Posted: March 11th, 2023
Write a thesis and also have a counterargument for both texts
Excerpt from Faxian, A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms
Translated by James Legge
In the year 399 CE, when he was about 60 years old, a Chinese Buddhist monk named Faxian went on a
pilgrimage from central China to West Bengal, India. Traveling primarily on foot, Faxian was on the road
for almost fourteen years, visiting places such as Sri Lanka and Sumatra along his way from China to
India and back. He returned to the Chinese mainland in 413 CE, carrying books of the Buddhist canon
and images of Buddhist deities. Faxian wrote down his experiences to the benefit of future travelers. The
information was compiled into A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms, sometimes also called The Travels of Faxian.
Below is an excerpt from Faxian’s account of his visit to central India.
From this place they travelled south-east, passing by a succession of very many monasteries, with
a multitude of monks, who might be counted by myriads. After passing all these places, they
came to a country named Mataoulo. They still followed the course of the Poona river, on the
banks of which, left and right, there were twenty monasteries, which might contain three
thousand monks; and here the Law of Buddha was still more flourishing. Everywhere, from the
sandy desert, in all the countries of India, the kings had been firm believers in that Law. When
they make their offerings to a community of monks, they take off their royal caps, and along with
their relatives and ministers, supply them with food with their own hands. That done, the king
has a carpet spread for himself on the ground, and he sits down in front of the chairman;—they
dare not presume to sit on couches in front of the community. The laws and ways, according to
which the kings presented their offerings when the Buddha was in the world, have been handed
down to the present day.
All south from this is named the Middle Kingdom. In it the cold and heat are finely tempered,
and there is neither frost nor snow. The people are numerous and happy; they do not have to
register their households, or attend to any magistrates and their rules; only those who cultivate
the royal land have to pay a portion of the grain from it. If they want to go, they go; if they want
to stay on, they stay. The king governs without decapitation or other corporal punishments.
Criminals are simply fined, lightly or heavily, according to the circumstances of each case. Even
in cases of repeated attempts at wicked rebellion, they only have their right hands cut off. The
king’s body guards and attendants all have salaries. Throughout the whole country the people
do not kill any living creature, nor drink intoxicating liquor, nor eat onions or garlic. The only
exception is that of the Kandalas. That is the name for those who are held to be wicked men, and
live apart from others. When they enter the gate of a city or a marketplace, they strike a piece of
wood to make themselves known, so that men know and avoid them, and do not come into
contact with them. In that country they do not keep pigs and fowls, and do not sell live cattle; in
the markets there are no butchers’ shops and no dealers in intoxicating drink. Only the Kandalas
are fishermen and hunters, and sell flesh meat.https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/2124/pg2124-images.html
The regular business of the monks is to perform acts of meritorious virtue, and to recite their
sutras and sit in meditation. When foreign monks arrive at any monastery, the old residents meet
and receive them, carry for them their clothes and alms-bowl, give them water to wash their feet,
oil with which to anoint them, and the liquid food permitted out of the regular hours. When the
foreigner has enjoyed a very brief rest, they further ask the number of years that he has been a
monk, after which he receives a sleeping apartment, according to his regular order, and
everything is done for him which the rules prescribe.
Where a community of monks resides, they erect topes to Sariputtra, to the Great
Maudgalyayana, and to Ananda, and also in honor of the Abhidharma, the Vinaya, and the
Sutras. A month after the annual season of rest, the families which are looking out for blessing
encourage one another to make offerings to the monks, and send round to them the liquid food
which may be taken out of the ordinary hours. All the monks come together in a great assembly
and preach the Law; after which offerings are presented for Sariputtra, with all kinds of flowers
and incense. All through the night lamps are kept burning, and skillful musicians are employed
[…] When the monks are done receiving their annual tribute from the harvests, the Heads of the
Vaisyas and all the Brahmans bring clothes and other such articles as the monks require for use,
and distribute among them. The monks, having received them, also proceed to give portions to
one another. From the nirvana of the Buddha, the forms of ceremony, laws, and rules, practiced
by the sacred communities, have been handed down from one generation to another without
The Legend of Miao-shan Translated by Glen Dudbridge
In Chinese Buddhism, Kuan-yin or Guanyin is the bodhisattva of compassion, which is almost
always portrayed as female. According to a popular legend, Kuan-yin is an incarnation of a
princess by the name of Miao-shan who was eager to pursue a life of Buddhist celibacy despite
her parents’ wishes. The legend probably dates to the 6th or 7th century CE, although it was first
written down much later.
Tao-hsuan once asked a divine spirit about the history of the bodhisattva Kuan-yin. The spirit
In the past there was a king whose name was Miao-chuang-yen. His lady was named Pao-ying.
She bore three daughters, the eldest Miao-yen, the second Miao-yin, and the youngest Miao-
At the time of Miao-shan's conception the queen dreamed that she swallowed the moon. When
the time came for the child to be born, the whole earth quaked, and wonderful fragrance and
heavenly flowers were spread near and far. The people of that country were astounded. At birth
she was clean and fresh without being washed. Her holy marks were noble and majestic, her
body was covered over with many-colored clouds. The people said that these were signs of the
incarnation of a holy person. Although the parents thought this extraordinary, their hearts were
corrupt, and so they detested her.
As she grew up Miao-shan became naturally kind and gentle. She dressed plainly and ate only
once a day. In the palace she was known as "the maiden with the heart of a Buddha." By her
good grace the ladies in waiting were converted to Buddhism; all turned to the good life and
renounced their desires. The king took some exception to this and prepared to find her a
husband. Miao-shan, with integrity and wisdom, said: "Riches and honor are not there forever,
glory and splendor are like mere bubbles or illusions. Even if you force me to do base menial
work, I will never change my resolve to remain chaste."
When the king and his lady sent for her and tried to coax her, she said: "I will obey your august
command if it will prevent three misfortunes."
The king asked: "What do you mean by 'three misfortunes'?"
She said: "The first is this: when the men of this world are young, their face is as fair as the jade-
like moon, but when they grow old, their hair turns white and their face is wrinkled; in motion
or repose they are in every way worse off than when they were young. The second is this: a
man's limbs may be lusty and vigorous, he may step as lithely as if flying through the air, but
when suddenly an illness befalls him, he lies in bed without a single pleasure in life. The third is
this: a man may have a great assembly of relatives, may be surrounded by his nearest and
dearest, but suddenly one day it all comes to an end [with his death]; although father and son
are close kin they cannot take one another's place. If you can prevent these three misfortunes,
then you will win my consent to a marriage. If not, I prefer to retire to pursue a life of religion.
When one gains full understanding of the original mind, all misfortunes of their own accord
cease to exist."
The king was angry. He forced her to work at gardening and reduced her food and drink. Even
her two sisters went privately to make her change her mind, but Miao-shan held firm and
would not turn back. When the queen personally admonished her, Miao-shan said: "In all the
emotional entanglements of this world there is no term of spiritual release. If close kin are
united, they must inevitably be sundered and scattered. Rest at ease, mother. Luckily you have
my two sisters to care for you. Do not be concerned about Miao-shan."
The queen and the two sisters therefore asked the king to release Miao-shan to follow a
religious calling. The king was angry. He called for the nuns at White Sparrow monastery, and
charged them to treat her so harshly that she would change her mind. The nuns were
intimidated and gave her the heaviest tasks to do -- fetching wood and water, working with
pestle and mortar, and running the kitchen garden. In response to her, the vegetables flourished
even in winter, and a spring welled up beside the kitchen.
Much time went by, and Miao-shan still held firm to her purpose. When the king heard about
the miracles of the vegetables and the spring of water, he was furious. He sent soldiers to bring
back her head and to kill the nuns. As they were arriving, mountains of cloud and fog suddenly
appeared, totally obscuring everything. When it cleared, Miao-shan was the one person they
could not find. She had been borne off by a spirit to a cliff in another place. The spirit then said:
"The land here is too barren to sustain existence." He moved her altogether three times before
they reached the Fragrant Mountain (Hsiang-shan). Miao-shan dwelt there, eating from the
trees, drinking from the streams.
Time went by, and the king contracted jaundice. His whole body was corrupt and festering, and
he could no longer sleep or eat. None of the doctors could cure him. He was about to die when
a monk appeared, saying he was well able to cure him, but would need the arms and eyes of
one free from anger. The king found this proposal extremely difficult to meet. The monk said:
"On Fragrant Mountain, in the southwest of your majesty's dominion, there is a bodhisattva
engaged in religious practices. If you send a messenger to present your request to her you can
count on obtaining the two things."
The king had no choice but to command a palace equerry to go and convey his message. Miao-
shan said: "My father showed disrespect to the Three Treasures, he persecuted and suppressed
the True Doctrine, he executed innocent nuns. This called for retribution." Then she gladly cut
out her eyes and severed her arms. Giving them to the envoy, she added instructions to exhort
the king to turn towards the good, no longer to be deluded by false doctrines.
When the two things were submitted to him, the monk made them up into medicine. The king
took it and instantly recovered. He generously rewarded the monk-physician. But the monk
said: "Why thank me? You should be thanking the one who provided the arms and eyes."
Suddenly he was gone. The king was startled by this divine intervention. Ordering a coach, he
went with his lady and two daughters to the hills to thank the bodhisattva.
They met, and before words were spoken the queen already recognized her: it was Miao-shan.
They found themselves choking with tears. Miao-shan said: "Does my lady remember Miao-
shan? Mindful of my father's love, I have repaid him with my arms and eyes." Hearing her
words, the king and queen embraced her, bitterly weeping. The queen was about to lick the
eyes with her tongue, but before she could do so, auspicious clouds enclosed all around, divine
musicians began to play, the earth shook, and flowers rained down. And then the holy
manifestation of the Thousand Arms and Thousand Eyes was revealed, hovering majestically in
the air. Attendants numbered tens of thousands of voices celebrating the bodhisattva's
compassion resounded to shake the mountains and valleys. In a moment, the bodhisattva
reverted to her former person, then with great solemnity departed. The king, the queen, and the
two sisters made a funeral pyre, preserved the holy relics, and on that same mountain built a
Tao-hsuan again asked: "The bodhisattva can take mortal form in any place and surely ought
not to be present solely at Fragrant Mountain?" The spirit replied: "Of all sites at present within
the bounds of China, Fragrant Mountain is pre-eminent. The mountain lies two hundred
leagues to the south of Mount Sung. It is the same as the Fragrant Mountain in present day Ju-
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