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0108 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 108 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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Fa-hsien's description of Kashgar.

Buddha's spittoon and alms-bowl.


for the northward digression of the pious company, ` It happened that the king of the country was then holding the ftancha parishad, that is, in Chinese, the great quinquennial assembly. When this is to be held the king requests the presence of the Sramans from all quarters of his kingdom. They come as if in clouds ; and when they are all assembled, their place of session is grandly decorated, &c.' 21 The glowing description which follows of the splendour of the assembly and of the lavish offerings made to it by the king and his ministers of all sorts of precious things, and articles which the iramans require ', plainly shows that the attractions of this exceptional occasion were not likely to be neglected by a party of poor monks wholly dependent on charity for their progress on a distant journey 22.

Fa-hsien's description of Chieh-ch`a agrees well with what we otherwise know of Kashgar old or modern. The remark that ` the country, being among the hills and cold, does not produce the other cereals, and only the wheat gets ripe ' 23, is illustrated by the fact of rice, the only Turkestan cereal requiring more warmth, not being cultivated to any extent in Kashgar, but imported from Yarkand or Ak-su 24. Nor is it difficult for any one who has experienced the sudden transition in this region from the hot days of the late summer to a chilly and winterlike autumn, just about harvest-time, to understand the custom next related by Fa-hsien. ` After the monks have received their annual portion (of the wheat), the mornings suddenly show the hoar-frost, and on this account the king always begs the monks to make the wheat ripen before they receive their portion.' 25

The pilgrim then proceeds to mention ` a spittoon which belonged to Buddha, made of stone, and in colour like his alms-bowl '. This alms-bowl was seen by Fa-hsien in Purusapura or Peshawar, where it was a chief object of pious worship, and is described by him there as ` of various colours, black predominating, with the seams that show its fourfold composition distinctly marked ' 28. While we thus find Fa-hsien's account of the sacred spittoon in full accord with Chih-mêng's above-quoted description, there yet arises the question why Fa-hsien at Chieh-ch`a should pass over in silence the alms-bowl which both Chih-mêng and Kumaraji:va, within a few years of his visit, had seen at Kashgar. The answer which M. Chavannes suggests to this question appears to me in all respects adequate. Fa-hsien, too, may well have seen the alms-bowl shown at Kashgar ; but as he subsequently at Peshawar saw that sacred relic in a specimen which, from the antiquity of the legends attaching to it and the magnificence of the enshrining monastery, must have appeared to him the only authentic one, he would naturally be induced to preserve a judicious silence as to the Kashgar counterpart 27. On the other

21 Travels of Fd-hien, p. 2 2.

22 For Fa-hsien's discriminative appreciation of the hospitality and charitable contributions accorded to himself and his companions, compare, e.g., his remarks (ibid., p. 15) on the niggardly conduct of the people of Woo-e (Wu-yi) and the consequent return of some of his party to Kao-ch`ang (vicinity of Turfan), ' to obtain there the means of continuing their journey.' Nor need we underrate his partiality for witnessing the display of great religious functions as exemplified by his remaining behind at Khotan for three months in order to see the brilliant procession of images from the chief monasteries ; see ibid., pp. 18 sq.

23 Travels of Fd-hien, p. 23.

2i See Yarkand Misston Reporl, p. 504 note.

25 In the vicinity of Yarkand, which undoubtedly enjoys a warmer climate than Kashgar, I found in z 90o the harvest

proceeding close to the end of September. Yet already by the 24th of that month the weather became cloudy and the temperature distinctly cold ; comp. Ruins of Kholan, pp. r7 r sq.

26 See Travels of Fd-hien, p. 35 ; compare note 4 for references as to the Buddhist legend which accounted for the variegated colour of the sacred Palra by its miraculous composition out of four distinct stone bowls presented to Buddha by the four deities of the Quarters. Compare also Voyage de Song Yun, p. 55, note 2, and Hstian-tsang, Mémoires, i. p. 482.

n It would require a separate monograph to trace the worship of Buddha's alms-bowl at the numerous places where pious belief of various periods and different nations located it. A legend heard by Fa-hsien in Purusapura (Peshawar) told of the attempt which a king of the Yüehchih had made in old times to carry off the sacred relic,