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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 2.1 (2019): 16–44;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Faxian)

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The Neglected Pilgrim: How Faxian’s Record Was Used (and Was Not Used) in Buddhist Studies

Cardiff University

Abstract: This paper focuses on the role of Faxian’s Foguo ji, Record of the Buddhist Kingdoms (a.k.a Gaoseng Faxian zhuan) in the formation of Buddhist Studies as a discipline in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It will contextualize the text in the emulating historicist approach of the time which, I would claim and hope to show, led to a certain marginalization of the Record due to the typical ideological parameters inherent in the positivist and historicist interpretation of sources, such as the idea of authenticity and reliability through authorship and through the information given in the source. In this context, Faxian’s Record had the disadvantage of being relatively short, restricted in terms of geographical range, and being linked to an author about whom not much was known. As a consequence, Faxian’s Record was and is mostly used in a complementary way to either corroborate pieces of information from other sources—mainly from Xuanzang’s Da Tang Xiyu ji which had become the main authority—hence establishing it as the earliest text of its ‘genre’ a historical terminus ad quem, or it has to fill gaps of information in those other sources (e.g. the report on Siṃhala/Śrī Laṅkā).

Keywords: Faxian, Foguo ji, Buddhist Studies, Research History


About the Author: Max Deeg is Professor in Buddhist Studies at Cardiff University. He received his Ph.D. in Classical Indology and his professorial degree (Habilitation) in Religious Studies at Würzburg University, Germany. His main research interest is in the history of Buddhism and its spread; he has researched and published extensively on Chinese Buddhist travelogues. His most recent publications are: Miscellanae Nepalicae: Early Chinese Reports on Nepal—The Foundation Legend of Nepal in its Trans-Himalayan Context (2016), and Die Strahlende Lehre—Die Stele von Xi’an (2018).


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.