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The Great Pilgrim

I previously published on this site a long video biography of the Great 7th century Tang Dynasty monk and translator Xuanzang, which was made by Fo Gaung Shan in Taiwan.

The film was made in 12 parts and played for nearly 6 hours, which given people’s time limitations these days is more than most can manage.

So I was very happy to come across this condensed version of the same film, renamed as The Great Pilgrim, apparently re-edited in China.

The film is a narrative with reconstructions covering the great monk’s childhood, conversion to Buddhism, ordination, and leaving of Xi’an during the great famine.

The main part of the film then follows his arduous journey along the silk roads, across deserts, over icy mountains, until he finally arrives in the border lands of India.

He passed down into the Ganges Valley, studied for 5 years at Nalanda, then went on a long pilgrimage throughout India for another five years, before returning to the University and taking part in famous debates.

Finally he returned to China by more or less the same route he came and wrote up his Records of the Western Lands, and started translating the sūtras he had brought back with him.

That took up the rest of his life, by which time he had finished one of the largest Yogācāra texts, the Larger Prajñā Pāramitā Sūtra.

As a portrait of a life of dedication and courage the film cannot be faulted, and the format seems to be one that the Chinese really excel at, with vivid reconstructions, interesting narrative, and memorable scenes.

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