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Fa-Hsien (also spelled Faxian) was a Buddhist monk who made a pilgrimage from China to India–known at the time as the “holy land” of Buddhism–in 402 CE.
The historical importance of Faxian is twofold. On the one hand, he wrote a famous record of his journeys— the “Record of Buddhist Kingdoms”— which contains valuable information concerning the history of Indian Buddhism during the early centuries CE. Because of the detailed descriptions by Faxian, it is possible to envision Buddhist India centuries before the Muslim invasions. On the other hand, he strengthened Chinese Buddhism by helping provide a better knowledge of Buddhist sacred texts.
This week, I want you to spend some time reading Faxian’s work, the “Record of Buddhist Kingdoms” (link below). Additionally, watch the YouTube video discussing Faxian’s journey for some clarification (link below). Then, citing a passage from the “Record of Buddhist Kingdoms”–the best examples are in chapter XVI–and the lectures from this week, write a one-page paper on the similarities and differences between ancient Chinese and Ancient Indian societies during this period. Since this paper is only one page, feel free to focus on one aspect of culture that Faxian mentions: class, religion, food & drink, governance and punishment, etc. Keep it simple and straightforward and be as creative as you’d like!