Faxian

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Sketch map of Fa-Hien’s Travels

Faxian (337 – c. 422 CE) was a Chinese Buddhist monk who travelled by foot all the way from China to India, visiting many sacred Buddhist sites in what are now Xinjiang, China, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. His long jurney lasted between 399 AD to 412 AD. Main purpose of his visit was to acquire Buddhist scriptures from the places he visited.

His journey is described in his important travelogue, A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Xian of his Travels in India and Ceylon in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline. Antiquated transliterations of his name include Fa-Hien and Fa-hsien.

Places covered by Fahian

Ch’ang-gan (Xi'an) → Shen-shen (Lopnor) → Yu-teen (Khotan) → K’eeh-Ch’a (Skardo) → DaradaIndusWoo-chang (Udyana) → Soo-Ho-ToGandharaTakshasilaPurushapura (Peshawur) → He-lo (Hilda) NagaraLo-E-Pohna (Bannu) → Pe-t’oo (Bhida) → Ma-t’aou-lo (Mathura) → SankasyaKanyakubja (Kannauj) - A-le (?) → Sha-Che (Saket) → Kosala and Sravasti (Sahet-Mahet) → Too-wei (Tadwa) → KapilavastuRamagramaKusanagaraVaisaliPataliputtra (Patna) in MagadhaRajagriha (Rajgir) → Gridhra-Kuta HillSrataparna CaveGayaMount GurupadaPatna. Varanasi → Dakshina (Paravata) → PatnaChampa (Bhagalpur) → Tamalipti (Tamluk) → Ceylon → China, Shan-Tung, Nanking.

Journey to India

Faxian visited India in the early fifth century AD. He is said to have walked all the way from China across icy desert and rugged mountain passes. He entered India from the north-west and reached Pataliputra. He took back with him Buddhist texts and images sacred to Buddhism.

Faxian's visit to India occurred during the reign of Chandragupta II. He is also renowned for his pilgrimage to Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha in modern Nepal.

On Faxian's way back to China, after a two-year stay in Ceylon, a violent storm drove his ship onto an island, probably Java.[1] After five months there, Faxian took another ship for southern China; but, again, it was blown off course and he ended up landing at Laoshan, in what is now the Shandong peninsula, in northern China, 30 km east of the city of Qingdao. He spent the rest of his life translating and editing the scriptures he had collected.

Faxian wrote a book on his travels, filled with accounts of early Buddhism, and the geography and history of numerous countries along the Silk Road as they were, at the turn of the 5th century CE.

Visit Jat Kingdoms (Punia, Rohela) by Fa-Hien

The Chinese traveller Fa-Hien reached Mathura after crossing Sindhu River through the following route:

Udyana (present Swat) >>Kandahar>>Taxila>>Purushpur>>Hilda>>Kigdom of Lo-e>>Kingdom of Poh-na >>Bhida (Punjab)>>Mathura

The text of Fa-Hien's account of his journey through Punjab is described by him in Chapter - XIV of the book by JAMES LEGGE : A RECORD OF BUDDHISTIC KINGDOMS

[2]

"CHAPTER XIV: DEATH OF HWUY-KING IN THE LITTLE SNOWY MOUNTAINS. LO-E. POHNA. CROSSING THE INDUS TO THE EAST.

Having stayed there till the third month of winter, Fa-hien and the two others,(1) proceeding southwards, crossed the Little Snowy mountains.(2) On them the snow lies accumulated both winter and summer. On the north (side) of the mountains, in the shade, they suddenly encountered a cold wind which made them shiver and become unable to speak. Hwuy-king could not go any farther. A white froth came from his mouth, and he said to Fa-hien, "I cannot live any longer. Do you immediately go away, that we do not all die here;" and with these words he died.(3) Fa-hien stroked the corpse, and cried out piteously, "Our original plan has failed;—it is fate.(4) What can we do?" He then again exerted himself, and they succeeded in crossing to the south of the range, and arrived in the kingdom of Lo-e,(5) where there were nearly three thousand monks, students of both the mahayana and hinayana. Here they stayed for the summer retreat,(6) and when that was over, they went on to the south, and ten days' journey brought them to the kingdom of Poh-na,(7) where there are also more than three thousand monks, all students of the hinayana. Proceeding from this place for three days, they again crossed the Indus, where the country on each side was low and level.(8)

NOTES

(1) These must have been Tao-ching and Hwuy-king.

(2) Probably the Safeid Koh, and on the way to the Kohat pass.

(3) All the texts have Kwuy-king. See chapter xii, note 13.

(4) A very natural exclamation, but out of place and inconsistent from the lips of Fa-hien. The Chinese character {.}, which he employed, may be rendered rightly by "fate" or "destiny;" but the fate is not unintelligent. The term implies a factor, or fa-tor, and supposes the ordination of Heaven or God. A Confucian idea for the moment overcame his Buddhism.

(5) Lo-e, or Rohi, is a name for Afghanistan; but only a portion of it can be here intended.

(6) We are now therefore in 404 AD.

(7) No doubt the present district of Bannu, in the Lieutenant-Governorship of the Punjab, between 32d 10s and 33d 15s N. lat., and 70d 26s and 72d E. lon. See Hunter's Gazetteer of India, i, p. 393.

(8) They had then crossed the Indus before. They had done so, indeed, twice; first, from north to south, at Skardo or east of it; and second, as described in chapter vii."

Conclusions

1. James Legge has commented at footnote – 5 that Fa-Hien crossed through the Kingdom of Lo-e that means `Rohi'. In Rajasthan Rohi means land. Fa-Hien had moved through the Land of Ponya or Punia. Here James Legge could not properly understand about the Kingdom of Lo-e. Dr Natthan Singh has mentioned in Jat Itihasa (page 113) about the existence of Rohe tribe in Afghanistan, the descendants of whom are Rohela or Ruhela Jats found in Rajasthan. Here it is interesting to note that in Afghanistan O and U are interchangable. Similarly L and R are also interchangable. Thus what Fa-Hien mentions as Kingdom of Lo-e is the Kingdom of Ruhela Jats in Afghanistan.

2.He has interpreted Poh-na as Bannu in Punjab. In fact it is used for Ponya.

3. This period was 404 AD.

4. This period pertains to the rule of Punia Jats in Punjab, Haryana and part of Rajasthan. This has been mentioned by Thakur Deshraj (page 617) that the capital of Punias was at Jhasal near border of Hisar district.

5. Ram Swarup Joon has also mentioned about Punia clan – "They are found in Bikaner, Luharu and district Hissar in large numbers. They had their capital in Bikaner. The Ponya king drove out the Dahiya rulers of Jodhpur region. They have about 100 villages in Rajgarh region. They are still found in large numbers in Deraghazi Khan and Bannu and they're all of who are followers of Islam. They have 100 villages in Tehsil in Dadri and about 10 in Aligarh. A few of them inhabit Rohtak also."

6. James Legge did not have idea about Punia clan, but Fa-Hien had clearly written it as Kingdom of Poh-na which means The Kingdom of Ponya or Punias. The Ruhela and Punia kigdoms were in neighbourhood at that time in Afghanistan.

7. Y and J are interchangeable. `Punjab' can be written as `Punyab'. Punyab=Punya+ab means the land of Punya.

8. Punya as tribe has been mentioned in Rigveda also in Punjab. Punjab must derive its name from Punya, which later was interpreted as land of five rivers.

Works

See also

References

  1. Buswell, Robert E., Lopez, Donald S. Jr. (2014). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. 297
  2. JAMES LEGGE : 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 Translated and annotated with a Corean recension of the Chinese text)

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