Chinese State and Buddhist Historical Sources on Xuanzang: Historicity and the Daci’en si sanzang fashi zhuan 大慈恩寺三藏法師傳

In: T'oung Pao


This paper explores the historicity of state and Buddhist accounts of the monk Xuanzang 玄奘 (602-664), arguing that in the reconstruction of Xuanzang’s life and career we ought to utilize the former to help adjudicate the latter. It is specifically argued that the Daci’en si sanzang fashi zhuan 大慈恩寺三藏法師傳 (T. no. 2053), a biography of Xuanzang sometimes cited by modern scholars, was produced as Buddhist propaganda to advance the standing of certain monks under the reign of Wu Zetian 武則天 (r. 690-705). It is further argued that the objectivity of the Buddhist account that describes Emperor Taizong 太宗 (r. 626-649) embracing Buddhism in his twilight years under the influence of Xuanzang ought to be reconsidered.