Xuan Zang (2016), movie based on Xuanzang's journey to India

Xuanzang or Xuan Zang is a 2016 Chinese-Indian historical adventure film based on Xuanzang’s seventeen-year overland journey to India during the Tang dynasty in the seventh century.

Has anyone watched it? :slight_smile:


Haven’t seen it but it looks good.

I have watched Journey to the West which is very loosely based on the novel of the same name about Xuanzang. It’s a Stephen Chow movie (he did Kung Fu Hustle) so if you like his irreverent humor and unique action scenes, you might enjoy it.


It’s a good movie, I have watched it. Too bad, it is in Chinese and the English subtitle I found on the net translated the Buddhist doctrinal terms incorrectly. I hope someone will fix the subtitle. But, you can enjoy the movie without minding the Buddhist doctrinal elements too… :slight_smile:

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Journey to the West is not a historical novel, it’s a fictional account of Xuanzang travelling to the West (India) accompanied by his three demon disciple (the Monkey King Sun Wukong, the Pig Demon Chu Bajie, and the River Demon Sha Wujing) to take Indian Buddhist texts into China. It’s different from travelling account of real Xuan Zang in history which is shown on the Xuan Zang (2016) movie.

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I just discovered this movie. The whole thing is on YouTube now. Looking forward to seeing it.


It’s on my watchlist now. I’ve also purchased a kindle copy of The Real Tripitika and Other Pieces, which contains a biography of Xuan Zang.

It’s just fiction. Nothing to do with Buddhism, it is just a movie for fun.

I saw the movie today after reading this thread. It is an OK movie considering it is a low to medium budget movie. Even as fiction it was going reasonably well until there was a ten minute segment about the difference between “hinayana” and “mahayana”. Some of the locations and sets and cinematography was quite nice.

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I watched it last night, and have mixed feelings about it. It was nice to see a positive, somewhat realistic representation of Xuanzang, especially in a Mainland China production. The typical portrayal of Xuanzang in Journey to the West, or any of the related spinoff shows, isn’t exactly inspiring (although the Japanese show Monkey is hard to hate). During the time I lived in China, very few people knew anything about the real Xuanzang, all the amazing things he did, or the impact he had on China and the rest of Asia through his translations. They only knew about the Xuanzang in Journey to the West. Anyway, regardless of the movie’s shortfalls, I think it’s mostly a good thing that it was made. I can’t help but think that the Buddhist renaissance that’s happening in China had something to do with that movie being made.

Regarding the debate, it was an accurate depiction of Buddhist monastic life back then. Debate had already become a central part of the monastic establishment by the time Xuanzhang arrived. I believe Xuanzang did mention debates in his journals, although I’m not sure that he participated in them (he might have, I just don’t remember). I’m also not sure that the way they depicted the debate (writing your thesis ahead of time and putting it up on a wall) was accurate, or that people were still debating over “Hinayana” and Mahayana at that time. Face-to-face verbal debates with other Buddhist and non-Buddhists were commonplace then, and monks trained in that style of debate. This is where the Tibetans got it from, after all.


I had a question about something in the movie. Just before the great debate, at the time of selecting the participants, the abbot mentions two commentaries or arguments written for both schools and he names the writers as well. I wanted to know if that was real or fiction.

Just caught the movie recently, since this came up. Not so great as a film, but the costumes and settings were impressive. And the names and texts cited were surprisingly accurate. It’s nice to see Nalanda as something other than a pile of rubble, and the abbot Silabhadra was a good character.

Historically, Xuanzang debated many times during his travels. He studied Indian logic, memorized doctrinal points and refutations, and practiced friendly debate to hone his skills for the more serious debates. Those who were successful in debate gained fame and won converts.

The debate opponent in the movie, Prajnagupta, was a real Sammitiya monk. He posted a treatise, A Refutation of Mahayana, in 700 verses. Xuanzang in turn posted a reply called, A Refutation of Wrong Views, in 1600 verses. That part of the movie was accurate.

In the movie they portray Xuanzang as kind of quiet and meek, but his own accounts show that he enjoyed intellectual pursuits, doctrinal points, and debate. My impression is that the historical Xuanzang was self-confident and ambitious.

Anyone else notice that the Sanskrit manuscripts in the film were using Devanagari? Now that’s unrealistic.