Monk Xuan Zang's Tang Dynasty Search for Buddhist Scriptures

Compiled by Ouyang Ziyun

PureInsight | January 20, 2003

[] Monk Xuan Zang was from Yanshi County. [Translator's note: He is recognized in China as the main character from the classical Chinese novel, The Journey to the West.]
Before he became a monk, his family name was Chen. He was clever and
intelligent, and had moral integrity and high aspirations since
childhood. In the early Wude years of Emperor Tang Gaozu, he went on a
pilgrimage to obtain Buddhist scriptures from the West (today's India).
While passing through the Jibin Kingdom, he found it difficult, as the
road was very dangerous and steep, and tigers and leopards were often
seen prowling about. Xuan Zang didn't know this was to test him. He
simply locked the door and sat outside to meditate. When he unlocked
the door at night, he found, to his surprise, an old monk sitting
inside on the bed. Nobody knew when and how the monk got into the room.
Xuan Zang hurriedly saluted and greeted the old monk. Xuan Zang then
beseeched him for advice on how to get past the dangerous areas so he
could continue the pilgrimage to the West. The old monk was moved by
his good faith. He verbally taught Xuan Zang a volume of The Duoxin Scripture
and asked him to repeat it once. As soon as Xuan Zang finished reciting
it, the mountains and rivers became plains, and the road widened. The
tigers and leopards all hid, and even demons disappeared. So Xuan Zang
safely arrived at the Buddhist holy land, the Tianzhu Kingdom, and
found more than 600 Buddhist scriptures to take back. He had been
reciting that Duoxin Scripture.

Before Xuan Zang left for the
West, he came up to a pine tree at Lingyan temple. Standing in the
courtyard, he stroked the pine branches, saying, "I'm going on a
pilgrimage for Buddhist scriptures in the Western paradise, so you can
grow toward the west. When I head back, you should turn and grow toward
the east so my disciples will know I'm returning." After Xuan Zang left
for the west, the pine branches really grew toward the west as
expected, dozens of feet, year after year. Then one year, the pine
branches suddenly turned and pointed to the east. Xuan Zang's disciples
said, "Master is coming back!" and they went forward to greet him. Xuan
Zang really did return from the Buddhist kingdom as expected, with the
Buddhist scriptures. Later, people called this pine tree the
"Head-Stroking Tree."

(Source: Tai Ping Guang Ji)

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