Fa-Hien in the land of the Buddha

Contact Counsellor

Fa-Hien in the land of the Buddha

  • Fa-Hien considered as a great chronicler of medieval India. He should be included in the pantheons of Bahujan society and India’s national history.


  • Fa-Hien was a Chinese pilgrim who visited India during the reign of Chandragupta II on a religious mission. He traveled by foot from China to India and returned by sea route.

Fa-Hien / Faxian Visit to India

  • Fa-Hien is also known as Faxian was born in AD 337 to Tsang Hi in Pingyang Wuyang, modern Linfen City, Shanxi. Faxian was orphaned at an early age and spent most of his adult life in Buddhist monasteries.
  • Faxian was a Chinese monk who left Chang’an (present-day Xi’an) in 399 CE to set forth on an expedition through Central Asia to India, and ultimately Sri Lanka at the age of 62.
  • During a visit to Chang’an, he was taken aback by the torn and weathered state of the Books of Discipline (Vinaya Pitakas) which contain the monastic code for Buddhist monks and nuns.
  • In 399 CE, Faxian was accompanied by 4 others on a mission to visit the land of the Buddha and search for Buddhist texts.
  • He reached Purushapura (Peshawar) and recollected how Buddha had predicted the birth of a king named ‘Kanishka’, who would build a magnificent stupa at this place.
  • Fa-Hien made his way towards Northern India and took note of very different vegetation from his own land of Han (China). The only familiar plants he noted were bamboo, pomegranate, and sugarcane.
  • He visited India in the early fifth century during the reign of Chandragupta II and entered here from the northwest and reached Pataliputra. Here, in a Mahayana monastery, he found a copy of the Vinaya Pitaka, containing the Mahasanghika rules written in Sanskrit. Hence, he lived in patliputra for nearly three years, learned Sanskrit, and wrote out the Vinaya rules.
  • He traveled to many cities associated with the life of the Buddha – Sravasti, Sarnath, Bodh Gaya, Vaishali, Rajgir, etc and wrote about Taxila, Pataliputra, Mathura, and Kannauj in Middle India.
  • An important city that Fa-Hien visited was Mathura. He indicates that the city was prosperous, peaceful and that most people seemed to be teetotalers and vegetarians.
  • Fa-Hien is renowned for his pilgrimage to Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha.
  • He followed the course of the Ganga eastwards, reached Champa and then Tamralipti (was an ancient city in West Bengal)
  • He traveled across Pakistan, Nepal, Northern India, and eventually to Sri Lanka, and claimed that demons and dragons were the original inhabitants of Ceylon.
  • Faxian spent two years in Sri Lanka and decided to return, along a precarious sea route, to China. Today, there is a cave in the district of Kalutara in Sri Lanka named after Fa-Hien. It is believed that he resided there.
  • After he returned home at the age of 77, the next decade until his death, he translated the Buddhist Sutra along with the Indian Sramana Buddha-Bhadra and compiled a travelogue filled with invaluable accounts of what life was like, the places he saw, and the nature of Buddhism at the turn of the 5th century.
  • He recorded his observations in a travelogue titled Fo-Kwo-Ki (A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms; also known as Faxian’s Account).
  • Faxian died in Jingzhou in China, at the age of eighty-eight. "