This is a reconstruction of the life of one of the great Chinese monk-scholars who travelled to India in the 5th century. It is in four parts and two segments, the first of which we showed last week.
In this week’s episodes Fa Xian travels through India in search of Buddhist scriptures, and particularly of authoritative Vinaya texts, he has many adventures along the way, and records the customs of the lands he travels through.
When he finally gets to the Buddha’s home town of Kapilavastu he is surprised to find that it is in a state of decay, that Buddhism has all but died out, and that no scriptures can be found there.
He continues his journey though and eventually comes to the capital of the Magadha kingdom, Pataliputra, which is the most magnificent city in India at the time. Here he does find the long desired texts, and starts collecting and copying them.
After several years he travels to Sri Lanka, and to the Mahayana Abhayagiri Monastery, which is thriving at the time, and there he finds many texts that were unavailable in India, which he also stops to collect.
The journey back to China is full of troubles, but eventually he arrives and makes his way to Jiankang, which he where he starts his translation work in his mid-70s. Later he moved to Jiangling, which is where he completed his work, and eventually passed away.
Despite the occasional inaccuracy, and the appalling pronunication of all the Indian names, the films are full of information, and throw a lot of light on the journey of this great Indian monk, who risked his life to improve the condition of Buddhism in his home country.
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