"maculae, quas aut incuria fudit, Aut humana parum cavit nature,"
while on the whole they very slightly affect the meaning of the document.
The editors of the Catalogue Raisonne intimate their doubts of the good taste and reliability of all Fa-hien's statements. It offends them that he should call central India the "Middle Kingdom," and China, which to them was the true and only Middle Kingdom, but "a Border land;"--it offends them as the vaunting language of a Buddhist writer, whereas the reader will see in the expressions only an instance of what Fa-hien calls his "simple straightforwardness."
As an instance of his unreliability they refer to his account of the Buddhism of Khoten, whereas it is well known, they say, that the Khoteners from ancient times till now have been Mohammedans;--as if they could have been so 170 years before Mohammed was born, and 222 years before the year of the Hegira! And this is criticism in China. The Catalogue was ordered by the K'ien-lung emperor in 1722. Between three and four hundred of the "Great Scholars" of the empire were engaged on it in various departments, and thus egregiously ignorant did they show themselves of all beyond the limits of their own country, and even of the literature of that country itself.
Much of what Fa-hien tells his readers of Buddhist miracles and legends is indeed unreliable and grotesque; but we have from him the truth as to what he saw and heard.
3. In concluding this introduction I wish to call attention to some estimates of the number of Buddhists in the world which have become current, believing, as I do, that the smallest of them is much above what is correct.
i. In a note on the first page of his work on the Bhilsa Topes (1854), General Cunningham says: "The Christians number about 270 millions; the Buddhists about 222 millions, who are distributed as follows:-- China 170 millions, Japan 25, Anam 14, Siam 3, Ava 8, Nepal 1, and Ceylon 1; total, 222 millions."
ii. In his article on M. J. Barthelemy Saint Hilaire's "Le Bouddha et sa Religion," republished in his "Chips from a German Workshop," vol. i. (1868), Professor Max Muller (p. 215) says, "The young prince became the founder of a religion which, after more than two thousand years, is still professed by 455 millions of human beings," and he appends the following note: "Though truth is not settled by majorities, it would be interesting to know which religion counts at the present moment the largest numbers of believers. Berghaus, in his 'Physical Atlas,' gives the following division of the human race according to religion:--'Buddhists 31.2 per cent, Christians 30.7, Mohammedans 15.7, Brahmanists 13.4, Heathens 8.7, and Jews 0.3.' As Berghaus does not distinguish the Buddhists in China from the followers of Confucius and Laotse, the first place on the scale really belongs to Christianity. It is difficult to say to what religion a man belongs, as the same person may profess two or three. The emperor himself, after sacrificing according to the ritual of Confucius, visits a Tao-sse temple, and afterwards bows before an image of Fo in a Buddhist chapel. ('Melanges Asiatiques de St. Petersbourg,' vol. ii. p. 374.)"