A 7th Century Record of a Gateway to India: The First Chapter of Xuanzang’s “Datang Xiyu ji”
(“Record of the Western Regions”)
Max Deeg, Cardiff University
This talk is based on my research and translation of the famous monk-traveller Xuanzang’s “Datang Xiyu ji”, “Record of the Western Regions of the Great Tang”. I will focus on the first chapter (fascicle / juan) of the “Record”, which comprises the “description” of places along the Northern Silk Road from Kuča to Kāpiśī. In the first part of the talk, I will briefly introduce the “Record”, discuss its value as a source for historical studies and problematize a naïve reading of the text as a “documentary” of a journey. I am particularly critical of a conflation of the “Record” and Xuanzang’s biography which has led to a number of wrong assumptions about the nature of the text and the “history” of its author. As a case study I will then present and discuss Xuanzang’s “description” of Bāmiyān and its famous colossal Buddha statues to show how a deep and contextualized reading of the text asks for a careful reinterpretation of and interdisciplinary approach to the “Record”.
Max Deeg is Professor in Buddhist Studies at Cardiff University, United Kingdom. His research focus is on the history of Buddhism and its spread in and through Asia and on Buddhist narratives. He has published on the Chinese “pilgrim records” (Faxian, Xuanzang, Yijing, etc.) and is, at the moment, preparing a multi-volume translation and commentary of the “Record of the Western Regions”.
The Buddhas of Bāmiyān and Xuanzang