The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law (入唐求法巡礼行記)

The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law is a travel diary written by Ennin (794-864), a Japanese monk who lived in the 9th century and was approved to join the last mission to Tang China in the Jowa era. It comprised 4 volumes and 70,000 characters. The original text has been lost. The earliest manuscript is the one once belonging to To-ji Temple, Kanchiin, which was hand-copied in 1291 by Kenin of Choraku-ji Temple in Gion, Kyoto, at the age of 72. Although its whereabouts were subsequently forgotten, it was discovered again in the beginning of the Meiji period. As a monk more than 70 years-old labored to make this manuscript in an age without reading glasses, there are quite a few letters that are hard to decipher.

Ennin was a monk of the Tendai sect who studied under Saicho, and later became the founder of the Sanmon faction.

Contents

Volume 1: the entry dated June 13, 836 - April 839.
Volume 2: April 839 - May 840
Volume 3: May 840 - May 843
Volume 4: June 843 - the entry dated December 14, 847 (the 14th year of Jowa in Japan)

Reputation

The descriptions found in the diary have received attention as a contemporary historical source recording the circumstances of the persecution of Buddhists in the Huichang era by Emperor Wuzong of Tang (the third of four emperors in a row who had persecuted Buddhism), a situation the author encountered by chance.

It was presented to the Northern Song Emperor by the monk Jojin when he visited Song.

Because of the many descriptions of Chinese society and customs in the 9th century that do not appear in official histories, it is rated as a highly valuable historical source for the study of Tang history. In China and Japan, some historians consider it more valuable than "Da Tang Xiyu ji" (The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions) written by Xuanzang (602-664) or "The Travels of Marco Polo" written by Marco Polo (1254-1324).
(Some suggest these three books are among the greatest travel books in the world.)

In 1955, it was translated into English and introduced by U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer, and after being translated into several other languages it became widely known.