Hsuan-tsang was a Chinese Buddhist monk and a translator of Buddhist scriptures, who had resolved to travel to India in order to bring back more Sanskrit manuscripts to translate into Chinese. Hsuan-tsang left China in 629, without the emperor's permission, which meant that he had to avoid Dunhuang and strike out directly into desert.

Hsuan-tsang was born in AD 602. As a child he became already absorbed in the study of the Sacred Books of Chinese literature. While still a boy he was ordained as a Buddhist priest to the Temple of Heavenly Radiance in Hangchow, and soon there after was transferred to the Temple of Great Learning in Chang-an, a community of monks who devoted their lives to the translation of the Sacred Books from India. Listening to the variety of their interpretations young Hsuan-tsang conceived the bold plan to travel to India and bringing back more Sacred Buddhihs Books to China.

Hsuan-tsang traveled between AD 627-643. His detailed account provides the first reliable information about distant countries, terrain and customs. He followed the northern branch of the Silk Road, and arrived in Turfan, where he was warmly welcomed by the king. The king of Turfan enchanted by the monk’s knowledge of the sacred Buddha books, refused to let him leave, only reluctantly relenting when Hsuan-tsang threatened a hunger strike. Thus, Hsuan-tsang had peaceable conquered to royal will. The king gave him letters of introduction the rulers of the oases along the way, thereby providing the assistance that made his pilgrimage successful.

Traveling through Samarkand (today’s Tukestan) and Peshawar arrived in Northern India. In India he studied in the great monastic university Nalanda, and spent several years making pilgrimages to Buddhist holy sites. Fifteen years later Hsuan-tsang reappeared on the northern side of the Great Mountains again, but this time with his face turned toward China. He was aware of the dangers between Khotan and Tun-huang the Taklamakan desert. Hsuan-tsang crossed the dread waste of desert safely, reaching Tun-huang and deposited his precious manuscripts in the monastic library at the caves of the Thousand Buddhas.

Xuanzang brought many Buddhist scriptures back with him, some of which he himself translated into Chinese. His detailed account of his travels made him famous, and he became the subject of popular folktales and an epic novel, The Journey to the West.