Other had crossed the frontier before him, notably Fa-hian and Sung Yun, others in due course would come and go, leaving to posterity their impressions of a changing world, but Hiuen-Tsiang stands alone, a prince of pilgrims, a very Bayard of Buddhist enthusiasm, fearless and without reproach. As we read through the pages of Hwui-li the fascination of the master of the law becomes clear to u s, not suddenly, but with the long, arduous miles that mark the way to India and the journey home.
Hiuen-Tsiang was born into a world that beheld the tree of Buddhism slowly dying from the top. He bore witness to a time of transition and a noble faith in decay, and the swift and silent growth of jungle mythology around the crumbling temples of Buddha. His record of these sixteen years of travel is a priceless one, for through it we are able to reconstruct the world and ways of Buddhist India of the centuries that have passed.