The Great China-India Connection

The word China is of Sanskrit origin from the word Cina. This is confirmed by many sources including Arnold Hermann Ludwig Heeren(1760-1842)  There are records of China-India connection as far back as 5000 years. In the great war of Mahabharat there is mention of Chinese soldiers. Tamil traders were present in Quazhon and Fujian provinces in medieval times.  

Hu Shih(1891-1962), former Chinese ambassador to the United States said:
‘India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a soldier across her border’. 

Lin Yutang(1895-1976) author of, ‘The wisdom of India’ said: ‘Not until we see the richness of the Hindu mind and its essential spirituality can we understand India. India was China’s teacher in religion,literature and the world’s teacher in trigonometry, quadratic,equations, grammar, phonetics, arabian nights, animal fables, chess as well as philosophy and she inspired Bqccaccio,Goethe,Herder,Schopenhauer and Emerson’. 

According to Sanjeev Nayyar, writing in the eSamskriti magazine(2017), Buddhism was introduced to China by Han Emperor Ming-Ti or Mingdi (57/58-75/76 CE). The emperor dreamed of a golden flying deity which he believed to be Buddha Shayamuni. He dispatched emissaries to India who returned with, ‘The Sutras of forty-two sections’. They are quotes of Lord Buddha. Two Indian monks, Dharmaratna and Kasyapa Matanga came to China and translated Buddhist tracks in Chinese. Another monk by the name of Parmartha arrived in China in 546 AD and spent 12 years in the area now called Guang Zhou. He introduced Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhist monks from Kashmir went in large numbers to China in the 5th and 6th centuries. Chinese monks also travelled to India. A monk by the name Fa-Hien went to India in 399AD. He visited modern day Patna, learnt Sanskrit and copied the Vinaya rules and introduced them to China. Vinaya are a set of disciplinary rules that the Budhhist monks and nuns have to follow.  Under the Tang dynasty(618 to 907AD) Indian and Buddhist influence grew in China. Chinese students came in large numbers to the famous Buddhist Nalanda university. Nalanda university flourished in the 6th and 7th century under the Gupta empire and later under Harsha the emperor of Kannauj(present day Uttar Pradesh). Based near the city of Patna in the Indian state of Bihar the university thrived for 700 years and at its peak had 10,000 students and monks from countries as far as Greece and Persia. It had 2000 teachers. Amongst the subjects on offer were Buddhism, Brahmanical Philosophy, Math’s, Astronomy and Medicine. It had the world’s biggest library.  The most famous Chinese monk to visit India was Hiuen Tsang. He went in 630 AD and returned to China in 645 AD. On his return he was given a royal welcome which speaks volumes of the veneration that the Chinese had for Buddhism and Indian culture. His book SI-YU-KI gave a strong impetus to the love of Indian culture in China. Another famous monk I-Tsing or Yijing spent 10 years at Nalanda and returned to China with 4000 sanskrit manuscripts containing more than 50,000 slokas or hymns. He also compiled a Sanskrit-Chinese dictionary. Yijing also translated hymns from Harivansh(lineage of Hari or Lord Krishna) as an appendix to the epic Mahabharat. According to Amita Acharya writing in the Diplomat(19/1/2021) a monk named Xuanzang said that Lord Buddha was bright like the moon and India was its source. Xuanzang traveled to India in the 7th century as a pilgrim and visited Nalanda university.  He was honoured by king Varsha. The honour of the most popular figure in Chinese Buddhism goes to Bodhisattva Guanyin(the one perceives the laments of the world). He was an Indian monk whom the Chinese believed to be a superior being who helps those suffering in the world. Known also as Bodhidharma and as Damo all over China he was known to be a prince from South India. Images of Damo can be found all over China. He is regarded as the first patriarch of  Chan Buddhism also known as Zen in Japan.    

According to B.R.Deepak writing in the Sunday Guardian Mumbai, a dictionary of Buddhism compiled by Japanese scholars lists more than 35,000 entries of Sanskrit in the Chinese language. Indian style of painting and music as well as medicine and astronomy were highly prized in China.   Apart from translations of Buddhist scriptures, Chinese texts from 2nd through to 12th century suggests that some 150 scholars focused on translating Hindu Sanskrit texts like Vedas referred to as Ming-Lun(science of knowledge) or Zhi-Lun(science of intelligence)         
In the 12th century Nalanda university was burned to the ground by  Bakhtiar Khalji. He was a Turko-Afghan military general who had conquered parts of east India and Bihar. It could be argued that it was the biggest act of vandalism which destroyed accumulated knowledge for thousands of years and reversed human progress for a long time.  Arthur Waley(1889-1996) an Orientalist and Sinologist when translating Tao Te Chang, Chinese classic texts written by sage Lieh Tzu founder of Taoism in the 6th century observed:” I see no reason to doubt, that the ‘holy mountain-men’ (sheng-hsien) described by Lieh Tzu are Indian Rishi; and when we read in Chuang Tzu of certain Taoists who practiced movements very similar to the Asanas of Hindu yoga, it is at least a possibility that some knowledge of the yoga technique which these Rishi used had also drifted into China.”
Many Chinese believed that Lieh Tzu, founder of Taoism was reborn as Lord Buddha. Both Lieh Tzu and Lord Buddha were worshipped at the same altar. Taoism also known as Daoism is a religion which began in the 6th century. Buddhism and Taoism complement each other sharing many beliefs.   Emperor Ashoka of India(273-232 BCE) sanctioned the building of 84 thousand stupas out of which around 19 were in China. Lord Buddha’s ashes were distributed in each one of them.  
From China Buddhism went to Korea in the 4th century AD and from there to Japan in the 6th century AD. Present day China since the cultural revolution which started in 1966 is officially an atheist state.  Buddhism faced massive persecution and in Beijing alone thousands of Buddhist cultural relics were destroyed.  Buddhist monks were tortured and sacred books burnt. However there is a huge revival of Buddhism in China at present. There are 245 million Buddhists in China at present and more than this number follow Buddhist beliefs along with other traditional beliefs. Buddhist monks and nuns are strict vegetarians and they inspire followers to go vegetarian.     

Nitin Mehta. 

22nd Feb.2021  

This article follows:

The Great Celtic-India Connection 

The Great Maya-India Connection 

The Great Greek-India Connection, 

The Great Russia-India Connection  

The Great German-India Connection

The Great Japan-India Connection 

The Great Ancient Egypt-India Connection.

The Great Slavic-India Connection

The Great Macedonia-India Connection

The Great Indonesia-India Connection 
The Great Philippines-India Connection

The Great  Thailand, Burma(Myanmar) – India Connection 

The Great Korea, Tibet, Mongolia and Bhutan-India Connection 

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