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Reviews 581 Sally Hovey Wriggins. Xuanzang: A BuddhistPilgrim on the Silk Road. With a foreword by Frederick W. Mote. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996. xxiv, 263 pp. Hardcover $32.50, isbn 0-8133-2801-2. Scholars have long recognized the importance of travel accounts to the study of geography, history, ethnography, and related disciplines. And while innumerable travel accounts have served as sources ofinformation for both general readers and researchers, a small number of them stand out as particularly important due to the wealth ofmaterial that they contain. The two works focusing on the travels ofthe seventh-century Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (Hsiian-tsang, also known in some works as Tripitaka)—that is, his own account and the biography written by his younger contemporary, the monk Huili—surely are to be included in that elite group. Xuanzang's travels from China through Inner Asia to India and back, including extensive travel within the subcontinent itself, began in 629 c.e. and ended sixteen years later. His account of this journey, and the complementary account by Huili, contain information that is to be found in no other source. The very scale ofXuanzang's travels elicits admiration; the fact that he (and Huili) described these travels in such an illuminating fashion begets wonder and gratitude. Yet the account of his travels is only one ofthe great pilgrim's accomplishments , and one that he undoubtedly regarded as minor. His chief goal was hardly die writing ofa travel account—a work he completed at the request of the Chinese emperor Tang Taizong. Teaching and the translation of sacred texts tiiat he had brought to China from India were surely more meaningful to him. (We should remember that his translations ofimportant Buddhist works are still in use today.) The two texts on Xuanzang's travels gained significance in Asia long before they attracted the attention ofWestern scholars. They were widely read in China and beyond; Huili's account was translated into Uighur, and die great pilgrimage was the inspiration for one ofimperial China's greatest novels, Journey to the West (also known as Monkey). In modern times, scholars from many nations have worked with the texts, attempting to understand them and tease out their secrets. Despite much important pioneering effort, a great deal remains to be done. There are many parts ofXuanzang's and Huili's works that require further explication. It should be made clear at the outset that Sally Hovey Wriggins' new book does not attempt this. The book is not a scholarly examination of the texts—in-© 1997 by University deed, Wriggins relies on other scholars' translations ofthem—but is instead (and ofHawai'i Pressr can ¿0 no better here than quote the author ofthe book's foreword, Frederick W. Mote) "a warmly human account of a remarkable personality, brought to life with sympathy and narrative skill." Wriggins has presented the story ofXuanzang 582 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 in all its richness for the general reader and has thereby performed an important service, particularly since her account is lengthier and more detailed than earlier popular works on the same subject by Arthur Waley ( The Real Tripitaka and Other Pieces [1952] ) and Jeannette Mirsky ( The Great Chinese Travellers [1964] ). The book is generous in its use of excellent maps (one at the beginning of each of the ten chapters, with others scattered throughout) and illustrations, particularly photographs of art works that serve to illustrate the text. The book also contains a useful bibliography (primarily ofworks in English) and a very helpful glossary. The narrative is deft and engrossing, and gives the reader a wealth ofinformation that is revealing on many levels. Wriggins is aware that Xuanzang has much to teach, and not just about history, geography, kingdoms, and cave paintings . Her book illuminates the very important role in this particular drama that was played by faith, and by the determination and strength that such faith gave to Xuanzang. Through her clear and careful examination of the various dimensions ofXuanzang's journey, both physical and spiritual, she seeks to make the pilgrim, as well as the journey, real to us. In this, she has succeeded admirably. This book should have...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 581-582
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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