Monument of the Mission to India in Tang Dynasty

“Monument of the Mission to India in Tang Dynasty” rock inscription was called as “Awaxiaying” by Gyirong local people, which means “father Chinese characters”. The rock inscription was engraved on a precipice, about 4.5km northward away from Zongga Town, Gyirong County, with the altitude of 4,130m. The precipice measures around 1.5m in width, 4m in length, and 8m above the earth. A cliff shelf juts out from above the precipice and Langre water channel sinuates around the foot of the cliff. The rock inscription, 1m in length and 0.9m in height, is carved in intaglio with Kai style calligraphy. All characters were carved in intaglio strokes and divided by square frames. Now only 24 lines exist for around 300 characters. The title was engraved in Lizhuan calligraphy, with each character covering about 100cm2. The seven Chinese character of “Monument of the Mission to India in Tang Dynasty” were written from right to left and the text was aligned vertically.

Monument of the Mission to India in Tang Dynasty

Research shows that this rock inscription could be traced back to AD 658 (period of Emperor Gaozong of Tang) and was left by a famous explorer and diplomat, Wang Xuance, and his team when they passing through Gyirong on their diplomatic journey to old India. It is the most archaic one among all alike rock inscriptions in Tibet, even 165 years earlier than the famous Tang and Tibetan League Monument (established in AD 823), which now exists in front of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. Gyirong’s rock inscription tells all the hardships and dangers Tang government’s envoys have experienced on their way to Tianzhu (India), and they recorded their merits on this precipice at the early age of Tang Dynasty.

The inscription roughly means: The Great Tang Dynasty was powerful and prosperous. In the succession of Emperor Taizong’s tremendous contribution of uniting the nation, in June AD 658, Emperor Gaozong strived to spread its civilization to across the world. As a result, he sent an envoy, Left Imperial Guardian Wang Xuance, together with some talented young men who were carefully selected from respectable Chinese families to conduct a diplomatic mission to Tianzhu. They spent one year, climbing snow mountains and trudging cliff roads, finally passing through western Zhangzhung to go abroad to Tianzhu. In memorial of the arduous journey and the spectacular view of the border area, they left a few lines on the rock.

Chinese Characters on Monument of the Mission to India in Tang Dynasty

After the discovery of the rock inscription, The People's Daily published an article in September 1992 titled “Tibet discovery: Monument of the Great Tang Mission to India”, which received a sensational response from both China and Overseas academia. Some experts said, “it is a very important substantial material that can be matched with the historical documents, a treasure of Chinese inscription art.” On 25 June 2015, the rock inscription of “Monument of the Mission to India in Tang Dynasty” was listed as Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level by State Council of China.

Wang Xuance was recorded as an outstanding diplomat in Tang Dynasty. During his lifetime, he served as an envoy abroad to India for several times (some documents recorded as 3 times, some 4) under the Tang Emperor's demand. He is a significant figure who pushed the development of transportation and cultural exchange between Tang Empire and different states of Tianzhu to a higher level and even being equally as famous as the Great Master Xuanzang. Wang Xuance was born in Luoyang, Henan Province. From Zhenguan to Longsuo period of Tang Dynasty, he was assigned diplomatic missions to the Western Regions for several times. Considering the transportation condition at that time, it must be a challenging journey.

In AD 657, Wang Xuance went to India on a diplomatic mission for the third time. Fayuan Zhulin volume 16 recorded as: “In the second year of Xianqing period of Tang Dynasty, Wang Xuance and some other people was sent to deliver Buddha kasaya to the Western region countries under the Tang Emperor's demand.” At this time, their major goal was to conduct a series of Buddhist activities. He visited the sacred Mahabodhi Temple again and met with the abbot Jielong. Fayuan Zhulin volume 39 recorded as: “On 27 September, the fifth year of Xianqing period of Tang Dynasty (AD 660), Wang Xuance came. The abbot Jielong of Mahabodhi Temple gave a banquet to Wang and other envoys from Tang. Till 1 October, the abbot and monks set a farewell banquet for all envoys.” Until the next year’s spring, they returned Chang'an.

Monument of the Mission to India in Tang Dynasty (before preserved)

On his way the third time to India via Tibet, Wang Xuance passed though now Gyirong County and left a valuable rock inscription “Monument of the Mission to India in Tang Dynasty” for future generations, which is a precious substantial material for the research of the history of transportation between China and India in Tang Dynasty. Even until now, scholars still not yet reach consensus about whether it is three or four times that Wang Xuance has been to India and the exact engraving time of the rock inscription. But it is unquestionable that Wang Xuance went to India on diplomatic missions for several times; he passed through Gyirong and left the world-famous rock inscription on Marra Mountains, 5km northward away from Zongga Town. These are all undeniable facts.