Back to Table of Contents
To next page

Xuanzang: Da Tang Xiyu Ji

(Great Tang Records on the Western Regions) (630)


Left a painting of Hsuan Tsang



People of the Maldive Islands By Clarence Maloney 1980


Passing seawards to the south of this country some thousands of li, we arrive at the island of Narakira. The people of this island are small of stature, about three feet high ; their bodies are those of men, but they have the beaks of birds; they grow no grain, but live only on cocoa-nuts…… Crossing the sea westward from this island several thousands of li, on the eastern cliff of a solitary island is a stone figure of Buddha more than 100 feet high….. Crossing the sea many thousand li to the west of this country, we come to a large island renowned for its precious stones (or Maharatnadvipa); it is not inhabited, except by spirits. Seen from a distance on a calm night, a light seems to shine from mountains and valleys. Merchants going there are much surprised to find nothing can be procured.


Note: according to Clarence Maloney this must refer to the Maldives since they lie south as well as west of Sri Lanka, and because of the name ndrikera (coconut ), and even now some islands are referred to as ' coconut island '. By the absence of grain, Hsiian-Tsang perhaps meant rice. This passage also suggests navigation westward from the Maldives to Madagascar or Zanzibar.