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
BY JAMES LEGGE
Several times during my long residence in Hong Kong I endeavoured to
read through the "Narrative of Fa-hien;" but though interested with
the graphic details of much of the work, its columns bristled so
constantly - now with his phonetic representations of Sanskrit words,
and now with his substitution for them of their meanings in Chinese
characters, and I was, moreover, so much occupied with my own special
labours on the Confucian Classics, that my success was far from
satisfactory. When Dr. Eitel's "Handbook for the Student of Chinese
Buddhism" appeared in 1870, the difficulty occasioned by the Sanskrit
words and names was removed, but the other difficulty remained; and I
was not able to look into the book again for several years. Nor had I
much inducement to do so in the two copies of it which I had been able
to procure, on poor paper, and printed from blocks badly cut at first,
and so worn with use as to yield books the reverse of attractive in
their appearance to the student.
In the meantime I kept studying the subject of Buddhism from various
sources; and in 1878 began to lecture, here in Oxford, on the Travels
with my Davis Chinese scholar, who was at the same time Boden Sanskrit
scholar. As we went on, I wrote out a translation in English for my
own satisfaction of nearly half the narrative. In the beginning of
last year I made Fa-hien again the subject of lecture, wrote out a
second translation, independent of the former, and pushed on till I
had completed the whole.
The want of a good and clear text had been supplied by my friend, Mr.
Bunyiu Nanjio, who sent to me from Japan a copy, the text of which is
appended to the translation and notes, and of the nature of which some
account is given in the Introduction, and towards the end of this
The present work consists of three parts: the Translation of Fa-hien's
Narrative of his Travels; copious Notes; and the Chinese Text of my
copy from Japan.
It is for the Translation that I hold myself more especially
responsible. Portions of it were written out three times, and the
whole of it twice. While preparing my own version I made frequent
reference to previous translations: - those of M. Abel Remusat, "Revu,
complete, et augmente d'eclaircissements nouveaux par MM. Klaproth et
Landress" (Paris, 1836); of the Rev. Samuel Beal (London, 1869), and
his revision of it, prefixed to his "Buddhist Records of the Western
World" (Trubner's Oriental Series, 1884); and of Mr. Herbert A. Giles,
of H.M.'s Consular Service in China (1877). To these I have to add a
series of articles on "Fa-hsien and his English Translators," by Mr.
T. Watters, British Consul at I-Chang (China Review, 1879, 1880).
Those articles are of the highest value, displaying accuracy of
Chinese scholarship and an extensive knowledge of Buddhism.
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