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Durable Link to this BlogFriday, May 07, 2010

A Buddhist Missionary in China Bodhiruchi

Names of Chinese monks like Fa-Hien, Hiuen Tsang and Itsing who came to India, to study Buddhism are quite familiar. But the Indian Buddhist missionaries who went to China are not known. Fortunately Chinese sources throw light on some of them. Bodhiruchi was one of the most respected scholars.

Bodhiruchi (7th Century CE)

Bodhiruchi was a Brahmin scholar from Karnataka. He was patronized by Chalukyas of Badami. Chalukyan King Vinayaditya was ruling between (681-96 C.E) He is referred to as having sent embassy to Chinese court. Bodhiruchi could be one of them.

Earlier he followed ancient Hinduism and was an authority on ancient texts. Public polemics was order of the day. In such a discussion he was very much impressed by a Buddhist scholar, Yasaghosha. He became a Buddhist and mastered Buddhist literature.

A Chinese envoy had come to the Badami Chalukyan court in 692 CE, and requested Bodhiruchi to come to China. Bodhiruchi agreed and reached China by sea route. He reached the Chinese capital of Chong and stayed in a monastery called Si-Chong-fu. He translated the most extensive text of Mahayana Buddhism, Ratnakuta from Sanskrit to Chinese. Earlier Hiuen Tsang (600-664 CE) had taken six hundred fifty-seven Buddhist texts from India to China on his return journey and Ratnakuta was one of them. But he died before he could complete the translation. Bodhiruchi took it up in 706 CE.

A full-body of scholars were provided by the Chinese Emperor, to assist him in translation from Pali to Chinese. Brahma, the ambassador from a king in Central India was one of them who helped with Sanskrit language. An Indian monk Chanda helped with Chinese translation. A Chinese monk Hue-Chi verified it, and other Chinese scholars improved the language and controlled the meaning. The translation was completed in 713 CE.

The Chinese emperor was present at the release function of the book and took down notes with his own hand. It was a unique function attended by queens and courtiers alike.

Bodhiruchi translated fifty-three volumes of Sanskrit texts into Chinese.

There were hundreds of scholar-pilgrim monks of Indian origin who went to China between 7th to 9th centuries of C.E.

Prof. B.A. Saletore has mentioned some of them, in his book, "India's Diplomatic Relations with the East". He calls them "Pilgrim-ambassadors"

See Also:
• Ancient India as Seen by Foreign Travelers
• Buddhism Potpourri

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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