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The westward pilgrimage: Xuanzang

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

Determined to leave, Xuanzang secretly left China, ignoring the refusal he had been given. His journey, which he began in 629, would last sixteen years. The adventures of his journey are quite known...



"In front of us, the Hunza River; we were navigating it when new bandits attacked us. This time, they were not only satisfied with money, but demanded a human sacrifice for their gods, and began enthusiastically preparing a temporary altar... I was not at all frightened, but calmly accepted the inevitable. “Since you are making sacrifices to the gods”, I told them “let it help!”. I struck a meditative pose and began to chant the names of the Bodhisattvas, the sacred reincarnated ones.


Suddenly, a strong wind arose and the trunk of a large tree broke on the riverbank. Thunder and lightning arose, and even the boats of the bandits were overturned along with the stolen goods; it was the power of my spirit!


At such a spectacle, the bandits retreated in fear to their rafts. One of my companions, taking advantage of the situation, shouted:


"This man you are going to sacrifice is Grand Master Xuánzàng, of the Great Tang! If you kill him, you risk the Buddha's wrath! Look! Don't you know that you have already angered your gods?"

The distraught bandits prostrated themselves before the altar, begging me to forgive them. I was already in such a meditative state that not even the wind and rain could disturb me. It was only when the leader of the bandits approached me and touched me gently, calling me by name, that I looked up and said: "Is it time for the sacrifice? They were all overwhelmed."


During his journey, Xuanzang travels through Central Asia and India not as an ordinary pilgrim, but already as a recognized master. He was welcomed with respect by the rulers of the kingdoms and cities he passed through, as well as by the erudite monks to whom he sometimes complained or with whom he debated.


By Alessandro, author of the tour "In search of truth".

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