I Ching (monk)

I Ching or Yi Jing (Yìjìng, Yiqing, I-Tsing or YiChing) (義淨, 三藏法師義淨 635-713) was a Tang Dynasty Buddhist monk, originally named Zhang Wen Ming (張文明). The written records of his travels contributed to the world knowledge of the ancient kingdom of Srivijaya, as well as providing information about the other kingdoms lying on the route between China and the Nalanda Buddhist university in India. He was also responsible for the translation of a large numbers of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Chinese.

Journey to Srivijaya and Nalanda

Zhang Wen Ming became a monk at age 14 and was an admirer of Fa Xian and Xuanzang, both famous monks of his childhood. Provided funding by an otherwise unknown benefactor named Fong, he decided to visit the famous Buddhist university of Nalanda, in Bihar, India, to further study Buddhism. Traveling by a Persian boat out of Guangzhou, he arrived in Srivijaya (today's Palembang of Sumatra) after 22 days, where he spent the next 6 months learning Sanskrit grammar and Malay language. He went on to record visits to the nations of Malayu and Kiteh (Kedah), and in 673 after ten days additional travel reached the 'naked kingdom' (south west of Shu). Yi Jing recorded his impression of the 'Kunlun peoples', using an ancient Chinese word for Malay peoples. "Kunlun people have curly hair, dark bodies, bare feet and wear sarongs." He then arrived at the East coast of India, where he met a senior monk and stayed a year to study Sanskrit. Both later followed a group of merchants and visited 30 other principalities. Halfway to Nalanda, Yi Jing fell sick and was unable to walk; gradually he was left behind by the group. He was looted by bandits and stripped naked. He heard the natives would catch white skins to offer sacrifice to the gods, so he jumped into mud and used leaves to cover his lower body; he walked slowly to Nalanda where he stayed 11 years. Yi Jing praises the high level of Buddhist scholarship in Srivijaya, he advised Chinese monks to study there prior to making the journey to Nalanda India.

Return home

In the year 687, Yi Jing stopped in the kingdom of Srivijaya on his way back to Tang (China). At that time Palembang was a centre of Buddhism where foreign scholars gathered, and Yi Jing stayed there for two years to translate original Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures to Chinese. In the year 689 he returned to Guangzhou to obtain ink and papers (note: Srivijaya then had no paper and ink) and returned again to Srivijaya the same year. In year 695, he completed all translation works and finally returned back to Tang China at Luoyang, and received a grand welcome back by Empress Wu. His total journey took 25 years. He brought back some 400 Buddhist translated texts. [http://www.buddhist-canon.com/history/T540204c.htm 南海寄歸內法傳] & [http://www.buddhist-canon.com/history/T510006c.htm 大唐西域求法高僧傳] (Account of Buddhism sent from the South Seas & Buddhist Monks Pilgrimage of Tang Dynasty) are two of Yi Jing's best travel diaries, describing his adventurous journey to Srivijaya and India, the society of India, the lifestyles of various local peoples, and more. He translated more than 60 sutras into Chinese, including:
*Saravanabhava Vinaya (一切有部毗奈耶)
*Avadana, i.e. "stories of great deeds" (譬喻經) in 710.
*Suvarnaprabhascottamaraja-sutra, i.e. Sutra of the Most Honored King (金光明最勝王經) in 703.

Buddhism in Srivijaya

Yi Jing praised the high level of Buddhist scholarship in Srivijaya and advised Chinese monks to study there prior to making the journey to Nalanda, India.

"In the fortified city of Bhoga, Buddhist priests number more than 1,000, whose minds are bent on learning and good practice. They investigate and study all the subjects that exist just as in India; the rules and ceremonies are not at all different. If a Chinese priest wishes to go to the West in order to hear and read the original scriptures, he had better stay here one or two years and practice the proper rules...."

Yi Jing's visits to Srivijaya gave him the opportunity to meet with others who had come from other neighboring islands. According to him, the Javanese kingdom of Ho-ling was due east of the city of Bhoga at a distance that could be spanned by a 4-5 days journey by sea. He also wrote that Buddhism was flourishing throughout the islands of Southeast Asia. "Many of the kings and chieftains in the islands of the Southern Sea admire and believe in Buddhism, and their hearts are set on accumulating good actions."


*Dutt S, Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India, with the translation of passages (given by Latika Lahiri to S. Dutt, see note 2 p. 311) from Yi Jing's book:Buddhist Pilgrim Monks of Tang Dynasty as an appendix. London, 1952.
* A Record of the Buddhist Religion : As Practised in India and the Malay Archipelago (A.D. 671-695)/I-Tsing. Translated by J. Takakusu (1896). Reprint. New Delhi, AES, 2005, lxiv, 240 p., ISBN 81-206-1622-7. https://www.vedamsbooks.com/no43511.htm
* Chinese Monks in India, Biography of Eminent Monks Who Went to the Western World in Search of the Law During the Great tang Dynasty, by I-ching, Translated by Latika Lahiri, Delhi, etc.: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986.

ee also

* I Ching
* Fa Xian
* XuanZang

External links

* [http://www.buddhistdoor.com/bdoor/0202/sources/teach51.htm Translators in Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty]
* http://www.buddhanet.net/bodh_gaya/bodh_gaya01.htm
* http://www.andaman.org/NICOBAR/book/history/prehistory+general/prehistory.htm
* http://www.iranchamber.com/culture/articles/iranian_cultural_impact_southeastasia.php
* http://www.symyi.com --this is about the ancient Chinese Confucian text, not the buddhist monk

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