Remote Locations, Global Connections
Religiously motivated travel has always been a part of Buddhist practice. Buddhist pilgrims visited nearby shrines and distant sacred centers, seeking blessings, good karma, and new teachings.
Alongside merchants and migrants, pilgrims crossed vast deserts and treacherous seas. Such long-distance travel brought ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity to otherwise remote locations, such as Kizil, an oasis town in western China. Over many centuries, hundreds of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean pilgrims braved countless dangers to visit places where the Historical Buddha had lived and taught.
A young Korean monk named Hyecho traveled farthest. Around 724, he set out from China, beginning a journey over land and sea that would take him through the Buddhist holy land of India, as far west as Iran, and back to northern China. His journal and poems offer an intimate account of pilgrimage and a compelling view into Buddhist history.
The interactive map in Encountering the Buddha allows you to explore many of the sites Hyecho described in his journal. At home, you can download it as a free app called Hyecho’s World. A second free app, Hyecho’s Journey, allows you to travel alongside the teenage Buddhist monk with games and objects in the Freer|Sackler collections. Both apps were created by undergraduates in the Multidisciplinary Design Program at the University of Michigan.