Śikṣānanda (652–710), a native of Khotan, was one of the major translators of MahĀyĀna sūtras into Chinese. Conversant with both Mahāyāna and mainstream Buddhist scriptures, as well as with non-Buddhist texts, Śikṣānanda came to China with a complete set of the Huayan jing (Avataṃsaka-sūtra; Flower Garland Sūtra) in Sanskrit after learning that Empress Wu (r. 690–705) had sent envoys to Khotan to search for the Sanskrit edition of the scripture and its translators. Under Empress Wu's auspices, Śikṣānanda joined the translation team that undertook the translation and retranslation of nineteen Mahāyāna scriptures, including the Huayan jing and the LaṄkavĀtĀra-SĀtra (Discourse of the Descent into Laṅ ka). The newly translated Huayan jing, completed in 699 in a total of eighty fascicles, was said to be a literal translation, closer in both style and language to Buddhabhadra's sixty-fascicle translation from the early fifth century than to the more recent translation of Xuanzang (ca. 600–664).
In 704 Empress Wu allowed Śikṣānanda to return to Khotan, but he was summoned back to Chang'an in 708. Zhongzong (r. 705–710), then the reigning emperor, and all the monks in the capital greeted Śikṣānanda at Kaiyuan Gate with banners and parasols. Apparently in poor health at this time, Śikṣānanda was unable to take on any additional translation assignments and died in 710 at the age of fifty-nine. His body was cremated and his remains were escorted back to Khotan. His followers built a seven-story pagoda at the cremation site and named it "Pagoda of the Trepiṭaka Huayan" to commemorate him.
Ch'en, Kenneth. Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964.
Song Gaoseng zhuan (Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled in the Song Dynasty). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987.