐西域記", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Lishi 歷史卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 309.
Inaba, Minoru (2015). "From Caojuzha to Ghazna / Ghaznīn: Early Medieval Chinese and Muslim Descriptions of Eastern Afghanistan", Journal of Asian History, 49/1-2: 97-117.
Khair, Tabish (2005). "Three Chinese Scholars go 'West' to India (Fifth-Seventh Century)", in Tabish Khair, Other Routes: 1500 Years of African and Asian Travel Writing (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press), 32-41.
Kuwayama Shōshin (2012). "How Xuanzang Learned about Nālandā", China Report, 48/1-2: 61-88.
Lu Shengfa 盧升法 (1997). "Da-Tang xiyu ji 大唐西域記", in Men Kui 門巋, Zhang Yanqin 張燕瑾, ed. Zhonghua guocui da cidian 中華國粹大辭典 (Xianggang: Guoji wenhua chuban gongsi), 602.
Lai Kehong 來可泓 (1997). "Da-Tang xiyu ji 大唐西域記", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Zongjiao 宗教卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 139.
Lévi, Sylvain, Edouard Chavannes, transl. (1895). Yuen-tchao (Ou-K'ong) (751-790), Voyages des pèlerins bouddhistes : L'itinéraire d'Ou-K'ong (751-790) (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale).
Li Bingzhong 李秉忠, Wei Canjin 衛燦金, Lin Conglong 林從龍, ed. (1990). Jianming wenshi zhishi cidian 簡明文史知識詞典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 578.
Li Rongxi, transl. (1995). The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions (Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research).
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 1113.
Liu Yuan-ju, Chen Jack W. (2016). "Stories Written and Rewritten: The Story of Faxian's Search for the Dharma in its Historical, Anecdotal, and Biographical Contexts", Early Medieval China, 22: 1-25.
Mayer, Alexander L. (2000). "Die Erscheinungsformen des Raumes im Pilgerbericht Xuanzangs (600-664)". in Xenja von Ertzdorff, Rudolf Schulz, ed. Beschreibung der Welt: zur Poetik der Reise- und Länderberichte: Vorträge eines interdisziplinären Symposiums von 8. bis 13. Juni 1998 an der Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen (Amsterdam/Atlanta, GA: Rodopi), 153-162.
Qing Wei 卿蔚 (1993). "Da-Tang xiyu ji 大唐西域記", in Ru Xin 汝信, ed. Shijie baike zhuzuo cidian 世界百科著作辭典 (Beijing: Zhongguo gongren chubanshe), 411.
Ray, Haraprasad (1998). "Geographical Notes on Xuanzang's Account: Northeast India and Orissa", China Report, 34/1: 87-92.
Ren Jiyu 任繼愈, ed. (2002). Fojiao da cidian 佛教大辭典 (Nanjing: Jiangsu guji chubanshe), 151.
Sen, Tansen (2001). "In Search of Longevity and Good Karma: Chinese Diplomatic Missions to Middle India in the Seventh Century", Journal of World History, 12/1: 1–28.
Sen, Tansen (2006). "The Travel Records of Chinese Pilgrims Faxian, Xuanzang, and Yijing: Sources for Cross-Cultural Encounters between Ancient China and Ancient India", Education About Asia, 11/3; 24-33.
Shinohara, Koichi (2003). "Image Makers in Xuanzang's Record of the Western Regions and Daoxuan's Miracle Story Collection", in Olle Qvarnström, ed. Jainism and Early Buddhism: Essays in Honor of Padmanabh S. Jaini (Fremont, CA: Asian Humanities Press), 609-621.
Stanislas, Julien (1857). (Hiouen-thsang), Mémoires sur les contrées occidentales (Paris: Imprimerie impériale).
Shravak, Lalji (2004). "Contribution of Xuanzang to the Abhidharma Studies in China", in Kalpakam Sankaranarayan, Ogawa Ichijo, Ravindra Panth, ed. Buddhism in Global Perspective (Mumbai: Somaiya), Vol. 2, 237-253.
Wang Ding (2010). "Xuanzang's Helpers from Turfan: Some Notes Based on Mediaeval Chinese Manuscripts", Acta Orientalia, 63/3: 363-378.
Wang Yuguang 王余光, Xu Yan 徐雁, ed. (1999). Zhongguo dushu da cidian 中國讀書大辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 1174.
Wang Zhaoming 王兆明, Fu Langyun 傅朗云, ed. (1991). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Vol. Dili 地理卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 9.
Watters, Thomas (1904). On Yuan Chwang's Travels in India, 629-645 A.D. (London: Royal Asiatic Society).
Wong, Dorothy C. (2002) "The Making of a Saint: Images of Xuanzang in East Asia", Early Medieval China, 8: 43-98.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi Wchubanshe), 40.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1991). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Vol. Wenxue 文學卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 25.
Wuhan daxue lishi xi Jianming lishi cidian bianxiezu 武漢大學歷史系《簡明歷史辭典》編寫組, ed. (1983). Jianming lishi cidian 簡明歷史辭典 (Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe), 962.
Xie Fang 謝方 (1992). "Da-Tang xiyu ji 大唐西域記", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Part Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 146.
Xinjiang baike quanshu bianzuan weiyuanhui 《新疆百科全書》編纂委員會, ed. (2002). Xinjiang baike quanshu 新疆百科全書 (Beijing: Zhonguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 84.
Yamin, Mohammed. "Hiuen-Tsang in Orissa: A Retrospect", Quarterly Review of Historical Studies, 53/1-2; 74-78.
Yuan Mingren 袁明仁 et al., ed. (1992). Sanqin lishi wenhua cidian 三秦歷史文化辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin jiaoyu chubanshe), 1000.
Zhang Daogui 張道貴 (1992). "Da-Tang xiyu ji 大唐西域記", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Vol. Zongjiao 宗教 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 55.
Zhou Weizhou 周偉洲, Ding Jingtai 丁景泰, ed. (2006). Sichou zhi lu da cidian 絲綢之路大辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 764.