Chinese description of ancient India

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by Bhoja, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. Bhoja

    Bhoja Regular Member

    Oct 8, 2011
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    Fahein who is also known as Faxian was a Chinese traveller who had come to India to visit the holy Buddhist places and to collect sacred works connected with the life and the teachings of the Buddha. He came here in the beginning of the 5th century A.D. He came to India by land and returned by the sea-route. He started from China in 399 A.D. and crossed through the Gobi desert. He suffered great hardships while travelling through Khotan, Taskhand, Pamir, Swat and Gandhara before reaching Peshwar and Taxila. After visiting the holy places in the North-West of India he travelled through such places as Mathura, Kanauj, Kausambi, Pataliputra and Kasi etc. He also undertook pilgrimage to the holy places of the Buddhists like Kapilvastu, Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar. On his return journey, he visited Ceylon, Java, Sumatra before he reached home in 414 A.D. In India, he stayed for about 6 years (405-411 A.D) whatever he observed and recorded here is being summed up below:
    Fahein (Fahsien) has lavishly praised, the administration of the Gupta Dynasty. He says: (1) the administration was well-organized and liberal. The officials least interfered in the private affairs of the people. There was freedom of travel and they were not forced to attend to any magistrate or his rule. If they desired to go, they would go, if they liked to stop, they would stop. (2) Punishments were mild. In most cases, fines were considered sufficient. The capital punishment was never awarded. Only in case of persistent criminals their right hands were chopped off. (3) Public highways were safe from thieves and highwaymen. Fahein himself travelled widely without ever being robed. (4) taxes were low and people could easily pay them .(5) Land was the chief source of revenue which was collected both in cash and kind. (6) Government officials were paid wages in cash, which were both sufficient and promptly regular. It made them honest and they never did wrong to the people or accepted bribes.
    Fahein says that he people were rich, prosperous and happy. They excelled in charity and vied with one another. (2) Caurie shells were used in buying and selling commodities. (3) People possessed high moral and were afraid of doing any sin. (4) They had built several chartable rest-houses where the wearied travelers could stay for rest. (5) They had also built charitable hospitals where the poor were given free treatment besides food and clothing. (6) People were mostly vegetarians and practiced ahimsa. Fahein writes, “Throughout the whole country, the people do not kill any living thing, nor drink any intoxicating liquor, nor wine, or eat onions. They do not keep pigs or fowls, they are not dealings in cattle no butcher shops or distilleries in their market placers.” (7) Only the Chandalas practiced hunting and ate animals flesh. They lived outside the city bounds. They had to seek permission before entering the city lest other people should get polluted by their touch. India had a prosperous trade.Foreign trade was carried through the ports of Broach, Cambay and Sopara.
    Fahein was a religious visitor and a holyman. Therefore, he gave more attention to the religious conditions of his times. He writes: (1) Buddhism flourished in the border provinces of the Punjab, Bengal and Mathura. The people followed the principle of Ahimsa and honoured the Buddhist monks. (2) Fahein nowhere observed hat Buddhism was declining. Nevertheless it is clear from his other observations that Hinduism was gaining popularity. His other observations that important Buddhist places like Gaya, Sarnath, Kapilvastu, and Kushinagar were decaying in importance sufficient to prove that gradually the religion of the Buddha was declining. (3) Though the Gupta rulers were Hindus and also built beautiful temples for the Hindu gods they observed tolerance towards other religions and treated them with equal care. Protection was offered to the Buddhist and the Jais as well. In short, the Brahmanas, the Buddhists and the Jains lived together peacefully.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013

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