127 Chinese monks on pilgrimage to India

Xinhua, Jan 4, 2007

SHANGHAI, China -- A 127-strong group of Buddhist monks began a pilgrimage to India on Thursday to cleanse their souls.

Organized by the Shanghai Buddhist Association, the group will visit New Delhi and sacred places including Sarnath, Buddh Gaya and Nalanda over a periodof ten days.

"Our predecessors Fa-hsien, Xuanzang and Kumarajiva created the tremendous history of Sino-Indian exchange. We start our journey today to further develop the friendship," said Master Juexing, vice-chairman of the Chinese Buddhist Association and head of the group.

The first 26 monks have landed in India and the rest will set out on Friday.

The devotees will hold religious ceremonies along the banks of the Ganges River, commemorate Sakyamuni, plant bodhi trees and pray for peace between China and India.

"At the beginning of the China-India Year of Friendship, the journey is significant as a religious and cultural exchange between the two nations," said Nirupama Rao, ambassador of India to China.

Most Chinese are familiar with the pilgrimage of Xuanzang to India more than 1,300 years ago.

The trials and tribulations he experienced on his way to Buddhist enlightenment were depicted in the classical work of fiction "Journey to the West", also known as the "Monkey King".