For information on the background of this series see The Introduction.
This episode is set 14 years after Xaunzang left Chang-an. He is still in Nalanda, where he had been engaging in debates in defence of the yogācāra doctrine, and his teacher’s reputation.
A great debate is scheduled by King Harsha, who is remembered as a second Asoka. It is held at his capital Kannauj, with over 20 Kings attending and 2,000 religious, including Hindus and Hinayanists.
According to legend Xuangzang spoke for 18 days and no one dared challenge him, and he earned the titles Mahayanadeva and Moksadeva. This was his single greatest achievement during his stay in India.
All during his time there he had been collecting scriptures to take back to China so that the true doctrine could be established on firm ground in his home country, and by the end of this episode he begins his homeward journey, crossing the Pamirs once again.
This episode gives a concise account of Xuanzang’s return trip to the Tang Empire in China. He crossed the Pamirs through the Wakhan Corrider, and then through the small kingdonms of Gorband and Kashgar, until he reached Yutian.
It was from here that he sent a letter to the Emperor recounting his journey and what he had accomplished and asking for forgiveness. The reply took half a year to arrive, but the Emperor not only forgave him, but organised his return journey.
From there he crossed through Khotan, Niya and Dunhuang. This section also recounts the travels made by Aurel Stein in the early 20th century, who relied on Xuangzang’s book to guide him.
After 19 years he finally received a great welcome back in Chang-an, having traveled 25,000 kilometres, and been through 110 states!
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Some Stills from the Documentary