Mandala of the Single-syllable Golden Wheel (Ichiji kinrin mandara), Heian period, 12th century, Nara National Museum.
The Passionate Pilgrim: Xuanzang (602-664)
Illustration courtesy Ivy Close Images/Alamy
In 629, a Chinese monk with a tall backpack for carrying scrolls left the Tang capital to embark on a 10,000-mile, 16-year journey to India to study and collect sacred texts of Buddhism. An indefatigable traveler and writer, Xuanzang tracked the northern route of the Silk Road, documenting regions that are now Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
He crossed the Hindu Kush to the valley of Bamian, where he described the colossal Gandhara Buddha statues (“brilliant golden color and resplendent with ornamentation of precious substances”) that received global attention when they were destroyed by the Taliban in 2000. His pilgrimage to India was arduous but intellectually fruitful. He returned to China with a massive collection of significant Sanskrit texts that illuminated the Buddhist faith and produced a definitive travel record of Central and South Asia.
Xuanzang is revered today as a linguist, historian, faithful folk hero, and—above all—a passionate traveler.
So I just did that meme where you get an anagram of your tumblr name.
Mine is “Howl In Damnation”, which gives me an excuse to post an amazing piece of art I got to see this weekend:
Hell, from The Five Hundred Arhats, by Kano Kazunobu, ca. 1854–63.
Currently on view in Masters of Mercy: Buddha’s Amazing Disciples at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.