Primary Source

Buddhist Records Of The Western World


Xuanzang ( or Hiuen Tsiang) was a Chinese monk ( 602-664) who went to India to study Buddhism. After he went back to China, he told his 17-year journey to his disciple, Bianji, who edited and wrote it in Chinese and published it with a title: da tang xi yu ji (the meaning of the title is the records regarding the western area of the Great Tang dynasty). It remains a very valuable resource to know the countries, customs, and products of the wide-area Xuanzang traveled. Because many parts of the book were written from a cultural comparison perspective, it is a useful resource for anyone interested in themes of cultural exchange and cultural comparison. Samuel Beal translated the records into English in the nineteenth century.  The English version is freely available online:   On a side note, the popular cartoon Monkey King comes from the sixteenth-century Chinese novel The Journey to the West. This novel is based on Xuanzang’s journey to India, where the Monkey King is an imaginary character who has magic powers to protect Xuanzang from all kinds of danger on the road. This source is a part of the Cultural Exchange Before Modern Times teaching module.


THE progress which has been made in our knowledge of Northern Buddhism during the last few years is due very considerably to the discovery of the Buddhist literature of China. This literature (now well known to us through the catalogues already published) * contains, amongst other valuable works, the records of the travels of various Chinese Buddhist pilgrims who visited India during the early centuries of our era. These records embody the testimony of independent eye-witnesses as to the facts related in them, and having been faithfully preserved and allotted a place in the collection of the sacred books of the country, their evidence is entirely trustworthy.

It would be impossible to mention seriatim the various points of interest in these works, as they refer to the geography, history, manners, and religion of the people of India. The reader who looks into the pages that follow will find ample material for study on all these questions. But there is one particular that gives a more than usual interest to the records under notice, and that is the evident sincerity and enthusiasm of the travellers themselves. Never did more devoted pilgrims leave their native country to encounter the perils of travel in foreign and distant lands; never did disciples more ardently desire to gaze on the sacred vestiges of their religion; never did men endure greater sufferings by desert, mountain, and sea than these simple - minded earnest Buddhist priests. And that such courage, religious devotion, and power of endurance should be exhibited by men so sluggish, as we think, in their very nature as the Chinese, this is very surprising, and may perhaps arouse some consideration.


Xuanzang, approximately 596-664, Xuanzhi Yang, approximately 337-approximately 422 Faxian, and Samuel Beal. Si-yu-ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World. London: Trübner, 1884.

How to Cite This Source

"Buddhist Records Of The Western World," in World History Commons, [accessed December 3, 2021]