Hyecho's JourneyThe World of Buddhism

Hyecho's JourneyThe World of Buddhism

Donald S. Lopez Jr.

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780226517902

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


In 724, a young Korean monk named Hyecho boarded a ship in China and set off on a pilgrimage to the Buddhist holy land of India. Over the next three years, he would travel farther by land and sea than any monk in the history of Buddhism. Sailing south to Indonesia, he traveled to India and the sacred sites of the life of the Buddha. He then continued west, traveling as far as Arabia before turning east and returning to China. This book tells the story of his journey. Hyecho wrote an account of his travels, but it only survives in fragments, discovered in the famous Library Cave at the desert temple complex of Dunhuang in 1908. Unlike other monks who made the long trip to India, Hyecho did not stay long enough to learn Indian languages. His encounter with the Buddha thus took a different form, not verbal but visual, not reading sacred texts but seeing works of art and architecture. Unlike other books about Buddhism, this one does not present the tradition over the long sweep of its history. Instead, it imagines a world as it was experienced in the course of a single journey, a Buddhist world as seen through the eyes of a single monk. It is illustrated with twenty-four full color plates, recounting the lives and afterlives of the kinds of Buddhist masterworks that Hyecho would have encountered on his pilgrimage.