Friday, August 14, 2009
A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms - Fa-hsien
This country originally had no human inhabitants, but was occupied only by spirits and nâgas, with which merchants of various countries carried on a trade.... Through the coming and going of merchants... when they went away, the people of their various countries heard how pleasant the land was, and flocked to it in numbers till it became a great nation.-from "Chapter XXXVIII: At Ceylon" Little is known about the 5th-century Chinese monk Fâ-hien beyond what he himself tells us in the journals of his travels in India and Ceylon from the years 399 to 414 in search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline. But as he follows in the footsteps of the Buddha, revisiting the legendary places of the faith, his wise observations reveal an enlightenment that transcends time. An important primary source on the traditions and beliefs of Buddhism, this 1886 translation-complete with copious notes on Buddhist ideas and rituals, particular translations, and poetic idioms-is still considered the best English-language version available. Spiritual seekers will find a deeper understanding of Buddhism; students of Asian history will discover a glorious travelogue of an ancient culture. Scottish scholar JAMES LEGGE (1815-1897) was the first professor of Chinese language and literature at Oxford University, serving from 1876 to 1897. Among his many books are The Life and Teaching of Confucius (1867), The Religions of China (1880), and the 50-volume Sacred Books of the East (1879-1891).