Hsuen Tsang’s route to India

Most of us are taught in school about the seventh century Chinese Buddhist monk who came to India. Many of us even recollect the name but i wonder if we ever gave thought to the route he took to India. Until i read this fascinating travelogue i always assumed that he would have come across the Himalaya. After all didn’t the Dalai lama cross the Himalaya to come to India?! Well, it turns out that Hsuen Tsang took the much longer route:

China (from Xian)-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India.

In India he went up to Kanchipuram in the south and Assam in the north east! On his way back he went from Afghanistan directly to China skirting Tajikistan and skipping Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan. The map below clearly shows the short cut he took on his way back.

I initially thought i would look up the places that Hsuen Tsang visited and make a route map in google however i found that it has been already done in great detail and is available here.

As i went through the book i found that even the author wondered why Hsuen Tsang took this rather long route.  We get to know the possible reason from the author’s companion in Uzbekistan, a Ukrainian Archaeologist Leonid Sverchov.  Famous translators of Buddhist texts were from  Samarkand (Uzbekistan) and so Hsuen Tsang must have thought the region to be rich in Buddhism. He came to look at Buddhism in all these regions in Central Asia.

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