Speculative Web Space

Terra Australis Travel Narratives

Travel narratives from overseas coming close to or landing on Australia before 1770.

NB: This project is under development and may not be functional from time to time. Only a few sample texts at present.


II. His Journey to India. 1 I, I-tsing, was in the Western Capital (Ch'ang-an) in the first year of the Hsien-heng period (670), studying and hearing lectures. At that time there were with me Ch'u-i, a teacher of the Law, of Ping-pu 2 ; Hung-i, a teacher of the Sastra, of Lai-chou 3 , and also two or three other Bhadantas ; we all made an agreement together to visit die Vulture Peak (Gridhrakuta), and set our hearts on (seeing) the Tree of Knowledge (Bodhidruma) in India. Ch'u-i, however, was drawn back by his affection towards (his home in) Ping-ch'uan 4 , for his mother was of an advanced age, whereas Hung-i turned his thought to Sukhavati 5 on meeting Hiuen-Chan in Kiang-ning 6 . Hiuen-k'uei (one of the party) came as far as Kwang-tung ; he, however, as others did, changed his mind which he had formerly made up. So I had to start for India, only with a young priest, Shan- hing, of Tsin-chou 7 .

The old friends of mine in the Divine Land (China) thus unfortunately parted with me and all went their ways, while not a single new acquaintance in India was yet found by me. Had I hesitated then, my wish would never have been fulfilled. I composed two stanzas imitating, though not in earnest, the poem on the fourfold Sorrow 8 .

During my travel I passed several myriads of stages, The fine threads of sorrow entangled my thought hundredfold. Why was it, pray, you let the shadow of my body alone Walk on the boundaries of Five Regions of India?

Again to console myself: A good general can obstruct a hostile army, But the resolution of a man is difficult to move 9 . If I be sorry for a short life and be ever Speaking of it, how can I fill up the long Asahkhya age 10 ?


Previous to my departure from home I returned to my native place (Cho-chou) from the capital (Ch'ang-an). I sought advice from my teacher, Hui-hsi, saying : ' Venerable Sir, I am intending to take a long journey ; for, if I witness that with which I have hitherto not been acquainted, there must accrue to me great advantage. But you are already advanced in age, so that I cannot carry out my intention without consulting you.' He answered : ' This is a great opportunity for you, which will not occur twice. (I assure you) I am much delighted to hear of your intention so wisely formed. If I live long enough (to see you return), it will be my joy to witness you transmitting the Light. Go without hesitation ; do not look back upon things left behind. I certainly approve of your pilgrimage to the holy places. Moreover it is a most important duty to strive for the pros- perity of Religion. Rest clear from doubt ! '

2 On the eve of my departure, I went to the tomb of my master (Shan-yii) to worship and to take leave. At that time, the trees around the tomb (though) injured by frost had already grown so much that each tree would take one hand to span it 3 , and wild grasses had filled the graveyard. Though the spirit-world is hidden from us, I nevertheless paid him all honour just as if he had been present 4 . While turning round and glancing in every direction, I related my intention of travelling. I invoked his spiritual aid, and expressed my wish to requite the great benefits conferred on me by this benign personage.

In the second year of the Hsien-heng period (671) I kept the summer- retreat (varsha or vassa) in Yang-fu 6 . In the beginning of autumn (seventh moon) I met unexpectedly an imperial envoy, Feng Hsiao-ch'uan of Kong-chou 7 ; by the help of him I came to the town of Kwang-tung, where I fixed the date of meeting with the owner of a Persian ship 8 to embark for the south. Again accepting the


invitation of the envoy I went to Kang-chou 1 , when he became my Danapati (Benefactor) for a second time. His younger brothers, Hsiao-tan and Hsiao-chen, both imperial envoys, Ladies 2 Ning and P'en, all the members of his family, favoured me with presents.

Things of superior quality and excellent eatables were given me by them ; each striving to do the best. In doing so, they hoped that I might not be in any want during the sea voyage, yet they feared that there might be some troubles for me in the dangerous land. Their affection was as deep as that of my parents, readily granting whatever the orphan wished to have. They all became my refuge or resource, and together supplied the means of (visiting) the excellent region.

All I could have done regarding my pilgrimage (to the Holy Land) is due only to the power of the family of Feng. Moreover the priests and laymen of the Lin-nan 3 experienced a bitter feeling at our parting ; the brilliant scholars of the northern provinces were all distressed by our bidding farewell, as they thought never to see us again.

In the eleventh month of this year (a.d. 671) 4 we started looking towards the constellations Yi and Chen 5 , and having Fan-ytt (Kwang-tung) right behind us. I would sometimes direct my thoughts far away to the Deer Park (Mrigadava at Benares); at other times I would repose in the hope of (reaching) the Cock Mountain (Kukkutapadagiri near Gaya).

At this time the first monsoon began to blow, when our ship proceeded towards the Red South 6 , with the ropes a hundred cubits long suspended from above, two by two 7 . In the beginning of the season in which we separate from the constellation Chi 8 , the pair of sails, each in five lengths 9 , flew away, leaving


the sombre north behind. Cutting through the immense abyss, the great swells of water lie, like a mountain, on the sea. Joining sideways with a vast gulf-stream, the massive waves, like clouds, dash against the sky.

Before sailing twenty days the ship reached Bhoga 1 , where I landed and stayed six months, gradually learning the Sabdavidya (Sanskrit grammar). The king gave me some support and sent me to the country of Malayu, which is now called Sribhoga 2 , where I again stayed two months, and thence I went to Ka-cha 3 . Here I embarked in the twelfth month, and again on board the king's ship I sailed to Eastern India. Going towards the north from Ka-cha, after more than ten days' sail, we came to the country of the Naked People (Insulae Nudorum). Looking towards the east we saw the shore, for an extent of one or two Chinese miles, with nothing but cocoa-nut trees and betel-nut forest 4 , luxuriant and pleasant (to be seen). When the natives saw our vessel coming, they eagerly embarked in little boats, their number being fully a hundred. They all brought cocoa-nuts, bananas, and things made of rattan-cane and bamboos, and wished to exchange them. 5 What they are anxious to get is iron only ; for a piece of iron as large as two fingers, one gets from them five to ten cocoa-nuts. The men are entirely naked, while the women veil their person with some leaves. If the merchants in joke offer them their clothes, they wave their hands (to tell that) they do not use them.


This country is, I heard, in the direction of the south-west limit Shu-ch'uan (Ssu-ch'uan, in China). This island does not produce iron at all ; gold and silver also are rare. The natives live solely on cocoa-nuts (nalikera) and tubers; there is not much rice. And therefore what they hold most precious and valuable is Loha 1 , which is the name for iron in this country. These people are not black, and are of medium height. They are skilled in making round chests of rattan; no other country can equal them. If one refuses to barter with them, they discharge some poisoned arrows, one single shot of which proves fatal. In about half a month's sail from here in the north-west direction we reached Tamralipti 2 , which constitutes the southern limit of E. India. It is more than sixty yoganas from Mahabodhi and Nalanda (C. India).

3 On the eighth day of the second month of the fourth year of the Hsien-heng period (673) I arrived there. In the fifth month I resumed my journey westwards, finding companions here and there.

I met for the first time Ta-cheng-teng (Mahayanapradipa) 4 in Tamralipti, and stayed with him a (part of the) year, while I learned the Brahma-language (Sanskrit) and practised the science of words (grammar, Sabdavidya). Lastly, I started together with the master Teng ( = Ta-ch'eng-teng), taking the road which goes straight to the west, and many hundreds of merchants came with us to C. India.

At a distance of ten days' journey from the Mahabodhi Vihara we passed a great mountain and bogs ; the pass is dangerous and difficult to cross. It is important to go in a company of several men, and never to proceed alone. At that time I, I-tsing, was attacked by an illness of the season ; my body was fatigued and without strength. I sought to follow the company of merchants, but tarrying and suffering, as I was, became unable to reach them. Although I exerted myself and wanted to proceed, yet I was obliged to stop a hundred times in going five Chinese miles. There were there about twenty priests of Nalanda, and with them the venerable Teng, who had all gone on in advance. I alone remained behind, and walked in the dangerous defiles without a companion. Late in the day, when the sun was about to set, some mountain brigands made their appear-


ance ; drawing a bow and shouting aloud, they came and glared at me, and one after another insulted me. First they stripped me of my upper robe, and then took off my under garment. All the straps and girdles that were with me they snatched away also. I thought at that time, indeed, that my last farewell to this world was at hand, and that I should not fulfil my wish of a pilgrimage to the holy places. Moreover, if my limbs were thus pierced by the points of their lances, I could never succeed in carrying out the original enterprise so long meditated. Besides, there was a rumour in the country of the West (India) that, when they took a white man, they killed him to offer a sacrifice to heaven (Devas). When I thought of this tale, my dismay grew twice as much. Thereupon I entered into a muddy hole, and besmeared all my body with mud. I covered myself with leaves, and supporting myself on a stick, I advanced slowly.

The evening of the day came, and the place of rest was as yet distant. At the second watch of night I reached my fellow-travellers. I heard the venerable Teng calling out for me with a loud voice from outside the village. When we met together, he kindly gave me a robe, and I washed my body in a pond and then came into the village. Proceeding northwards for a few days from that village, we arrived first at Nalanda and worshipped the Root Temple (Mula- gandhakuti), and we ascended the Gridhrakuta (Vulture) mountain, where we saw the spot on which the garments were folded. Afterwards we came to the Maha- bodhi Vihara 2 , and worshipped the image of the real face (of the Buddha). I took stuffs of thick and fine silk, which were presented by the priests and laymen of Shan-tung, made a kashaya (yellow robe) of them of the size of the Tathagata, and myself offered this robe to the Image. Many myriads of (small) canopies (also), which were entrusted to me by the Vinaya-master Hiuen of Pu 3 , I presented on his behalf. The Dhyana-master An-tao of Ts'ao 4 charged me to worship the image of Bodhi, and I discharged the duty in his name.

Then I prostrated myself entirely on the ground with an undivided mind, sincere and respectful. First I wished for China that the four kinds of benefits


should widely prevail among all sentient beings (Han-shih=sattva) in the region of the Law (Dharmadhatu), and I expressed my desire for a general reunion under the Naga-tree to meet the honoured (Buddha) Maitreya and to conform to the true doctrine 1 , and then to obtain the knowledge that is not subject to births. I went round to worship all the holy places ; I passed a house which is known (to the Chinese) as ' Fan-chang ' (in Vauali) 2 and came to Kurinagara, everywhere keeping myself devout and sincere. I entered into the Deer Park (Mrigadava at Benares) and ascended the Cock Mountain (Kukkutapadagiri near Gaya) ; and lived in the Nalanda Vihara for ten years (probably a.d. 675-685).

3 In the first year of the Ch'ui-kung period (685) I parted with Wu-hing in India (in a place six yoganas east from Nalanda) *.

After having collected the scriptures, I began to retrace my steps to come back 5 . I then returned to Tamralipti. Before I reached there, I met a great band of robbers again ; it was with difficulty that I escaped the fate of being pierced by their swords, and I could thus preserve my life from morning to evening. Afterwards I took ship there and passed Ka-cha 6 . The Indian texts I brought formed more than 500,000 slokas, which, if translated into Chinese, would make a thousand volumes, and with these I am now staying at Bhoga.

7 Roughly speaking, the distance from the middle country (Madhyamadcya) of India to the border lands (Pratyantaka) is more than 300 yoganas in the east and in the west. The border lands in the south and in the north are more than 400 yoganas distant. Although I myself did not see (all the limits) and ascertain (the distance), yet I know it by inquiry. Tamralipti is forty yoganas south from the eastern limit of India. There are five or six monasteries ; the people are


rich. It belongs to E. India, and is about sixty yoganas from Mahabodhi and Sri-Nalanda. This is the place where we embark when returning to China. Sailing from here two months in the south-east direction we come to Ka-cha. By this time a ship from Bhoga will have arrived there. This is generally in the first or second month of the year. But those who go to the Siwhala Island (Ceylon) must sail in the south-west direction. They say that that island is 700 yoganas off. We stay in Ka-cha till winter, then start on board ship for the south, and we come after a month to the country of Malayu, which has now become Bhoga; there are many states (under it). The time of arrival is generally in the first or second month. We stay there till the middle of summer and we sail to the north ; in about a month we reach Kwang-fu (Kwang-tung). The first half of the year will be passed by this time.

When we are helped by the power of our (former) good actions, the journey everywhere is as easy and enjoyable as if we went through a market, but, on the other hand, when we have not much influence of Karma, we are often exposed to danger as if (a young one) in a reclining nest l . I have thus shortly described the route and the way home, hoping that the wise may still expand their knowledge by hearing more.

Many kings and chieftains in the islands of the Southern Ocean admire and believe (Buddhism), and their hearts are set on accumulating good actions. In the fortified city of Bhoga Buddhist priests number more than 1,000, whose minds are bent on learning and good practices. They investigate and study all the subjects that exist just as in the Middle Kingdom (Madhya-desa, India) ; the rules and ceremonies are not at all different. If a Chinese priest wishes to go to the West in order to hear (lectures) and read (the original), he had better stay here one or two years and practise the proper rules and then proceed to Central India.

2 At the mouth of the river Bhoga I went on board the ship to send a letter 3 (through the merchant) as a credential to Kwang-chou (Kwang-tung), in order to meet (my friends) and ask for paper and cakes of ink, which are to be used in copying the Sutras in the Brahma-language, and also for the means (cost) of hiring scribes. Just at that time the merchant found the wind favourable, and raised the sails to their utmost height. I was in this way conveyed back (although


not myself intending to go home). Even if I asked to stop, there would have been no means of doing so. By this I see it is the influence of Karma that can fashion (our course), and it is not for us, men, to plan it. It was on the twentieth day of the seventh month in the first year of the Yung-ch'ang period (689) that we reached Kwang-fu. I met here again with all the priests and laymen. Then in the midst of the assembly in the temple of Chih-chih I sighed and said : ' I first went to the country of the West with the hope of transmitting and spreading (the Law) * ; I came back and stayed in the island of the Southern Ocean. Some texts are still wanting, though what I brought (from India) and left at Bhoga amounts to 500,000 slokas belonging to the Tripitaka. It is necessary under this circumstance that I should go there once again. But I am already more than fifty years of age (fifty-five) ; while crossing the running waves once more, the horses that pass through cracks 2 may not stay, and the rampart of my body may be difficult to guard. If the time for the morning dew (for drying) comes on a sudden, to whom shall those books be entrusted ?

' The Sacred Canon is indeed an important doctrine. Who is then able to come with me and take it over ? To translate (the texts) as we receive (instruc- tions in them) we want an able person.'

The assembly unanimously told me : ' Not far from here there is a priest, Cheng-ku (Salagupta), who has long been studying the Vinaya doctrine ; from his earliest age he has preserved himself perfect and sincere. If you get that man, he will prove an excellent companion to you.' As soon as I heard these words, I thought that he would, in all probability, answer my want. Thereupon I sent a letter to him to the temple of the mountain, roughly describing the preparation for the journey. He then opened my letter ; on seeing it he soon made up his mind to come with me. To make a comparison, a single sortie at the town of Liao-tung broke the courageous hearts of the three generals, or one little stanza from (or, about) the Himalaya mountain drew the profound resolution of the great hermit 3 . He left with joy the quiet streams and pine forests in which he lived ; he tucked up his sleeves before the hill of the Stone Gate (Shih-men, N.W. of Kwang-tung), and he raised his skirts in the temple of the Edict (Chih-chih). We bent our parasol (and talked friendly as Confucius did) and united our feelings in rubbing away the worldly dust ; as we both gave up (to Religion) our five limbs,


we concluded (our friendship) in openheartedness, as if from former days. Although I never saw him before in my life, yet he was, I found, just the man who answered unexpectedly my wish. On a fine night we both discussed seriously as to what had to be done. Cheng-ku then said to me : ' When Virtue wishes to meet Virtue, they unite themselves without any medium, and when the time is about ripe, no one can stay it even if they wanted.

' Shall I then sincerely propose to propagate our Tripitaka together with you, and to help you in lighting a thousand lamps (for the future) ? ' Then we went again to the mountain Hsia 1 to bid farewell to the head of the temple, K'ien, and others. K'ien clearly saw what was to be done at the right moment and acted accordingly ; he never intended to retain us any longer with him. When we saw him and laid before him what we had meditated, he helped us and approved of all. He was never anxious about what might be wanting to himself, whilst his mind was intent only on helping others. He made, together with us, the preparations for the journey, so as not to let us be in want of anything. Besides, all the priests and laymen of Kwang-tung provided us with necessary things.

Then on the first day of the eleventh month of the year (a.d. 689) we departed in a merchant ship. Starting from Pan-yu we set sail in the direction of Champa 2 with the view of reaching Bhoga. after a long vogage, in order to become the ladders for all beings, or the boats, to carry them across the sea of passion. While we were glad to accomplish our resolutions as soon as possible, we hoped not to fall in the middle of our journey.

[Cheng-ku, Tao-hung, and two other priests followed I-tsing and studied Sutras three years in Bhoga ; Tao-hung was then (689) twenty years old, and, when I-tsing wrote the Memoirs, twenty-three years. 3]

4 I, I-tsing, met Ta-ts'in in Sribhoga (where he came a.d. 683). I requested him to return home to ask an imperial favour in building a temple in the West. When he saw that benefits would be great and large (had this petition been granted), Ta-ts'in disregarding his own life agreed to re-cross the vast ocean. It is on the fifteenth day of the fifth month in the third year of the T'ien-shou period (692) that he takes a merchant ship to return to Ch'ang-an (Si-an-fu). Now I send with him a new translation of various Sutras and Sastras in ten volumes, the Nan-hai-chi-kuei-nai-fa-ch'uan (the Record) in four volumes, and the Ta-t'ang-si- yu-ku-fa-kao-seng-ch'uan (the Memoirs) in two volumes.