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How to Create a Great Monastery: Xuanzang’s Foundation Legend of Nālandā in Its Indian Context
Abstract: Xuanzang’s Datang Xiyu ji has been and is notoriously used for the reconstruction of South Asian history and the history of Buddhism in India. Very often Xuanzang’s information is either dismissed because it does not corroborate or even contradicts the ‘facts’ in Indian sources (epigraphic or literary sources), or is used to overwrite these sources. Both approaches usually do not take into account the wider context in which the different sources are situated. This paper will take up as a case study Xuanzang’s description of the foundation of Nālandā Mahāvihāra through the Gupta kings and the available South Asian material to show how a comparative analysis can lead to a new approach to the Datang Xiyu ji as a source for the study of cultural history instead of reading it exclusively in a simplistically and uncritically positivist way.
Keywords: Xuanzang, Nālandā, Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa, Vasubandhu, Gupta, foundation story, genealogy
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.