Depiction Of Punjab In The Accounts Of Chinese Travelers: Fahien And Hwen Tsang

DEPICTION OF PUNJAB (Fa-hien and Hwen Tsang)



Fa- hien a Chinese traveller who visited India during the rule of ChandraGupta ll . Fa in Chinese stands for 'religion' and Hien for Acharya' which is a sage, so the word Fa hien means 'Dharmacharya'. He grew up as a monk and had a thirst for knowledge and studies. He left China in 399 A.D.along with his four friends . 5He reached India in 405 A.D. and stayed here for six years out of which he spent three years in Patliputra, where he studied sanskrit. He came to India by land route and went back through sea route and was the first Chinese pilgrim in India.


  • PUNISHMENTS : Punishments were mild and lenient and differ according to crime. Mostly fines were imposed on criminals, or right hand was chopped down but no death sentence was awarded to any one.
  • TAXES : People were not burdened with taxes, they could easily afford it.
  • SAFE ROADS : Public highways were safe and free from thrives, no threat of robbery was there.
  • ADMINISTRATION : administration of Gupta empire was well established, they not only maintain peace and security but also look after the welfare of people. People enjoyed a free and prosperous life without any interference from the government.
  • PATLIPUTRA : For three years Fa Hien lived in Patliputra and wrote a detailed account about it. He described the royal palace of Ashoka and praised the artistic beauty. He also describes two large and beautiful monasteries one for Mahayana and other for Hinayana sect of Buddhism. He also wrote that big hospitals were built,big cities consist of rest houses for travellers to rest upon.
  • SOCIAL CONDITIONS : People lead a simple and pious life and believe in high morals and noble life. Most people were vegetarian in Nature and practised non violence in general. People were charitable in nature , as many hospitals for poor and helpless people, orphanages were developed.
  • ECONOMIC CONDITIONS : People were rich and prosperous in nature and try to beat in giving Charity. They led a prosperous life. The medium of exchange was 'Cowrie' . External and internal trade flourished. Important sea ports were Sopara, Cambay, Tamralipti, Broach. Goods were exported to foreign countries like China and Europe.
  • RELIGIOUS CONDITIONS: Fa hien was himself Buddhist and came to India for a Buddhist book collection. Buddhism, according to him, was popular in Punjab, Bengal and Mathura. While according to him Hinduism was popular in central India , here very less number of Buddhist monasteries were present. Perfect religious tolerance was there , no person was forced to follow any religion. Buddhism and Hinduism flourished side by side.


Above discussion gave us the conclusion of Fa hien's account on India. His account is of Paramount importance for obtaining information of his Reign. There are certain flaws in his description but apart from all shortcoming the importance of his account isn't minimised and acts as first hand authentic information.



Hieun Tsang or Yuan Chwang was a famous Chinese pilgrim who visited India during the reign of Harsha Vardhana. He was born in 600 A.D. in China and was known as 'Prince of Pilgrims' and 'Master of Law' . He came to India in 629 A.D. Here he studied at Nalanda University for five years. He got an invitation from Harsha to come to Kannauj and stayed in his court for 8 years, where he was honoured in 643 A.D. He left for China in 643 A.D. and took 650 volumes of Buddhist scripts, idols in gold and silver. He spent his life studying these scripts. His famous book Is 'Si Yu Ki' , he died in 664 A.D. at the age of 64 years.


  • ABOUT KING : ACCOUNT OF Hieun Tsang was mainly focused upon the life of Harsha, he was a hardworking and duty bound king. He took tours of different parts of his empire to be aware of problems of people. King was a broadminded and liberal person. He built many hospitals, kitchens , and monasteries for his people. He also did Charity work. Harsha was a follower of Hinduism and worshipped lord Shiva but later adopted Buddhism and became a follower of Hinayana. Later he preached Mahayana. He was a religiously tolerant king.
  • POLITICAL CONDITIONS : Administration of government under Harsha was well , the aim was the welfare of subjects and gave instructions to state officials to ensure interest of his subjects. The income source of the government was land revenue which was one sixth of total produce. Punishments according to Hieun Tsang were quite severe, the number of crimes was less. In case of potty crimes, a fine was imposed while body parts such as the nose, ears were chopped off for crimes like disloyalty, uncivil conduct. Roads were not safe as robbery was prevalent, Harsha himself was robbed thrice. Another point which he mentioned was about the military which has four divisions: infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants. Harsha maintenance is strong and we'll have an equipped army. Harsha's army comprised 50,000 foot soldiers 1,00,000 horsemen and 60,000 elephants.
  • SOCIAL CONDITIONS : Caste system was prevalent and determined the industrial organisation of the society. Spiritual matters were concerned with Brahmins, administration with Kshatriyas, trade with Vaishayas and agriculture with shudras. Shudras or chandals lived outside of the city gate. There were no inter caste marriages. People lead simple and pious lives and believed in high moral standards, were honest, truthful, and reliable. No Purdah system was not prevalent but child marriages and Sati System prevailed. Polygamy was very popular in those days. Food of the people was very simple, the main items of their food were wheat, rice,milk products, vegetables , fruits etc. Meat eaters were considered untouchables. People were conscious about hygiene and mostly used earthenware which were thrown after use but metallic utensils were used which were cleaned for reuse.
  • RELIGIOUS CONDITIONS : Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism were the main religions. Buddhism had two branches and were divided into two different schools. While Brahmanism was on ascendancy. According to travellers India was known as the country of Brahimns. Majority of people worship the Sun, Vishnu, and Shiva. There were Hindu temples at Bodh Gaya too.
  • EDUCATION SYSTEM: Education was widespread. Various Universities like Nalanda, Taxila, Vallabhi and Gaya were very famous centres of higher education. During the reign of Harsha culture, art , literature flourished. Nalanda University was the Oxford of Mahayanism and rival Kashi. It was situated in Patna and was Founded in the 5th century by Kumara Gupta 1. It was destroyed towards the end of the 12th century by Muhammad-bin-Bakhtiyar khilji.
  • ECONOMIC CONDITIONS: Agriculture was a major source of revenue and chief occupation of people. Trade and commerce was highly developed, exports amd imports were carried out through land and sea routes.


From the above discussion it is concluded that Hieun Tsang majorly described administration under Harsha Vardhana rule. His account is quite trustworthy and helped in construction of History of India In 7th century A.D.


A History of India, Vol. I, Penguin Books, 1966 - Thapar, Romila

The Wonder That Was India - Basham, A.L

History and Culture of the Punjab, Vol. I, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1977 - Joshi, L.M and Fauja Singh