Essay On Faxian – The Chinese Traveller
Faxian was a Buddhist pilgrim. He was the first Chinese traveller who visited India during the period of Gupta King Chandragupta II. He spent three years in Pataliputra. He visited India in search of knowledge and manuscripts. In his account, he has given a general description of social, religious and economic life of people of North India at that time.
He has written a detailed account of what he saw and experienced in India. His account is known as ‘Fokowoki’. His aim was to visit the places of Buddhist importance because India was the homeland of Buddhism. Faxian wanted to study Buddhist literature and thus, his main interest of visiting India was religion.
He also stated the absence of capital punishment, the non-existence of a poll and land taxes. However, his account fails to throw light on the political condition of India during the reign of Chandragupta II. Unfortunately, he has not mentioned even once the name of the ruler in whose empire he lived for five years.
Faxian’s account definitely gives important information on economic, social and religious condition in India at that time. He travelled throughout India and visited different places like Kunj, Peshawar, Mathura, Varanasi, Kapilvastu, Vaishali and Pataliputra. From India he even visited Shilong and then to Java. Later he returned to China.
According to Faxian’s account, people were economically prosperous. The burden of taxation was not very heavy. People lived in harmony and they hardly had any disputes among them. People were not punished harshly for their wrong doings. They could move freely and there was complete security of life and property. He describes that there were hospitals for poor where medicines were freely distributed. Thus, Faxian has mentioned that the Gupta rulers not only maintained peace and security but also looked after the welfare of their subjects.
Faxian has also mentioned that people were very prosperous and led a satisfied life. Most people did not consume onions, garlic, meat and wine. The untouchables lived outside the villages. They were engaged into the tasks like hunting and fishing. Rich people in society were engaged in charitable work and gave donation to the temples and Buddhist monasteries. This shows that people led a moral and simple life.
Faxian has also provided a detailed description of the city of Pataliputra where he lived for three years and studied Sanskrit language. He describes the palace of Asoka in Pataliputra and he was very impressed by it. He also refers to the chariot procession of Pataliputra where the images of the Buddha were carried.
This great Chinese traveller had mentioned about India, “The people were rich and prosperous and seemed to emulate each other in the practice of virtue. Charitable institutions were numerous and rest houses for travellers were provided on the highway. The capital possessed an excellent hospital.”
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