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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 3.1 (2020): 348–367;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Manuscript Studies and Xuanzang Studies)

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Context and Text: Historicizing Xuanzang and the Da Tang Xiyu Ji

Guo WU 伍國
Allegheny College

Abstract: The content of the Da Tang Xiyu ji, or The Great Tang Records of the Western Regions, drew upon Xuanzang’s long-term interest in secular things and its compilation was a response to the imperial order of Li Shimin, or Tang Taizong, with the main goal of finding facts about the Western Regions, which Li Shimin was planning to conquer and govern. The book’s style and focus inherited traditional Chinese geographical books, local gazetteers and the official history’s section on the western borderlands by recording the regions’ products and customs, and it passes moral judgments on local people. The book’s ethnographical character and Xuanzang’s concern with secular affairs and his interest in empirical studies, as well as its goal of providing information to the emperor, are the important aspects that need to be grasped to achieve an in-depth and multifaceted understanding.

Keywords: Tang Taizong, Li Shiming, Xuanzang, Tang Dynasty, Western Regions


About the Author: Guo Wu 伍國 is associate professor at Allegheny College, USA. He obtained his Ph.D. in Chinese history from State University of New York in 2006 and has been teaching at Allegheny College, where he offers a wide range of courses in Chinese and East Asian history. He also serves as the chair of the college’s Chinese Studies program. His main research fields include Chinese intellectual history, Southwestern borderland studies, and the Chinese Communist movement. He has published two books, Zheng Guanying, Merchant Reformer of Late Qing China and His Influence on Economics, Politics, and Society (2010) and Narrating Southern Chinese Minority Nationalities: Politics, Disciplines, and Public History (2019), in addition to a number of peer-reviewed journal articles in the above-mentioned fields.


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.