Who Was The First Chinese Pilgrim to Visit India?

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who was the first Chinese pilgrim who visited India

In the reign of Chandragupta Maurya II, Fa-Hien also known as Faxien became the first Chinese pilgrim to visit India. The sole purpose of Fa-Hien’s visiting India was to look out for sacred texts of the Buddism religion. Fa-Hien, a Chinese monk, set out on a pilgrimage in 399 CE to find and preserve Buddhist knowledge. He travelled through Central Asia to India, witnessing Buddhist sites and learning Sanskrit. In India, he spent time studying in Pataliputra (Presently a place in Bihar) during Chandragupta II’s rule and visited key pilgrimage locations. Fa-Hien’s journey documented the religious landscape and cities of Central and Middle India.

Fa Hein And His Life

The first Chinese pilgrim to visit India, Fa Hein’s pilgrimage extended to key Buddhist sites like Sravasti, Sarnath, Bodh Gaya, Vaishali, and Rajgir. 

Birth337 CE
DeathAround 422 CE
OccupationChinese Buddhist monk and translator
Journey DurationFrom 399 to 412 CE
Main RouteFrom China to India, visiting sacred Buddhist sites in Central, South, and Southeast Asia
Time in IndiaSpent approximately 10 years
TravelogueA Record of Buddhist Kingdoms (Foguo Ji)
SignificanceProvides an independent record of early Buddhism in India; brought back a large number of Sanskrit texts influencing East Asian Buddhism
ContributionTranslated Sanskrit texts, influencing East Asian Buddhism; provided terminus ante quem for historical names, events, texts, and ideas

Fa Hein’s Pilgrimage to India

Fa-Hien, travelled through Asia seeking knowledge. After spending six years in India during Chandragupta II’s reign, he returned to China. Despite the long stay, his focus remained on Buddhism. He wrote extensively about Pataliputra, noting its renewed importance under Chandragupta II compared to previous rulers. While Fa-hien didn’t provide a detailed account of the emperor’s rule, his descriptions of the city and its scholarly monks offer glimpses into the Gupta era. 

The Mauryan Empire (321-185 BC)How Did Chandragupta Maurya Die?
Who is the son of Chandragupta Maurya?Second Buddhist Council
Buddhist Education SystemFourth Buddhist Council

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