Chinese monk Faxian’s Captivating account of Ancient India
Chinese monk Faxian (Fa-Hsien, Fa Hien) walked all the way to India between 399 and 414 CE.
Faxian was over 60 when he left Chang’an on his long, dangerous journey through Gobi desert, Kazakhstan entering India via Kashmir. Then walking down all the way to Mathura, Pataliputra (Patna) and Madhya Pradesh region. He later left on ship back to China. Imagine the level of difficulty when he would have decided to go through the desert, the cold and harsh Himalayas and then return via the tough, stormy seas.
Interestingly, traveling on foot for spiritual awakening and deeper learning has been part of the Buddhist tradition in the Far East. Kaihōgyō, or encircling the mountain was also a very popular practice amongst the Tendai Buddhists in Japan.
He was unhappy with the “mutilated and imperfect state of the collection of the Books of Discipline” which he wanted to get from India again. James Legge says that he along with Hwuy-king, Tao-ching, Hwuy-ying and Hwuy-wei decided to go to India to seek the disciplinary rules.