China Seminar | 10 November 1994

The Uygur Xuanzang Biography: An Academic Excursion Into Silk Road History and Biographical Treasure

Kahar Barat Kahar Barat

Kahar Barat, who received his Ph.D. in 1993 from Harvard University in Inner Asian and Altaic Studies will speak about his work on the translation into English of the Uygur biography of Xuanzang. This tenth century manuscript of 411 pages was discovered in 1930 and it is divided and kept in three locations: Beijing Library (194 pages), Paris Musee Guimet (123 pages) and St. Petersburg Asian Institute (94 pages).

Xuanzang, the Tang dynasty monk, who traveled to India during the year 629-45 in search of Buddhist sutras and retumed to China to translate the sutras in the Big Goose Pagoda in Xian for the rest of his life, is one of the celebrated personages who traversed the Silk Road. Along the way, Xuanzang traveled through the lands of the Uygur Turks who had once ruled China during the fourth and sixth centuries and inspired the Buddhist grotto art and sculpture of Yungang and Longmen. His story is part of the popular lore which resulted in the vemacular novel of The Westward Journey, in which the pious monk made his way westward in the company of Monkey King, Pigsy, and a nondescript human apparition.

Dr Barat, a Chinese citizen of Uygur ancestry, is on a research grant at the East-West Center for this project. He taught history at Xinjiang University in Urumchi before coming to the United States for doctoral studies. He is fluent in many ancient and modern languages, including Old Uygur, Old Turkic, Old Chinese, Sogdian, Chagatai, Turkish, Uzbek, Kazakh, Kirgiz, Turkemen a others.

Please join us for an intriguing excursion into scholarship and romantic lore.