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Kumārajīva was born in Kucha, an oasis on the Silk Road, in 343 CE and became a monk at the age of seven. By the time he was thirty he had gained an international reputation for his brilliant expositions of the Dhamma.
In 379 the emperor of China invited him to his court but while on the way there he was captured by rebels who kept him prisoner for the next seventeen years. He used his captivity well, not just learning Chinese but thoroughly mastering it. Finally the rebels were defeated and Kumārajīva arrived in the Chinese capital in 401. With a combination of profound knowledge of the Dhamma and a mastery of the Chinese language he was able to produce translations of the scriptures which were not just very accurate but also extraordinarily clear and readable. Even Confucian scholars, usually dismissive of Buddhism, read Kumārajīva’s translations for the beauty of the language. Kumārajīva died in 413 but his translations continue to be considered standard even today.
- Buddhism A to Z. Ven. Dhammika, 2007.