Friday, March 29, 2013

Ancient Chinese Accounts of Historical Shambhala


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"FAXIAN (Fa-hsien)....(399-414 AD)......Fa-Hsien/ Fa Xian, a leading Chinese Buddhist monk who left Changan in 399 A.D. to gather rare books...... He visited India during the reign of Chandragupta II.....After traveling for 14 years he returned to Nankin in 414 A.D. He translated numerous Indian books into Chinese and wrote his travelogue, Records of Buddhistic Kingdoms. He died at the age of 86. Faxian reached the banks of the Indus river from Kashgar traveling through the province of Gandahara, Peshawar, Banu and saw the temples of present day Jalalabad. He saw Suhuto (Swat), Gandahara, Chuhashilo (Taxila), Folusha (Peshawar), Hilo (Hada), Naki (Nangarhar), Lo-i (Ruh) and Pona (Banu). He describes the famous monasteries and Buddhist centers of these places and from Banu travels to the banks of the Indus river. The descriptions Faxian provides about famous monasteries, kings, people, their traditions and customs of these areas are most interesting, especially the temples made by Kanishka in Peshawar, Buddha’s goblet and the hilo of Zarnigar temple of Hadda which was built for the skull of Buddha.The king of the area had assigned eight persons from famous families of the land to protect the temple. He also provides descriptions on the tower which preserved Buddha’s tooth in the center of Nangarhar and the pearl of Buddhas staff preserved in this province. Such descriptions are of great importance in providing information on the area before the advent of Islam. From the writings of Faxian it is clear there were rulers in the province and its people were followers of the Buddhist faith. Buddhist temples and guides were present all over the area and the people revered them with great respect. These monasteries were well preserved and maintained."......

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"....the king requests the presence of the sramans from all quarters (of his kingdom). They come (as if) in clouds; and when they are all assembled, their place of session is grandly decorated. Silken streamers and canopies are hung out in it, and waterlilies in gold and silver are made and fixed up behind the places where (the chief of them) are to sit......After the king has held the assembly, he further exhorts the ministers to make other and special offerings. The doing of this extends over one, two, three, five, or even seven days; and when all is finished, he takes his own riding-horse, saddles, bridles, and waits on him himself, while he makes the noblest and most important minister of the kingdom mount him. Then, taking fine white woollen cloth, all sorts of precious things, and articles which the sramans require, he distributes them among them, uttering vows at the same time along with all his ministers....The rules observed by the sramans are remarkable, and too numerous to be mentioned in detail. The country is in the midst of the Onion range. As you go forward from these mountains, the plants, trees, and fruits are all different from those of the land of Han, excepting only the bamboo, pomegranate, and sugar-cane. From this (the travellers) went westwards towards North India, and after being on the way for a month, they succeeded in getting across and through the range of the Onion mountains."...(Located in Central Asia, the Pamir Mountains are formed by the junction or "knot" of the Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains. They are also known by the Chinese name of Congling 葱嶺 or 'Onion Mountains.')

"After crossing the river, (the travellers) immediately came to the kingdom of Woo-chang [Udyana, north of the Punjab--i.e., Swat in northern Pakistan], which is indeed (a part) of North India. The people all use the language of Central India, 'Central India' being what we should call the 'Middle Kingdom.' The food and clothes of the common people are the same as in that Central Kingdom. The Law of Buddha is very (flourishing in Woo-chang). They call the places where the monks stay (for a time) or reside permanently sangharamas; and of these there are in all 500, the monks being all students of the Hinayana.".....

James Legge, tr. and ed., A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hien of His Travels in India and Ceylon (A.D. 399-414) in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline (Oxford, 1886), pp. 9-36.

"Fa-hein (337 – c. 422 CE) was the first of three great Chinese pilgrims who visited India from the fifth to the seventh centuries CE, in search of knowledge, manuscripts and relics. Faxian arrived during the reign of Chandragupta II and gave a general description of North India at that time. Among the other things, he reported about the absence of capital punishment, the lack of a poll-tax and land tax. Most citizens did not consume onions, garlic, meat, and wine......"....

"the dynastic symbol of the Guptas (the mythic eagle Garuda)..."Chandragupta Vikramaditya, King of Kings, and a devotee of Vishnu", around Garuda, the mythic eagle and dynastic symbol of the Guptas..".....


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SONG YUN & HUISHENG......(518-521 AD)

"Song Yun of Dunhuang went with a monk Huisheng on a mission sent by the Empress Dowager to obtain Buddhist scriptures in India in 518 A.D. He traveled through the Taklamakan desert via the southern route passing Shanshan, Charkhlik, Khutan, then further west into the Hindu Kush, Kabul, and Peshawar. The most interesting account is his visit is to the Hepthalites (the White Hun) kingdom, which centered in eastern Afghanistan and controlled much of Central Asia during the 5th and 6th centuries. As a result of this journey Song Yun managed to collect 170 books dealing with the Greater Vehicle (Mahayana) and took them to China."......

Song Yun followed the route taken by Faxien from Khutan to the eastern parts of Afghanistan. At this time the Hepthalites kings ruled over the land. Gulas, the Hepthalite king, (most likely Mehrakula), ruled harshly over the land with a force of 1000 warring elephants and cavalry. These people wore felt clothing and they did not know how to read and write and did not have any knowledge of the motions of heavenly bodies. Their empire extended from Tirhat in India to Lalya[v] and from Khutan to Iran. It was composed of 40 provinces and permanent soldiers were assigned to maintain security over the land.

Song Yun provides accurate accounts of the people, their clothing, the empresses and court procedures and traditions of the people and he states the Hepthalites did not recognize the Buddhist religion and they preached pseudo gods, and killed animals for their meat.

He talks about the political power structure of the land and from that we can conclude that the powerful administration of eastern Afghanistan, from the banks of the Oxus river to the Arghandab river, was in the hands of the Hepthalite administrators and they had appointed a satrap to rule over Gandahara, whose name was Lai-Lih or he was a person who belonged to this lineage. When the Hepthalites conquered Gandahara they appointed Lai-Lih as its king. During the time of the visit of Song Yun (520 A.D.) the second king of this family was ruling over the region. This monarch did not adhere to Buddhism and believed in demons. He was a tyrant and cruel king. He battled emperor Copihen for three years. He was in possession of 700 warring elephants each of which carried 10 soldiers armed with spears and swords. His army was composed of three divisions.

Song Yun went to visit the emperor to present his credentials and unlike other kings he was not shown any kindness. He addressed the monarch harshly and left his court. Song Yun names the neighboring country Pusi, which is Persia.....During this travels he also saw Chang (Odiana) which is the northern part of present day Mardan adjacent to Pulai (Balur) where people used iron chains to build bridges. The king of the region was a vegetarian. He warmly greeted Song Yun and he believed in Buddhism. He accepted the letter from the empress with respect....

"Mardan district is a part of the Peshawar valley, which first appears in history as part of the Gandhara kingdom. The armies of Alexander The Great reached the Indus Valley by two separate routes, one through the Khyber Pass and the other personally led by Alexander through Kunar, Bajaur, Swat, and Buner in 326 BC. After Alexander's departure, the valley came under the rule of Chandragupta, who ruled the valley from 321 to 297 BC. During the reign of the Buddhist emperor Asoka, the grandson of Chandragupta, Buddhism was the religion of the Peshawar Valley. The valley saw the revival of Brahmanism after the Greeks took over in the time of King Mehanda. The Scythians followed and retained control of the valley till the 7th century AD".....

518-521 AD..... Song Yun (Sung Yun)/Huisheng. Sung Yun of Dunhuang went with a monk Huisheng on a mission sent by the Empress Dowager to obtain the Buddhist scriptures in India in 518. Travled through the Taklamakan desert via the southern route passing Shanshan, Charkhlik, Khotan, then further west into the Hindu Kush, Kabul, Peshawar. The most interesting account is their visit to the Ephthalites (the White Hun) kingdom, who centered in eastern Afghanistan and controlled much of the Central Asia during the 5th and 6th centuries. Both wrote a travel account but none remained.

"Hui Zheng [and the others] were sent in the 11th day of the second month of the second Zhengui year (518); he and his companions arrived in Karghalik on the 29th day of the 7th month of the 2nd Zhengui year (519); in the second ten days of the ninth month, they met the king of the Hephthalites; at the beginning of the 11th month, they arrived in Bosi or Boji (southwest of Wakhan); in the second ten days of this same month, they entered Chitral and at the beginning of the 12th month they entered Udyana. Then, during the second ten days of the fourth month of the first Chengkuang year (520), they arrived in Gandhara. They stayed two years in Udyana and Gandhara until returning at the beginning of the third Chengkuang year (522).....

During this travels he also saw Chang (Odiana) which is the northern part of present day Mardan adjacent to Pulai (Balur) where people used iron chains to build bridges. The king of the region was a vegetarian. He warmly greeted Song Yun and he believed in Buddhism. He accepted the letter from the empress with respect.

During this trip Song Yun visited Peshawar and Nangarhar also and he provides interesting accounts of the monasteries of the land. After this he continued in the direction of San-tu (Indus river) and returned to China in 521 A.D.


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HSUAN-TSANG (629-645 AD)....... Xuan Zang (Hsuan-tsang). Chinese Buddhist monk and translator traveling across the Tarim basin via the northern route, Turfan, Kucha, Tashkent, Samarkand, Bactria, then over the Kindu Kush to India. Returned via the southern route. He spent his remaining life translating sutras into Chinese. .His travel and story became fantastic legends which were used in plays and novels, such as Wu Ch'eng-en's famous novel in the 16th century, Journey to the West. ...Hsuan Tsang....the third Chinese traveler who has written his observations about Afghanistan. In terms of providing detailed information about what he saw and heard he furnishes the most detailed notes. He was born in 603 A.D. in Chin Liu of Hunan province and was a Buddhist monk of the time. At the age of 26 he left for the western lands in search of Buddhist religious notes. He embarked on his journey in 629 A.D. and returned to China in 645 A.D. after finding 124 books on the Greater Vehicle which had to be carried on 22 horses. He documented his travels in his book Si-yu-ki (Notes of the Western World).......Regarding the state of affairs during the 7th century A.D. there are only a few documents and coins left in Afghanistan. Had this traveler from Hunan not embarked on his journey it would have been extremely difficult for us to find information on that period. Hasuan Tsang provides important information on the geographical situation, religion, and political happenings of the time in Afghanistan in his travelogue. According to the chart prepared by Gangaham the dates of his arrival to different parts of Afghanistan as as follows:.....Samarkand 5th March, 630 A.D. while on his way to India........Khulm (Ho-lin) 20 March, 630 A.D........Balkh (Po-Ho) 20 April, 630 A.D.......Bamian (Fan-Yen-Na) 30 April, 630 A.D."......

"While Hsuan Tsang was traveling though Afghanistan the effects of Islamic conquests had not reached Afghanistan and Buddhism prevailed over all of the northern and eastern provinces of the country. Monasteries existed in all the major centers and thousands of monks were engaged in the learning of this religion. In the temple of Nawasingara (Nawbahar) of Balkh, there was a vase, tooth, broom and statue of Buddha which were all adorned with jewels. This temple contained precious ornaments and the son of Shahu Khan (Hepthalite) attacked Balkh to loot the precious bounty."

"From the provinces south of the Oxus Hsuan Tsang arrived at Fan-yen-na (Bamian) where a separate king ruled. His kingdom from east to west extended 2000 li (600 miles) and from north to south it was 100 miles wide. He describes the two great statues of Buddha and a sleeping Buddha and other sacred relics. In ten monasteries about 1000 monks lived. They were all senior monks and were followers of the Lesser Vehicle (Theravada). From Bamian he went to Kia-pi-shi (Kapisa) which was 1300 miles in size and its people wore woolen clothes. Its king was from the Kashttriya people and he was considered a wise and brave man who conquered the adjacent lands and ruled over 10 other provinces too. He was a faithful follower of Bhuddism and every year erected a 17 feet tall silver statue of Buddha and held the religious conference of Moksha-maha-prishad. In his country there were about 100 temples with 6000 disciples who were followers of the Lesser Vehicle. Beside this followers of other faiths also had 1000 temples in the land."......


"After Hsuan Tsang two other Chinese travelers came to our country and managed to go to India by way of Bactria and Kapisa. The first is Wang-hiuon-tso who was on his way to India as an emissary of the Chinese court and the second Huan-Tchao on his way to India for the second time. The first traveled in 620 A.D. and the second in 664 A.D. They passed through Bactria, Kabulistan and Gandahara on their way to India. This was the time when the attacks of Arab armies increased in the area and they were not afforded the opportunity to return back to this land on their return journey. The first returned to China by way of Nepal and the second stayed in India until his death.

There is another document regarding these travelers. In 751 A.D. a Chinese official by the name of Wou-Kong was assigned the task to instruct the royal ambassador to return to his country. He undertook the journey on the most difficult route which directly connects Khutan with Gandahara.There he observed that all the subjects of the emperor, empress, the prince and ministers were engaged in the rebuilding of monasteries that had been destroyed by the Hepthalites. "....


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….March 2013


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