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Hyecho’s Journey

The World of Buddhism

In the year 721, a young Buddhist monk named Hyecho set out from the kingdom of Silla, on the Korean peninsula, on what would become one of the most extraordinary journeys in history. Sailing first to China, Hyecho continued to what is today Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, before taking the Silk Road and heading back east, where he ended his days on the sacred mountain of Wutaishan in China.
            With Hyecho’s Journey, eminent scholar of Buddhism Donald S. Lopez Jr. re-creates Hyecho’s trek. Using the surviving fragments of Hyecho’s travel memoir, along with numerous other textual and visual sources, Lopez imagines the thriving Buddhist world the monk explored. Along the way, Lopez introduces key elements of Buddhism, including its basic doctrines, monastic institutions, works of art, and the many stories that have inspired Buddhist pilgrimage. Through the eyes of one remarkable Korean monk, we discover a vibrant tradition flourishing across a vast stretch of Asia. Hyecho’s Journey is simultaneously a rediscovery of a forgotten pilgrim, an accessible primer on Buddhist history and doctrine, and a gripping, beautifully illustrated account of travel in a world long lost.

208 pages | 27 color plates, 1 halftone | 7 x 10 | © 2017

Art: Middle Eastern, African, and Asian Art

Asian Studies: General Asian Studies

Religion: South and East Asian Religions


"The bold claims of this beautifully produced book are laid out in the very first sentence: 'this is a different kind of book about Buddhism.' There is much to appreciate about the innovative approach. . . . Hyecho’s Journey: The World of Buddhism is noteworthy in its joint authorship and interdisciplinary outlook. The clear and lively prose in which the book was composed will undoubtedly facilitate its appeal to a broad readership, as will its highly original approach to writing about Buddhism and Buddhist material culture."

Reading Religion

"A unique and invaluable contribution to the growing library of Buddhist History. . .a work of extraordinary and seminal scholarship. . .Impressively informative, exceptionally well written, organized and presented. . .especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Buddhist Studies collections."

Midwest Book Review

“Scholars of material religion and art history will especially welcome the expert synthesis of textual with visual sources and Buddhism scholars the detailed introduction to Hyecho’s life and fragmentary travel journal. Casual readers will enjoy retracing Hyecho’s steps with Lopez’s erudite yet engaging narrative as guide. . . . Recommended.”


"This book is a praiseworthy undertaking, since it manages to be enjoyably educative and esthetically stimulating at the same time. It is recommended to all readers fascinated by the history and art of Buddhism, East and South Asia."

Religious Studies Review

"With his co-authors, Donald Lopez has written a book that envisions Buddhism around the 8th century –and beyond– in quite a different way than the standard historical narratives: by using a combination of the record of the rather unknown Sino-Korean Buddhist traveller Hyecho and selected pieces of Buddhist art the authors explore the dimensions of space and materiality of Buddhism rather than exclusively focusing on event history. The result is a fascinating kaleidoscope of the Buddhist world stretching from the Eastern regions of the Near East to the Far East."

Max Deeg, Cardiff University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
About This Book
About the Maps
Introduction: Tracing Hyecho’s Route
1. Dunhuang: The Discovery of the Pilgrim’s Account
2. Silla: The Birthplace of the Pilgrim
3. At Sea: The Pilgrim Sails for the Holy Land
4. Kuśinagara: The Buddha Enters Nirvana
5. Vulture Peak: Two Buddhas Seated Side by Side
6. Bodh Gayā: The Buddha Attains Enlightenment
7. Lumbinī: The Buddha Is Born
8. Śrāvastī: City of the Buddha’s Miracles
9. Sāṃkāśya: The Buddha Descends from Heaven
10. Gandhāra: Past Lives of the Buddha
11. Arabia: Buddhism Encounters Islam
12. Wutaishan: The Pilgrim Passes Away
Bibliographic Note

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