If Hsuan Tsang didn’t come to India, China would’ve been poorer… spiritually

Navi Radjou
2 min readSep 10, 2023
Chinese Buddhist scholar Hsuan Tsang traveled all across India in 7th century AD

What if Hsuan Tsang chose not to travel to India — just like Xi Jinping did by skipping the G20 summit in India ?

China would have been poorer today… spiritually

Hsuan Tsang (or Xuanzang, Chinese: 玄奘), also known by his Sanskrit name Mōkṣadeva, was a 7th-century Chinese Buddhist monk and scholar who made the epoch-making contributions to Chinese Buddhism.

Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuanzang

In 627 AD, Hsuan Tsang was only 27 when he began his 17-year overland journey to India.

He defied his nation’s ban on travel abroad, making his way through central Asian cities such as Khotan to India

Traveling by foot, in 631 he reached India, where he visited numerous sites important to the Buddha’s life and ministry.

He stayed at the monastery at Nalanda, India’s largest Buddhist center (in modern-day Bihar), where the esteemed master Silabhadra taught him personally for 15 months.

During the 15 years he stayed in India — which was ruled then by emperor Harsha Vardhana — Hsuan Tsang studied Sanskrit language and Buddhist philosophy.

He traveled to all major regions of India visiting major spiritual centers and collecting books. He visited the Kumbha Mela at Allahabad and met many yogis

Hsuan Tsang visited Mamallapuram, near the city of Chennai.

Today a UNESCO World heritage site, Mamallapuram is home to Shore temple, dedicted to Hindu god Shiva.

Interestingly, in 2019, Xi Xinping and Indian PM Narendra Modi met in Mamallapuram for their second informal summit. See photos.

In 643 AD, Hsuan Tsang left India, taking with him many Buddhist images and numerous Sanskrit texts on a caravan of twenty packhorses.

He returned to Ch’ang-an in 645.

A huge crowd had been awaiting his arrival, and the Emperor, after listening with awe to his accounts of the foreign lands, offered him a ministerial appointment. Hsüan-tsang respectfully declined, preferring to serve his religion.

Hsuan Tsang dedicated the rest of his life to translate in Chinese the 657 Sanskrit works that he had brought back from India.

He managed to translate only 73 of them, a total of 1,330 chapters. His translations contain some of the most important Mahayana writings.

Hsuan Tsang also translated the Dao de jing (Tao-te Ching) of Laozi (Lao-tzu) into Sanskrit and sent it to India in 647

His travelogue of his journey to India is even today praised for offering detailed information on the holy sites, people, customs, and culture of India.

He is remembered today as the initiator of Sino-Indian relations

Learn about Faxian, Hsuan Tsang, and Yijing — the 3 major Chinese buddhist scholars who made pioneering scholarly visits to India.

Illustrations: Wikipedia and Willa Davis



Navi Radjou

Indian-French-American Scholar in Frugal Innovation + Wise Leadership. TED Speaker. Based in France. Visit: NaviRadjou.com