Not many details are known about the Return Travels of Xuanzhang from India to China.
Records note that the Route first lead eastward from Peshawar (Pakistan) through the Khyber Pass -Today the Border between Pakistan and Afghanistan- in the Hindu Kush Mountain Range. From there Xuanzang passed through the City of Kashgar, to pass along the Southern Route around the Taklamakand Desert to visit Khotan. The Journey then led further Eastward and back into the safety of the Great Wall of China of Tang Empire Era at Dunhuang. Xuanzang arrived in the capital, Chang'an, on the seventh day of the first month of the Year 645 AD, and a great procession celebrated his return.
Pilgrimmage on the Silk Road to India
Travels and Learning in India :
This page was last updated on: October 9, 2017
Most notable locations on Xuanzang's Route :
This Schematic Map shows the entire "Journey to the West" as made by the Chinese Monk Xuanzang () in the years 629 AD to 645 AD.
Because the (Han) Chinese Cultural Zone during the Tang Dynasty Era only reached as far as Dunhuang, where the Great Wall began, Xuanzang had to travel south-east from Kashgar via Yarkant and Hotien (Khotan) along the South Route around the Taklamakan Desert to finally return to his native China.
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The China Report
Map of the Travels of Xuanzang (629 AD - 645 AD) Journey to the West
In 629 AD, Xuanzang reportedly had a dream that convinced him to journey to India. At the Time the Tang Dynasty and Eastern Türk Goktürks were waging war at the timefor which reason the Emperor Tang Taizong had prohibited foreign travel (I.e. Travel beyond the Great Wall of China End Gate (during the Tang Dynasty Era) at Yu Men and YangGuan-Sun
At Dunhuang the Route of Xuanzang splits. The Route to the North-West is the exit route through Yu Men - Jade Gate, used by Xuanzang on his "Journey to the West" to India.
The South-West Route is part of the Pathway through which Xuanzang returned in China, after 16 years of Travels and Learning.
According to historic sources Xuanzang persuaded some Buddhist guards at the gates of Yumen and slipped out of the empire. He subsequently travelled across the Gobi Desert to Kumul (Hami) in current day Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region. From Hami Xuanzang followed the Tian Shan Mountain Range along its southern foothills to head westward, arriving in Turfan in 630 AD.
(At Turfan Xuanzang met the king of Turfan, a Buddhist who equipped him further for his travels with letters of introduction and valuables to serve as funds).
Moving further westward, Xuanzang escaped robbers to reach Yanqi, then toured the non-Mahayana monasteries of Kucha. Further west he passed Aksu before turning northwest to cross the Tian Shan's Bedal Pass into modern day Kyrgyzstan.
The Xuanzang Route skirted Issyk Kul before visiting Tokmak at some distance northwest of Issyk Gul Lake. At Tokmak Xuanzang was introduced to none other than the great Khan of the Western Türk, whose relationship to the Tang emperor was friendly at the time. After a feast, Xuanzang continued west then southwest to Tashkent (Chach/Che-Shih), capital of modern day Uzbekistan.
From here, he crossed the desert further west to Samarkand. In Samarkand, which was under Persian influence, the party came across some abandoned Buddhist temples and Xuanzang impressed the local King with his preaching. Setting out again to the south, Xuanzang crossed a spur of the Pamir Mountains and passed through the famous Iron Gates (Bedal Pass). Continuing southward, he reached the Amu Darya River and Valley and the settlement of Termez. At Termez Xuanzang found a thriving community of more than a thousand Buddhist monks.
Further east he passed through in Kunduz, today a city in Afghanistan, where he stayed for some time. During his stay in Kunduz Xuanzang met the monk Dharmasimha, and was advised by the local Prince Tardu to continue his way westward through to Balkh (modern day Afghanistan), where he could have the opportunity to see the Buddhist sites and relics.
Xuanzang and Dharmasiam traveled to Balkh and its Nava Vihara, or Nawbahar, which Xuanzang described as the westernmost monastic institution in the world.
At the Nawbahar (near Balkh) Xuanzang found over 3,000 non-Mahayana monks, including the Monk Prajnakara, a monk with whom Xuanzang studied early Buddhist scriptures. At Nava Vihara/Nawbahar Xuanzang acquired the important [Mahāvibhāṣa] text.
From the Balkh region Monk Prajnakara then accompanied Xuanzang and Dharmasimha southward to Bamyan (today Afghanistan), where Xuanzang reported to have met the king and where there were many non-Mahayana monasteries, in addition to the two large Bamyan Buddhas carved out of the rockface (The Bamian statues have been destroyed in 2001 AD).
From Bamyan the traveling party then resumed their path eastward, crossing the Shibar Pass and descending to the regional capital of Kapisi about 60 km north of modern Kabul in Afghanistan. According to Xuanzang Kapisi sported over 100 Buddhist Monasteries and 6,000 monks, mostly of the Mahayana Variety. This was part of the fabled old land of Gandhara. Xuanzang took part in a religious debate here, and demonstrated his knowledge of many Buddhist sects. Here he also met the first Jains and Hindus of his journey.
From Kapisi Xuanzang pushed on to Jalalabad in current day Pakistan and the settlement of Laghman, where he considered himself to have reached India. Thus Xuanzang reached India in 630 AD