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0277 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 277 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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We must feel grateful to Hsüan-tsang for having left us unusually full descriptions of various places of Buddhist worship outside the capital, not only on account of their intrinsic interest for the iopographia sacra and the folklore of Khotan, but also because they furnish evidence which enables us to test and, as we shall see, to confirm the location of the capital at Ybtkan. The positions of these sacred places is invariably indicated by distances and bearings from the capital. Hence I was naturally led to make my search for them in close connexion with my investigation of the latter site, and it is fitting that I should record the results in this place.

The nearest among these sanctuaries was the convent of So-mo-ft   , with a Stûpa
a hundred feet high in its centre, which the pilgrim visited at a distance of 5 or 6 li (a little over a mile) to the west of the royal city 1. This is the distance indicated by Rémusat's and Beal's versions, whereas Julien's translation, either by mistake or owing to a variant, gives it as 5o or 6o li. The legend as told by Hsüan-tsang distinctly favours the nearer location. It relates that at one time an Arhat coming from a distant foreign land had taken up his abode there in the middle of a wood. The miraculous light spread around by his spiritual power was noticed by the king as he stopped at night in a double-storied pavilion of his palace. Having been informed of its cause the king proceeded to the holy man and respectfully invited him into the palace. On the Sramana refusing to leave the wood, the king full of reverence built a convent for him and a Stûpa. When afterwards the king had procured a quantity of sacred relics and regretted not to have been able to insert them under the Stûpa, the Arhat directed him to have the precious objects enclosed successively in receptacles of gold, silver, copper, and stone. When this had been done and the relics had been transported by the king and his chief officers on an ornamented car to the convent,2 the Arhat raised the Stûpa on the palm of his hand and held it while the king's workmen dug a place for the sacred deposit. Then on the work being accomplished the Arhat once more lowered the Stûpa to its original position without any damage 3.

That the Stripa which had been thus uplifted and replaced in so miraculous a fashion was an object of special veneration in Khotan is evident also from the reference made to it in the ` Annals of Li-yul '. These tell us of king Vijayavirya, the eighth successor of Vijayasambhava under whom Buddhism was believed to have been first introduced : ` One day while looking out of Srog-mkhar 3n he perceived a light brilliant as gold and silver at the spot where now stands the Hgum-stir Caitya. When the king learned that the Buddha had foretold that at that spot a Vihâra would be built, he called to his presence the Buddhist Buddhadûta, and having made him his spiritual adviser, ordered him to direct the building of the Hgum-stir Vihâra 4.' I think that, notwithstanding the somewhat different form in which the legend as to the origin of the shrine is here told, it can scarcely be doubted that the same locality is intended and that Buddhadûta corresponds to Hsüan-tsang's Arhat.

1 See Mémoires, ii. pp. 285 sqq.;   y'u-ki, ii. pp. 316 sq.;

Rémusat, Ville de Khotan, pp. 5o sqq. [Also Watters, ii. p. 297, has ` five or six li'.]

2 For sculptural representations of such solemn relic depositions, comp. Foucher, L'Art du Gandhrfra, i. pp. 592 sqq. This legend and a somewhat similar one told by Hsüan-tsang of a Stûpa near Kapi§a (Mémoires, i. pp. 45 sq.;

Si yu-ke; i. p. 6o) have been discussed by M. Foucher, L'Art du Gandhdra, i. p. 52, with reference to the light they throw on the purpose of Stûpa construction.

5$ [Srog-mkhar, as Mr. Thomas informs me, means literally ' Life-fort'.]

See Rockhill, L:fe of the Buddha, p. 238.

Legend of

So-mo jê


Tibetan form of legend.