629 AD - 2007

Xuanzang Memorial, Nālandā

Xuanzang Memorial, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara

A Befitting Tribute to the World Citizen Xuanzang

INTRODUCTION
Xuanzang was a Chinese monk-scholar who travelled from China to India in the 7th century to study at the Nālandā Monastery, collect manuscripts of the true teachings of Buddha, and visit the sacred places associated with Buddha. Xuanzang left a detailed account of the 17 years of his journey on the Silk Route and in India, which became the primary source of information in the 19th century to establish the Indian origin of Buddhism.  

SETTING UP OF THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
Venerable Jagdish Kashyap, founder and director of Nava Nālandā Mahavihara, proposed the idea of establishing a Xuanzang Memorial in Nālandā— the place where Xuanzang ended his long pilgrimage in the pursuit of the true understanding of Buddhism. The construction of the Memorial was initiated in 1957 jointly by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, and Zhou En-Lai, the first Premier of China.

SETTING UP OF THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
The construction of the Xuanzang Memorial was started in the 1960s but due to unavoidable reasons it could not be completed then. In 2001, the site was handed over to the present director of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Dr. Ravindra Panth, who submitted a proposal to India’s Ministry of Culture to form a Resource Committee for the renovation of the Memorial. In 2005, a team of experts from India and China put forth suggestions regarding the renovation, following which the Memorial was completed in 2007.

SETTING UP OF THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
Dignitaries from India and China jointly inaugurated the Xuanzang Memorial on 12 February 2007. The Xuanzang Memorial celebrates the Buddhist heritage of India and China. Its exhibits the historical connection between India and China. It is also a platform for exchange of ideas between the two countries in the future

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
The Memorial is inspired from Chinese and Indian architectural styles. The symmetric curved roof designed for balance and to ward off evil spirits that are believed to move in straight lines, the blue glazed tiles of the roof that represent heaven and the spiritual and the profusion of rich colours like red, which is believed to keep ghosts away and signify happiness and joy, and gold, which is believed to represent the gold metal signifying material wealth of the occupant of the building. The Chinese and Indian architectural elements have been artistically blended to create a peaceful place for learning, meditation and paying homage to Xuanzang.


XUANZANG MEMORIAL
The ancient Nalanda University is surrounded by 22 water bodies. The Xuanzang Memorial is situated on the eastern bank of the historic Padmapushkarni Lake.

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
The most striking feature of the Xuanzang Memorial compound is the symmetry of all the building structures contained with it. The doors of the main building open in the East, the direction of rising sun. According to Chinese tradition, the East represent hope while in Indian culture, it represents the direction for worshipping. The front and the sides of the main building are covered by well maintained lawns blooming with flowers of the season. This adds a serenity to the entire compound.

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
Zoomorphic symbols are spread throughout the complex especially at the entrance and on the rooftops. There are lions representing power and prestige, turtles to mark the respect for life, dragon protecting buildings against fire, with powers to bring rain and Dragon also signifies power, strength, and good luck.

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
The big bronze gate is built to complement the main structure with similar curved roof and blue glazed tile detail. Besides being an aesthetic feature, it represents the Chinese cultural influence too; it acts like a screen to ward off the evil spirits from entering into the main chambers.

INSIDE THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
Inside the Memorial there is a bronze statue of Xuanzang on the altar, in the preaching posture. It is first of its kind in India cause for the longest time he was characterized as a Chinese pilgrim (itinerant monk) and it is only recently that his contributions to spreading Buddhism has been acknowledged and thus he has been portrayed as a Buddhist saint.

INSIDE THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
On the white marble wall behind the statue is an embossed image of Maitreya Buddha in his abode ‘Tushita heaven’. Xuanzang had wished that in his next birth he is born with the Maitreya Buddha so that he gets opportunity to practice with Maitreya and get liberated.

INSIDE THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
On the wall facing the Xuanzang’s statue, right above the door is the Buddha depicted in the Dharmachakraparvartan Mudrā (the wheel of law set in motion).

INSIDE THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
Jātaka tales are another very strong connection between India and China. These are stories supposedly from Buddha’s previous life’s to emphasize the importance of virtuous living and self sacrifice. These tales adorn many Indian and Chinese monuments alike, including the Ajantā caves, Kizil and Dunhuang caves. These motifs on the ceilings of the Memorial are a replica from Ajantā caves.

The ceiling of Ajanta Cave no. 1

INSIDE THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
Xuanzang was born in 602 CE in a family of scholars in the present-day Henan province of China as the youngest of four children. At the age of nine, he was drawn to the teachings of the Buddha. By the time Xuanzang was thirteen, Tsing-Tu monastery made an exception to allow Xuanzang to join the monastery. In 622 CE, at the age of twenty, Xuanzang was ordained as a monk. In 629 Xuanzang left China for Nālandā monastery to practice and collect true teachings of the Buddha, not to return until seventeen years after.

INSIDE THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
In his 17 years (629-645 CE) of wandering in the Indian subcontinent Xuanzang visited many monasteries, temples and royal courts. Xuanzang collected some 150 sacred relics of the Buddha, 657 Buddhist manuscripts in Sanskrit from the sacred places he visited. From 645CE until his death in 664CE, Xuanzang devoted his life to the translation of the Buddhist texts that he brought with him.

INSIDE THE XUANZANG MEMORIAL
One of the recurrent themes in Xuanzang’s travelogue is the ritualistic worship of the Buddha’s images during official functions. In many Indian kingdoms, Xuanzang saw monks and lay people perform a variety of rituals in Buddhist monasteries and temples. By observing the beliefs and rituals among the followers of the teachings of the Buddha in India, Xuanzang concluded that for spreading the teachings of the Buddha in China, use of rituals and symbols would be just as important as the practising the faith through the uncorrupted teachings of the Buddha. Xuanzang carried to China six miniature images of the Buddha collected from different places visited during his pilgrimage. Xuanzang carried to China six miniature images of the Buddha collected from different places visited during his pilgrimage. The Chinese government presented a replica of the Footprints of the Buddha that was carried by Xuanzang. The replica is on display at the Memorial.

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
In the 19th century, scholars and explorers fell on the works of Xuanzang to carve out information on the ancient history of the Silk Road, Indian subcontinent and the lost sites of Buddhist learning. Their efforts led to the identification, protection and preservation of several of the sites. Presently, there is a renewed interest in reviving ancient Buddhist sites. Xuanzang’s works have been instrumental in the discovery and revival of many of the Buddhist sites because it is the only work so far that weaves the stories of all the Buddhist sites along the Silk Road and Indian subcontinent into a single thread of writing. Xuanzang’s works have drawn attention of the world to the less-known world of Buddhist pilgrimage, art, architecture and literature.

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
Xuanzang’s Dharma wandering captured the hearts and imaginations of many kings, monks, artists, writers and lay people until it became a household story in China and the neighbouring kingdoms. Representation of Xuanzang as itinerant monks originates from depiction of Central Asian itinerant monks. Depiction of Central Asian itinerant monks carrying backpack of Sūtra scrolls appeared in Dunhuang in 9-10th CE. These itinerant monks from Central Asia played a very important role in spreading Buddhism in rural masses. Xuanzang because of his role as transmitter of the faith acquired the persona of Itinerant Monk between late Tang and the Song dynasty (9-10th CE).

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
On the left of the main building is a Commemorative Pillar (Chinese Hubaio) built on a marble platform in honour of Xuanzang. There are only a few other characters in history who have made such an overwhelming contribution to such a variety of fields at one time. These contributions have earned Xuanzang the title of ‘World Citizen.’ Xuanzang discovered his true calling and resolutely set out to pursue it. He inspires the explorer, the scholar and the pilgrim in every person.

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
A brief overview of Xuanzang’s life is inscribed at the back of the pillar. Xuanzang’s life and work are an incredible contribution to world history. His pilgrimage to India was unprecedented as was the travel account and translation of Buddhist texts he left behind. Through these, Xuanzang contributed to the world of Buddhist and Chinese literature, helped in spreading Buddhism in China, and opened the way for expeditions in the vast unknown between China and India.

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
On the right of the main building is a white Chinese pagoda housing an ashtadhatu (eight-metal alloy) peace bell with Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra ( The Heart of the Perfection of Understanding) inscribed on it in both Chinese and Sanskrit languages. The Chinese pagodas are adapted from the Buddhist stūpas of ancient India. The side railing of the bell pavilion is made of marble inscribed with a lotus. The lotus, known as ‘nālam’ in Sanskrit language, is a symbol of wisdom. Since it was in Nālandā where Buddhist knowledge was promulgated, the lotus symbol was used for ornamentation. Devotees believe that ringing this bell thrice produces strong vibrations that relieve the mind and soul of distractions.

XUANZANG MEMORIAL
Once an old diseased man in the city of Shuh in China presented a manuscript of the Heart Sūtra to Xuanzang as a sign of gratitude. This touched Xuanzang and thereafter he made it a habit to recite the Heart Sūtra. Xuanzang felt that reciting the Heart Sūtra warded off evil forces. Therefore, on his way to India, every time he encountered a difficulty such as a desert or a snow-capped mountain, he recited the Heart Sūtra and ensured his safety. Because of its potency as a charm, a cult developed around Heart Sūtra in medieval China, and since Xuanzang had translated the work, the cult naturally became linked with him. In Heart Sūtra scrolls or on the panels of Sūtra cases designed to contain the Heart Sūtra, Xuanzang is being depicted as one of the sixteen protecting deities.

RELICS OF XUANZANG
Xuanzang died in 664 CE, following which his body relics were enshrined in a pagoda built in Xingjiao Monastery in Chang′an. The relics of Xuanzang were removed from Shanxi Province to Jiangsu province in 10th CE. In 1942, during the construction of an Inari Shinto shrine just outside of Nanjing’s southern gate (Jiangsu Province), the burial chamber of an ancient Buddhist pagoda was discovered. Inside the chamber was found a stone sarcophagus containing two nested boxes. There were also two inscriptions carved on the walls of the sarcophagus, one dating to the 11th century, the other to the 14th century. The inscriptions led to the identification of the bone in box as Xuanzang’s skull fragment. Since the discovery of Xuanzang’s skull shard, it has been broken anddistributed more than a dozen times to multiply the number of Xuanzang's relics.

RELICS OF XUANZANG
(CRYSTAL JAR INSIDE THE RELIC CASKET)

The Relic Casket contains a crystal jar containing the sacred Xuanzang’s skull shard.

RELICS OF XUANZANG
In 1957, the Chinese Government presented a collection of Xuanzang’s relics kept in the Temple of Great Compassion in Tianjin to be placed in the Xuanzang Memorial in Nālandā, India. Among other objects were a biography of Xuanzang, 1335 sutra volumes translated by Xuanzang, a set of Qisha Tripitaka and a copy of Xuaznang’s book Journey to the Western Land. All these objects were presented to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by the Dalai Lama on behalf of the Chinese Government. The relics are presently kept at Patnā museum.

THE LEGACY

In the 19th century, scholars and explorers fell on the works of Xuanzang to carve out information on the ancient history of the Silk Road, Indian subcontinent and the lost sites of Buddhist learning. Their efforts led to the identification, protection and preservation of several of the sites. Presently, there is a renewed interest in reviving ancient Buddhist sites. Xuanzang’s works have been instrumental in the discovery and revival of many of the Buddhist sites because it is the only work so far that weaves the stories of all the Buddhist sites along the Silk Road and Indian subcontinent into a single thread of writing.

Xuanzang’s life and work are an incredible contribution to world history. His pilgrimage to India was unprecedented as was the travel account and translation of Buddhist texts he left behind. Through these, Xuanzang contributed to the world of Buddhist and Chinese literature, helped in spreading Buddhism in China, and opened the way for expeditions in the vast unknown between China and India. There are only a few other characters in history who have made such an overwhelming contribution to such a variety of fields at one time. These contributions have earned Xuanzang the title of ‘World Citizen.’ Xuanzang discovered his true calling and resolutely set out to pursue it. He inspires the explorer, the scholar and the pilgrim in every person.

Nava Nalanda Mahavihara
Credits: Story

Research and curation: Aparajita Goswami, Deepak Anand

Editor: Dr. Ravindra Panth
First Editor: Dr Dipankara Lama
GIS Support: Sanjay Mathur

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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