Pritam Rohila Travels

Reports of my travels along with some pictures

Oct 29, 2010


June 5

This morning we went to see the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

Originally built in 652, near the Tang dynasty palace, as a library of the sacred texts, the Buddhist monk, Xuan Zang (aka Xuan Zhuang, Hiuen-Tsiang, Huen Tsang, or Hsuan-Tsang) had brought from India. It has been rebuilt several times since then, most recently during the Qing dynasty (1636-1911 AD). With addition of two new stories, it is currently a magnificent seven-story, plastered –brick monument.

Xuan Zang was ordained as a Buddhist priest, in Hangchow. He was only 13 at that time.

Soon after ordainment, he moved to the Temple of Great Learning in Xian (aka Ch’ang An or Changan). In his quest for Buddhist wisdom and learning, at the age of 26, in 627 AD, he embarked on a very long, arduous journey to India, across immense deserts and difficult mountain ranges, without any concern for his safety, and without the then emperor’s permission.

At one outpost, he was apprehended by the Chinese army for traveling without a permit. But after he declared that he would rather die than budge one inch backward, the soldiers let him proceed.

He traveled extensively in India),

but stayed for some time at the then famous Nalanda University, where he studied logic, grammar, linguistics, medicine, crafts and the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures.

On his way back, while crossing the Indus River, his boat capsized and a number of documents were lost. However, he was able to recover some of these from the libraries at Kusha and Kashghar monasteries.

In the year 645 A.D., two years after he had left India, he returned to China, with relics, Buddha statues, and more than 500 texts.

The emperor gave him a hero's welcome upon return, and built a pagoda.

At this pagoda, 50 other monks and scholars working under the supervision of Xuan Zang, many of the texts he had brought from India were translated into Chinese. In the process 1,335 volumes were produced, which heralded a new era in the history of translation.

At his request, the emperor wrote the famous "Preface for Great Tang's Sacred Teaching of Three Treasuries." It motivated the court officials and dignitaries Buddhist scriptures.

On the first floor of the pagoda, there is Da Cien Si, the Temple of Thanksgiving (aka Temple of Mercy & Kindness. Xuan Zang served as the first abbot here. Even now visitors at this still functioning temple stop to say their prayers with candles and incense.

South of the Temple are two halls. And next to the pagoda is the Xuan Zang Hall, a memorial to him. It contains his relic, and walls are covered with murals depicting his life.

The pagoda was built according to Feng Shui. In this regard the upturned roof corners are noteworthy, as they represent the water sign, fish tails, probably as insurance against drought and fire.

A park and huge plaza were built around the pagoda, where people gather for a stroll, and

to fly kites.

In front of the entrance stands a statue of Xuan Zang, depicted in the act of crossing a bridge.

During my 1982 visit, we were allowed to climb all the way up to its 7th story, but not this time.



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