Tracing Fa-Hien’s Journey Through India (399 CE - 414 CE)

“In this desert, there are a great many evil spirits and also hot winds; those who encounter them perish to a man. There are neither birds above nor beasts below. Gazing on all sides as far as the eye can reach in order to mark the track, no guidance is to be obtained save from the rotting bones of dead men, which point the way.”
That’s an excerpt from the travel writings of Fa-Hien, a Chinese monk who left Chang’an in 399 CE, at the age of 62, and set forth on an expedition through Central Asia to India, and ultimately Sri Lanka. Accompanied by four others, he was on a mission to visit the land of the Buddha and search for Buddhist texts.
The journey was not easy. Sixteen hundred years ago, the Gobi Desert was untracked and the mountain passes of the Himalayas perilous to pass. It took months to get from one place to another. Weather conditions ranged from scorching heat to sub-zero cold and, with most of the journey done on foot, exposure was a very real threat. In addition, there were wild animals and bandits lying in wait.

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