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Faxian and the Establishment of the Pilgrimage Tradition of Qiufa (Dharma-searching)
JI Yun 紀贇
Buddhist College of Singapore
Abstract: The present article starts by evoking various forms of pilgrimage in major world religions and the religious needs that could be fulfilled through pilgrimage, including purification of the soul, communion with the divine and worship of sacred lands. Under this general context, the article delves into pilgrimage in Chinese Buddhism regarding its spread into China, and its rise and historical development. Faxian, as the first India-bound Chinese Buddhist who wrote a travelogue, exerted clear influences on later pilgrims as an exemplary pilgrim. In particular, we should pay attention to Faxian’s intention of pilgrimage, which bears on the search of canonical Vinaya texts rather than the fulfilment of abstract religious needs such as salvation. After Faxian, numerous pilgrims have undertaken pilgrimages to the Western Regions, including Xuanzang, Yijing and monks recorded in Da Tang Xiyu qiufa gaoseng zhuan 大唐西域求法高僧傳 by Yijing 義淨 and Nittō guhō junrei kōki 入唐求法巡禮行記 by the Japanese monk Ennin 圓仁. Regardless of the historical reality, we could at least observe, on the textual level, that qiufa (the search of Dharma) represents the main objective for Chinese pilgrims. This characteristic sets Chinese Buddhist pilgrimage apart from other religions and even from Tibetan Buddhism, for which qiufa is never a common goal. Does this imply that qiufa was the mainstream form of pilgrimage in Chinese Buddhism and in other Buddhist traditions in East Asia influenced by Chinese Buddhism (e.g. Korean and Japanese Buddhism)? Could there be a difference between an elite and a non-elite form of pilgrimage? The present article will investigate the influence of the qiufa tradition that was inspired by Faxian’s travelogue; and through this discussion, reveal some traits about Chinese Buddhism in general.
Keywords: Faxian, pilgrimage, qiufa, paragon, elite Buddhism, secular Buddhism
About the Author: Ji Yun received his Ph.D. from Fudan University, Shanghai, in 2006. During the writing of his doctorate dissertation, his research encompassed the study of Buddhism within the philological studies of Buddhist written texts, the collecting of biographical materials of monks, and the anthropological studies of religion. Eventually, his dissertation, ‘Huijiao Gaoseng zhuan yanjiu’ 慧皎《高僧傳》研究 [A Study on the Biographies of Eminent Monks written by Huijiao] was published in early 2009. As a full-time lecturer of BCS, Ji Yun is now engaged in teaching subjects such as Buddhist Literature, the institution of Buddhist Sangha, and Chinese and Indic languages. Ji Yun also assists in overseeing the operation of the college’s Academic Office and the library.
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.