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The Silk Road Journey With Xuanzang Paperback – November 25, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Westview Press; Revised edition (November 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813365996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813365992
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A charming and worthwhile book, one that should appeal to a wide audience." -- Journal of World History

About the Author

Sally Hovey Wriggins was the first Westerner and first woman to walk extensively in the footsteps of Xuanzang. Having lived and traveled in Asia for several years based out of Sri Lanka, she also studied with the Venerable Kheminda Thero. She is a regular contributor to Archeology and Orientations.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Magalini Sabina on October 1, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the revised edition of the Author's previous "Xuanzang: a Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road" of 1996. The book received excellent reviews but a few flaws were picked up. Wriggins has corrected most of these drawbacks in this 2004 edition that has slightly changed name: "The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang" pointing the index more on the travel route than on the character. This change of title was probably an editorial choice since the Silk Road is presently an appealing subject.

Fortunately, this book is really about Xuanzang, the 7th century Buddhist monk, that traveled for 16 years and 10,000 miles from China to India and back to quench his spiritual search for the perfect form of Buddhism (he himself later on founded a rationalist chinese sect that lasted a few years), to acquire and bring back the original buddhist texts to undertake a meticulous and truthful translation of what was to become the principal Chinese religion for years to come.

Xuanzang's journey and adventures are retold and condensed from his original "The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions" that he wrote for the Emperor Taizong and his biography written by his disciple Hui-li and integrated by the Author's travels and studies, that however are never mentioned as such.

Xuanzang's journey started from Chang-an (Xian) and through the Silk Road carried him to Tashkent, Samarkand, Balk to the Southern deviation to India. Here he stayed for many years visiting Buddha's sacred sites and practically all the Buddhist monasteries then existing. He also traveled down to Southern India, without however reaching Sri Lanka and after 13 years he started back loaded with manuscripts, artifacts and also a white elephant, gift of King Harasha.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By ashurbanapli on November 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
A criticism of the book (that is relevant to most general readership books today), is that the title does not exactly reflect the content.

This work is primarily about Xuanzang (Hsuan-tsang) the man -- what we know about his character from the extant sources, what his motivations were in leaving China, the content of his itinerary, important people he met, his hardships, triumphs, and the intellectual, spiritual, and cultural legacy he left behind. The book is next about Buddhism: it explores Xuanzang's exploration through the various scriptures of the different schools of Buddhist thought, his impressions on the "best" ideas of each, and then comments on the regional forms of Buddhism practiced and the various Buddhist monuments and sites of pilgrimage he visits along his journey.

The sequence of events in Xuanzang's sojourn is of course narrated according to his progress along the Silk Road, but this is not a book about the Silk Road proper or its history; however, within its central, biographical framework, the book offers a brief discussion of the historical geography and regional political history of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Aurel Stein described Xuanzang as a "Buddhist Pausanias" for the depth, accuracy and quality of his geographical narrative. The primary motivation of this work seems to have been to make an argument for Xuanzang as a scholar and translator (and to show the impact this had on Chinese Buddhism and philosophy), not just as a geographer or a politico-cultural historian, as he is usually remembered. However the book spends only a short time discussing this toward the end, as an epilogue.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. Campbell on December 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
I picked up Wriggins' book mainly out of interest of the Silk Road itself. The book recounts the journeys of a Chinese Buddhist monk named Xuanzang in the 600's that travels a fantastic distance from China to the deepest corners of India in search of answers to his metaphysical questions.

I would have preferred a little more engaging of an account (such as perhaps Undaunted Courage by Ambrose), as Wriggins tends to describe each location and circumstance only briefly and then moves on with the narrative. On occasion, a few of the accounts are descriptive and moving, but on the whole, it reads more like a lecture in a history course.

This is a detailed book that will help readers interested particularly in the impact Xuanzang made on Imperial China and the world of Chinese Buddhism because of his travels and experiences. For an engaging travel narrative or for a more vivid picture of the Silk Road itself, you'll need to look elsewhere.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By E Niblock on April 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang, Sally Wriggins gives a detailed account of a seventh-century Chinese Buddhist monk--Xuanzang--on his sixteen year journey to India. Her book provides a very approachable narrative account of Xuanzang's journey that is as thorough as it is easy to read. Still, her project is nevertheless beset by theoretical problems concerning her portrayal of Indian religions. Wriggins' comparison between Buddhism and Christianity is done in a haphazard and problematic way that naturalizes Christianity as human religion par excellence. The way the book proceeds seems to assume that Christianity is the benchmark against which all other religions should be measured. While Wriggins no doubt intended these comparisons to make her readers more comfortable, they often do little to improve the reader's understanding and function only as a way of setting up Christianity as 'natural' religion. Furthermore, Wriggins romanticizes Indian religion (and perhaps even the Indian subcontinent as a whole) as ahistorical spirituality. Wriggins clumsily claims that "spiritual realities, as so often happens in India, tend to overwhelm the particularity of historical details" (p.99). Her characterization of India as eschewing historical detail in favor of "spiritual realities" risks portraying India as a romanticized, super-historical, spiritual land; to do so is to essentialize and de-legitimize Indian history, pigeonholing the entire subcontinent's heritage as primarily 'spiritual.'

Though she has produced a laudably thorough and accessible account of Xuanzang's journey, Wriggins would do well to nuance her discussion of Indian religion to avoid these problems.
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