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In Search of the Truth
There are many stories of religious pilgrims who have gone in search of the truth. I think that few though, went as far as Hsuan-Tsang.
Born in China in 602 AD and raised studying Confucianism, Hsuan grew into a handsome young man with a refined manner. At age 20 he converted to Buddhism.
Buddhism had originated in India and all the Buddhist texts had to have been translated into Chinese. Hsuan found these translations troublesome as they seemed to have some contradictions.
In order to rectify his confusion he decided he would have to travel to India to question wise men on points that were troubling his mind.
The Travels of Hsuan-Tsang
So in 629, at the age of 26 he set off on his journey. His journey was to be made on foot, first westward across northern China, crossing the Gobi desert, continuing westward across glaciers and through mountain passes to Samarkand in southern Siberia. From there he would travel south to Kabul, now in Afghanistan, then further down to the northwestern part of the Indian sub-continent. From there he would still have hundreds of miles to travel, as his destination was the Buddhist center at Nalanda on the eastern coast.
Despite suffering horrifying mirages and thirst in the desert, blizzards in the mountains and nearly being killed by river pirates on the Ganges, he completed his 5000 mile journey. Apart from when fellow travelers had accompanied him for short distances, he had made this journey on his own.
In 645, 16 years after having left, he returned to China. This time, however he was accompanied by 20 horse loads of Sanskrit texts and other religious relics.
Statue of Hsuan-Tsang
Once he was in China, stories of his adventures started to spread. When the Emperor heard these stories he offered Hsuan a government post. Hsuan though declined, preferring to spend the rest of his life translating the scripts he had bought with him from India.
Although he died in 664, tales of his adventures lived on and eventually in the 16th century his story was told in an epic novel [an eastern Pilgrims Progress], which is now considered to be one of the masterpieces of Chinese literature.
It is a good thing that Hsuan-Tsang be immortalized in this way. He was a simple man who showed the World, that in search of the truth you should be deterred by nothing.