The cultural relations between India and China can be traced back to very early times. There are numerous references to China in Sanskrit texts, but their chronology is sketchy. The Mahabharata refers to China several times, including a reference to presents brought by the Chinese at the Rajasuya Yajna of the Pandavas; also, the Arthasastra and the Manusmriti mention China. According to French art historian Rene Grousset, the name China comes from “an ancient” Sanskrit name for the regions to the east, and not, as often supposed, from the name of the state of Ch’in,” the first dynasty established by Shih Huang Ti in 221 B.C.
The Sanskrit name Cheena for China could have been derived from the small state of that name in Chan-si in the northwest of China, which flourished in the fourth century B.C. Scholars have pointed out that the Chinese word for lion, shih, used long before the Chin dynasty, was derived from the Sanskrit word, simha, and that the Greek word for China, Tzinista, used by some later writers, appears to be derivative of the Sanskrit Chinasthana. According to Terence Duke, martial arts went from India to China. Fighting without weapons was a specialty of the ancient Ksatriya warriors of India.
Until recently, India and China had coexisted peacefully for over two thousand years. This amicable relationship may have been nurtured by the close historical and religious ties of Buddhism, introduced to China by Indian monks at a very early stage of their respective histories, although there are fragmentary records of contacts anterior to the introduction of Buddhism. The Chinese literature of the third century is full of geographic and mythological elements derived from India.
Bhaarat: Teacher of China
Hinduism and Buddhism, both have had profound effect on religious and cultural life of China. Chinese early religion was based on nature and had many things in common with Vedic Hinduism, with a pantheon of deities.
The story of Sun Hou Tzu, the Monkey King, and Hsuang Tsang. It is a vicarious and humorous tale, an adventure story akin to the Hindu epic of Ramayana, and like Ramayana, a moral tale of the finer aspects of human endeavor which come to prevail over those of a less worthy nature. The book ends with a dedication to India: ‘I dedicate this work to Buddha’s Pure Land. May it repay the kindness of patron and preceptor, may it mitigate the sufferings of the lost and damned….’
(source: Eastern Wisdom, Michael Jordan, p. 134-151)
Hu Shih, (1891-1962), Chinese philosopher in Republican China. He was ambassador to the U.S. (1938-42) and chancellor of Peking University (1946-48). He said:
“India conquered and dominated China culturally for two thousand years without ever having to send a single soldier across her border.”
Lin Yutang, author of The Wisdom of China and India:
“The contact with poets, forest saints and the best wits of the land, the glimpse into the first awakening of Ancient India’s mind as it searched, at times childishly and naively, at times with a deep intuition, but at all times earnestly and passionately, for the spiritual truths and the meaning of existence – this experience must be highly stimulating to anyone, particularly because the Hindu culture is so different and therefore so much to offer.” 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 and imaginative literature, and the world’s teacher in trigonometry, quadratic equations, grammar, phonetics, Arabian Nights, animal fables, chess, as well as in philosophy, and that she inspired Boccaccio, Goethe, Herder, Schopenhauer, Emerson, and probably also old Aesop.”
(source: The Wisdom of China and India, Lin Yutang, p. 3-4)
“I see no reason to doubt,” comments Arthur Waley in his book, The Way and its Power, “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.”
Both Sir L. Wooley and British historian Arnold Toynbee speak of an earlier ready-made culture coming to China. They were right. That was the Vedic Hindu culture from India with its Sanskrit language and sacred scripts. The contemporary astronomical expertise of the Chinese, as evidenced by their records of eclipses; the philosophy of the Chinese, their statecraft, all point to a Vedic origin. That is why from the earliest times we find Chinese travelers visiting India very often to renew their educational and spiritual links.
“Neo-Confucianism was stimulated in its development by a number of Buddhist ideas. Certain features of Taoism, such as its canon and pantheon, was taken over from Buddhism. Works and phrases in the Chinese language owe their origin to terms introduced by Buddhism. while in astronomical, calendrical, and medical studies the Chinese benefited from information introduced by Indian Buddhist monks. Finally, and most important of all, the religious life of the Chinese was affected profoundly by the doctrines and practices, pantheon and ceremonies brought in by the Indian religion.”
(source: Buddhism in China, Kenneth Ch’en, p. 3)
How China was part of the Indian Vedic empire is explained by Professor G. Phillips on page 585 in the 1965 edition of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. He remarks,
“The maritime intercourse of India and China dates from a much earlier period, from about 680 B.C. when the sea traders of the Indian Ocean whose chiefs were Hindus founded a colony called Lang-ga, after the Indian named Lanka of Ceylon, about the present gulf of Kias-Tehoa, where they arrived in vessels having prows shaped like the heads of birds or animals after the pattern specified in the Yukti Kalpataru (an ancient Sanskrit technological text) and exemplified in the ships and boats of old Indian arts.”
Chinese historian Dr. Li-Chi also discovered an astonishing resemblance between the Chinese clay pottery and the pottery discovered at Mohenjo daro on the Indian continent. Yuag Xianji, member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, speaking at the C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation, Madras, March 27 1984 said, “Recent discoveries of ruins of Hindu temples in Southeast China provided further evidence of Hinduism in China. Both Buddhism and Hinduism were patronized by the rulers. In the 6th century A.D. the royal family was Hindu for two generations. The following Tang dynasty (7th to the 9th century A.D.) also patronized both Hinduism and Buddhism because the latter was but a branch of Hinduism. Religious wars were unknown in ancient China.
Through its compassionate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and its promise of salvation to all alike, its emphasis on piety, meditation, its attractive rituals and festivals, its universality and its tolerance, “the religious life of the Chinese has been enriched, deepened, broadened, and made more meaningful in terms of human sympathy, love, and compassion for all living creatures.” The doctrine of karma brought spiritual consolation to innumerable people. The concept of karma is to be found in all types of Chinese literature from poetry to popular tales.
India never imposed her ideas or culture on any nation by military force, not even on the small countries in her neighborhood, and in the case of China, it would have been virtually impossible to do so since China has been the more powerful of the two. So the expansion of Indian culture into China is a monument to human understanding and cultural co-operation – the outcome of a voluntary quest for learning. While China almost completely suppressed other foreign religions, such as Zoroastrianism, Nestorian Christianity, and to some extent Manichaeanism, she could not uproot Buddhism. At times, Buddhism was persecuted, but for two thousand years it continued to indianize Chinese life even after it had ceased to be a vital force in the homeland and long after it had lost its place as the dominant religion of China. In fact, Indianization became more powerful and effective after it was thought that Buddhism had been killed in China.
The introduction of Buddhism is one of the most important events in Chinese history, and since its inception it has been a major factor in Chinese civilization. The Chinese have freely acknowledged their debt to India, often referring to her as the “Teacher of China,” and Chinese Buddhists have pictured India as a Western Paradise, Sukhavati. That Chinese philosophy blossomed afresh after the impact of Buddhism indicates both a response to and a borrowing of Indian ideas. The advent of Buddhism meant for many Chinese a new way of life, and for all Chinese, a means of reassessing their traditional beliefs. A new conception of the universe developed, and the entire Chinese way of life was slowly but surely altered. The change was so gradual and so universal that few people realized it was happening.
The Chinese Quietists practiced a form of self-hypnosis which has an indisputably close resemblance to Indian Yoga. The Chinese Taoist philosopher Liu-An (Huai-nan-tzu) who died in 122 B.C. makes use “of a cosmology in his book which is clearly of Buddhist inspiration.”
The first mention of India to be found in Chinese records is in connection with the mission to Ta-hsia (Bacteriana) of a talented and courageous Chinese envoy, Chang Chien (Kien), about 138 B.C. Fourteen years later, having escaped after ten years as a captive of the Huns, he returned home and in his report to the Chinese Emperor he referred to the country of Shen-tu (India) to the southeast of the Yueh-chih (Jou-Chih) country. There are other traditional stories suggestive of earlier links, but Chang Chien’s reference to Indian trade with the southwestern districts of China along the overland route corresponding to the modern Yunnan road indicates the existence of some sort of commercial relations well before the second century B.C. The find of Chinese coins at Mysore, dated 138 B.C. suggests maritime relations between India and China existed in the second century B.C. Passages in a Chinese text vaguely refer to Chinese trade relations with countries in the China Sea and Indian Ocean, such as Huang-che (Kanchi or a place in the Ganges delta), as well as to the exchange of diplomatic missions.
Trade & Commerce
There can be little dispute that trade was the main motivation for these early contacts. This is supported by finds of beads and pottery, in addition to specific references in historical texts. By the early centuries of the Christian era, Sino-Indian trade appears to have assumed considerable proportions. Chinese silk, Chinamsuka, and later porcelain were highly prized in India, and Indian textiles were sold in southwest China. The similarity between the Chinese and Indian words for vermilion and bamboo, ch’in-tung and ki-chok, and sindura and kichaka, also indicates commercial links. At least by the fifth century, India was exporting to China wootz steel (wootz from the Indian Kanarese word ukku), which was produced by fusing magnetic iron by carbonaceous matter.
With goods came ideas. It has often been contended that merchants were not likely to have been interested in philosophy or capable of the exchange of ideas. This is an erroneous belief which disregards historical evidence and, as Arthur Waley points out, is “derived from a false analogy between East and West. It is quite true that Marco Polo ‘songeait surtout a son negoce’. But the same can hardly be said of Indian or Chinese merchants. Buddhist legend, for example, teems with merchants reputedly capable of discussing metaphysical questions; and in China Lu Puwei, compiler of philosophical encyclopedia Lu Shih Ch’un Chiu, was himself a merchant. Legend even makes a merchant of Kuan Chung; which at any rate shows that philosophy and trade were not currently supposed to be incompatible.”
Land and Sea Routes
The art of shipbuilding and navigation in India and China at the time was sufficiently advanced for oceanic crossings. Indian ships operating between Indian and South-east Asian ports were large and well equipped to sail cross the Bay of Bengal. When the Chinese Buddhist scholar, Fa-hsien, returned from India, his ship carried a crew of more than two hundred persons and did not sail along the coasts but directly across the ocean. Such ships were larger than those Columbus used to negotiate the Atlantic a thousand years later. Uttaraptha was the Sanskrit name of the ancient highway which connected India with China, Russia and Persia (Iran). The trade routes between China and India, by both land and sea, were long and perilous, often requiring considerably more than two years to negotiate. The overland routes were much older and more often used, but the sea routes gained popularity with progress in shipbuilding and seamanship. Formidable and frightening as the physiography of the land routes was, the traffic through the passes and along the circuitous routes around the mountains was fairly vigorous.
According to the work of medieval times, Yukti Kalpataru, which gives a fund of information about shipbuilding, India built large vessels from 200 B.C. to the close of the sixteenth century. A Chinese chronicler mentions ships of Southern Asia that could carry as many as one thousand persons, and were manned mainly by Malayan crews.
Long before the northwestern routes were opened about the second century B.C. and long before the development of these indianized states, there were two other routes from India to China. One of these began at Pataliputra (modern Patna), passed through Assam (Kamarupa of old) and Upper Burma near Bhamo, and proceeded over the mountains and across the river valleys to Yunnanfu (Kunming), the main city of the southern province of China. The other route lay through Nepal and Tibet, was developed much later in the middle of the seventh century when Tibet had accepted Buddhism.
In addition to land routes, there was an important sea link between India and China through Southeast Asia. During the course of the first few centuries of the Christian era, a number of Indianized states had been founded all over Southeast Asia. Both cultures met in this region, and the Indianized states served as an intermediary stave for the further transmission of Indian culture and Buddhism to China.
Ancient Greek geographers knew of Southeast Asia and China (Thinae) were accessible by sea. Ptolemy mentions an important but unidentified Chinese port on the Tonkinese coast. Ports on the western coast of India were Bharukaccha (Broach); Surparka (Sopara); Kalyana; on the Bay of Bengal at the mouth of the Kaveripattam (Puhar); and at the mouth of the Ganges, Tamaralipti (Tamluk). At least two of these ports on the Bay of Bengal – Kaveripattam and Tamaralipti – were known to the Greek sailors as Khaberos and Tamalitis. At first Indian ships sailed to Tonkin (Kiao-Che) which was the principal port of China, Tonkin being a Chinese protectorate. Later all foreign ships were required to sail to Canton in China proper. Canton became a prosperous port and from the seventh century onward the most important landing place for Buddhist monks arriving from India. Generally Chinese monks set out for the famous centers of learning in India, like the University of Taxila, and Nalanda.
India had census enumeration earlier than China, since such enumeration is mentioned in Kautilya’s Arthasastra (see study Coates-Caton10.doc). China had its first census in 2 A.D.
Mathematics: “The Chinese were familiar with Indian mathematics, and, in fact, continued to study it long after the period of intellectual intercourse between India and China had ceased.” (source: Cited in Sarkar, Hindu Achievements in Exact Science, p. 14)
Literature: The great literary activity of the Buddhist scholars naturally had a permanent influence on Chinese literature, one of the oldest in the world. In a recent study a Chinese scholar Lai Ming, says that a significant feature in the development of Chinese literature has been the “the immense influence of Buddhist literature on the development of every sphere of Chinese literature since the Eastern Chin period (317 A.D.).” The Buddhist sutras were written in combined prose and rhymed verse, a literary form unknown in China at the time. The Chinese language when pronounced in the Sanskrit polyphonic manner was likely to sound hurried and abrupt, and to chant the Sanskrit verses in monophthongal Chinese prolonged the verse so much the rhymes were lost. Hence, to make the Chinese sutras pleasant to listen to, the Chinese language had to be modified to accommodate Sanskrit sounds. Consequently, in 489, Yung Ming, Prince of Ching Ling, convened a conference of Buddhist monks at his capital to differentiate between, and define the tones of, the Chinese language for reading Buddhist sutras and for changing the verses. A new theory emerged called the Theory of Four Tones.
Mythology: The Chinese sense of realism was so intense that there was hardly any mythology in ancient China, and they have produced few fairy tales of their own. Most of their finest fairy tales were originally brought to China by Indian monks in the first millennium. The Buddhists used them to make their sermons more agreeable and lucid. The tales eventually spread throughout the country, assuming a Chinese appearance conformable to their new environment. For example, the stories of Chinese plays such as A Play of Thunder-Peak, A Dream of Butterfly, and A Record of Southern Trees were of Buddhist origin.
Drama: Chinese drama assimilated Indian features in three stages. First, the story, characters, and technique were all borrowed from India; later, Indian technique gave way to Chinese; and finally, the story was modified and the characters became Chinese also. There are many dimensions to Chinese drama, and it is not easy to place them accurately in history. However, the twelfth century provides the first-known record of the performance of a play, a Buddhist miracle- play called Mu-lien Rescues his Mother based on an episode in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. The subject matter of the Buddhist adaptation of the story, in which Maudgalyayana (Mu-lien in Chinese) rescues the mother from hell, occurs in a Tun-huang pien wen. Significantly, the play was first performed at the Northern Sung capital by professionals before a religious festival.
Grammar: Phrases and words coined by Buddhist scholars enriched the Chinese vocabulary by more than thirty-five thousand words. As the assimilation was spread over a long period of time, the Chinese accepted these words as a matter of course without even suspecting their foreign origin. Even today words of Buddhist origin are widely used in China from the folklore of peasants to the formal language of the intelligentsia. For example, poli for glass in the name of many precious and semi-precious stones is of Sanskrit origin. Cha-na, an instant, from kshana; t’a, pagoda, from stupa; mo-li, jasmine, from mallika, and terms for many trees and plants are amongst the many thousands of Chinese words of Indian origin. Indian grammar also undoubtedly stimulated Chinese philological study. Chinese script consists of numerous symbols, which in their earliest stage were chiefly pictographic and ideographic.
The word used in the old Sanskrit for the Chinese Emperor is deva- putra, which is an exact translation of ‘Son of Heaven.’ I-tsing, a famous pilgrim, himself a fine scholar of Sanskrit, praises the language and says it is respected in far countries in the north and south. ..’How much more then should people of the divine land (China), as well as the celestial store house (India), teach the real rules of the language.’
Jawaharlal Nehru has commented:
“Sanskrit scholarship must have been fairly widespread in China. It is interesting to find that some Chinese scholars tried to introduce Sanskrit phonetics into the Chinese language. A well-known example of this is that of the monk Shon Wen, who lived at the time of the Tang dynasty. He tried to develop an alphabetical system along these lines in Chinese.”
(source: The Discovery of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, p. 197-198)
Art: Indian art also reached China, mainly through Central Asia, although some works of Buddhist art came by sea. Monks and their retinues, and traders brought Buddha statues, models of Hindu temples, and other objects of art to China. Fa-hsien made drawings of images whilst at Tamaralipti. Hsuang Tsang returned with several golden and sandalwood figures of the Buddha; and Hui-lun with a model of the Nalanda Mahavihara. Wang Huan-ts’e, who went to India several times, collected many drawings of Buddhist images, including a copy of the Buddha image at Bodhgaya; this was deposited at the Imperial palace and served as a model of the image in Ko-ngai-see temple. The most famous icon of East Asian Buddhism know as the “Udayana” image was reported to have been brought by the first Indian missionaries in 67, although there are various legends associated with this image and many scholars believe it was brought by Kumarajiva. However, this influx of Indian art was incidental and intermittent, and was destined to be absorbed by Chinese art. This combination resulted in a Buddhist art of exceptional beauty.
One of the most famous caves – Ch’ien-fo-tung, “Caves of the Thousand Buddhas,” because there are supposed to be more than a thousand caves. So far, about five hundred caves have been discovered. These caves were painted throughout with murals, and were frequently furnished with numerous Buddha statues and sculptured scenes from the Jatakas. Many other caves were initiated in the reign of Toba Wei Emperor, T’ai Wu. Some also contain images of Hindu deities, such as Shiva on Nandi and Vishnu on Garuda.
Images coming from India were considered holy, as suggested by Omura, in his History of Chinese Sculpture. This significantly underlines the depth of Chinese acceptance of Indian thought.
Music: The Chinese did not regard music as an art to be cultivated outside the temples and theatres. Buddhist monks who reached China brought the practice of chanting sacred texts during religious rites. Hence, Indian melody was introduced into Chinese music which had hitherto been rather static and restrained. Indian music was so popular in China, that Emperor Kao-tsu (581-595) tried unsuccessfully to proscribe it by an Imperial decree. His successor Yang-ti was also very fond of Indian music. In Chinese annals, references are found to visiting Indian musicians, who reached China from India, Kucha, Kashgar, Bokhara and Cambodia. Even Joseph Needham, the well-known advocate of Chinese cultural and scientific priority admits, “Indian music came through Kucha to China just before the Sui period and had a great vogue there in the hands of exponents such as Ts’ao Miao-ta of Brahminical origin.” By the end of the sixth century, Indian music had been given state recognition. During the T’ang period, Indian music was quite popular, especially the famous Rainbow Garment Dance melody.
A contemporary Chinese poet, Po Chu-yi, wrote a poem in praise of Indian music. “It is little wonder,” an official publication of the Chinese Republic says, “that when a Chinese audience today hears Indian music, they feel that while possessing a piquant Indian flavor it has a remarkable affinity with Chinese music.”
Science: A major Buddhist influence on Chinese science was in scientific thought itself. Buddhist concepts, such as the infinity of space and time, and the plurality of worlds and of time-cycles or Hindu Kalpas (chieh) had a stimulating effect on Chinese inquiry, broadening the Chinese outlook and better equipping it to investigate scientific problems. For example, the Hindu doctrine of pralayas, or recurrent world catastrophes in which sea and land were turned upside down before another world was recreated to go through the four cycles- differentiation (ch’eng), stagnation (chu), destruction (juai), and emptiness (kung) – which was later adopted by Neoconfucianists, was responsible for the Chinese recognition of the true nature of fossils long before they were understood in Europe. Again, the Indian doctrine of Karma (tso-yeh), or metempsychosis, influenced Chinese scientific thought on the process of biological change involving both phylogeny and ontogeny. Buddhist iconography contained a biological element. Buddhism introduced a highly developed theory of logic, both formal and dialectical, and of epistemology.
Tantric Buddhism reached China in the eighth century and the greatest Chinese astronomer and mathematician of his time, I-hsing (682-727), was a Tantric Buddhist monk. While the work of Indian mathematicians was carried westward by the Arabs and transmitted to Europe, it was taken eastward by Indian Buddhist monks and professional mathematicians.
Astronomy: There is also some evidence that works on Indian astronomy were in circulation in China well before the T’ang period. In the annuals of the Sui dynasty, numerous Chinese translations of Indian mathematical and astronomical works are mentioned, such as Po-lo-men Suan fa (The Hindu Arithmetical rules) and Po-lo-men Suan King. These works have vanished, and it is impossible to assess the degree of their influence on Chinese sciences. However, there is definite evidence of Indian influence on Chinese astronomy and calendar studies during the T’ang dynasty. During this period, Indian astronomers were working at the Imperial Bureau of Astronomy which was charged with preparing accurate calendars. Yang Ching-fang, a pupil of Amoghavajra (Pu-k’ung), wrote in 764 that those who wished to know the positions of the five planets and predict what Hsiu (heavenly mansion) a planet would be traversing, should adopt the Indian calendrical methods. Five years earlier, Amoghavajra had translated an Indian astrological work, the Hsiu Yao Ching (Hsiu and Planet Sutra), into Chinese.
At the time there were three astronomical schools at Chang-an: Gautama (Chhuthan), Kasyapa (Chiayeh), and Kumara (Chumolo). In 684 one of the members of the Gautama school, Lo presented a calendar, Kuang-tse-li, which has been in use for three years, to the Empress Wu. Later, in 718, another member of the school, Hsi-ta (Siddhartha), presented to the Emperor a calendar, Chiu-che-li, which was almost a direct translation of an Indian calendar, Navagraha Siddhanta of Varahamihira, and which is still preserved in the T’ang period collection. It was in use for four years. In 729 Siddhartha compiled a treatise based on this calendar which is the greatest known collection of ancient Chinese astronomical writings. This was the first time that a zero symbol appeared in a Chinese text, but, even more important, this work also contained a table of sines, which were typically Indian. I-hsing (682-727) was associated with the Kumara school and was much influenced by Indian astronomy. Indian influence can also be seen in the nine planets he introduced into his calendar, Ta-yen-li. The nine planets included the sun, moon, five known planets, and two new planets, Rahu and Ketu, by which the Indian astronomers represented the ascending and descending nodes of the moon.
Medicine: According to Terence Duke, “Many Buddhists were familiar with the extensive knowledge of surgery common to Indian medicine and this aided them both in spreading the teachings and in their practice of diagnosis and therapy. Surgical technique was almost unknown within China prior to the arrival of Buddhism.” The renowned Buddhist teacher Nagarjuna is said to have translated at least two traditional works dealing with healing and medicines in the first centuries of our era. A section of his Maha-Prajnaparamita Sutra is quoted by the Chinese monk I-tsing in his commentary upon the five winds (Chinese: Wu Fung; Japanese: Gofu).”
(source: The Boddhisattva Warriors: The Origin, Inner Philosophy, History and Symbolism of the Buddhist Martial Art Within India and China, p. 139-145)
Evidence of Indian influence on Chinese medicine is even more definite. A number of Indian medical treatises are found in Chinese Buddhist collections: for example, the Ravanakumaratantra and Kasyapasamhita. From its very inception, Buddhism stressed the importance of health and the prevention and cure of mental and physical ailments. Indian medical texts were widely known in Central Asia, where parts of the original texts on Ayur Veda have been found as well as numerous translations.
The T’ang emperors patronized Indian thaumaturges (Tantric Yogis) who were believed to possess secret methods of rejuvenation. Wang Hsuan- chao, who returned to India after the death of King Harsha had been charged by the Chinese Emperor in 664 to bring back Indian medicines and physicians.
Considering that Indian medicine, especially operative surgery, was highly developed for the time, it is not surprising that the Chinese, like the Arabs, were captivated by Indian medical skills and drugs. Castration was performed by Chinese methods but other surgical techniques, such as laparotomy, trepanation, and removal of cataracts, as well as inoculation for smallpox, were influenced by Indian practices.
Acupuncture: In modern day acupuncture lore, there is recounted a legend that the discovery of the vital bodily points began within India as a result of combative research studies undertaken by the Indian ksatriya warriors in order to discover the vital (and deadly) points of the body which could be struck during hand-to-hand encounters. It is said that they experimented upon prisoners by piercing their bodies with the iron and stone “needles’ daggers called Suci daggers common to their infantry and foot soldiers, in order to determine these points.
This Chinese legend reflects and complements the traditional Indian account of its origins, where it is said that in the aftermath of battles it was noticed that sometimes therapeutic effects arose from superficial arrow or dagger wounds incurred by the ksatriya in battle.
(source: The Boddhisattva Warriors: The Origin, Inner Philosophy, History and Symbolism of the Buddhist Martial Art Within India and China, p. 139-145)
The alternative form of medicine known as acupuncture is believed to have originated in China. In Korean academics, students are correctly told that acupuncture originated in India. An ancient Sanskrit text on acupuncture is preserved in the Ceylonese National Museum at Columbo in Sri Lanka.
According to author Terence Duke:
“Fighting without weapons was a specialty of the Ksatriya (caste of ancient India) and foot soldier alike. For the Ksatriya it was simply part and parcel of their all around training, but for the lowly peasant it was essential. We read in the Vedas of men unable to afford armor who bound their heads with turbans called Usnisa to protect themselves from sword and axe blows. Fighting on foot for a Ksatriya was necessary in case he was unseated from his chariot or horse and found himself without weapons. Although the high ethical code of the Ksatriya forbid anyone but another Ksatriya from attacking him, doubtless such morals were not always observed, and when faced with an unscrupulous opponent, the Ksatriya needed to be able to defend himself, and developed, therefore, a very effective form of hand-to-hand combat that combined techniques of wrestling, throws, and hand strikes. Tactics and evasion were formulated that were later passed on to successive generations. This skill was called Vajramukti, [Vajramushti] a name meaning “thunderbolt closed – or clasped – hands.” The title Vajramukti referred to the usage of the hands in a manner as powerful as the vajra maces of traditional warfare. Vajramukti was practiced in peacetime by means of regular physical training sessions and these utilized sequences of attack and defense technically termed in Sanskrit nata.
“Prior to and during the life of the Buddha various principles were embodied within the warrior caste known as the Ksatriya (Japanese: Setsuri). This title – stemming from Sanskrit root Ksat meaning “to harm,” described an elite force of usually royal or noble-born warriors who were trained from infancy in a wide variety of military and martial arts, both armed and unarmed.
“In China, the Ksatriya were considered to have descended from the deity Ping Wang (Japanese: Byo O), the “Lord of those who keep things calm.” Ksatriyas were like the peace force – to keep kings and people in order. Military commanders were called Senani – a name reminiscent of the Japanese term Sensei which describes a similar status. The Japanese samurai also had similar traits to the Ksatriya. Their battle practices and techniques are often so close to that of the Ksatriya that we must assume the former came from India perhaps via China. The traditions of sacred swords, of honorable self-sacrifice, and service to one’s lord are all found first in India.
“In ancient Hinduism, nata was acknowledged as a spiritual study and conferred as a ruling deity, Nataraja, representing the awakening of wisdom through physical and mental concentration. However, after the Muslim invasion of India and its brutal destruction of Buddhist and Hindu culture and religion, the Ksatriya art of nata was dispersed and many of its teachers slain. This indigenous martial arts, under the name of Kalari or Kalaripayit exists only in South India today. Originating at least 1,300 years ago, India’s Kalaripayit is the oldest martial art taught today. It is also the most potentially violent, because students advance from unarmed combat to the use of swords, sharpened flexible metal lashes, and peculiar three-bladed daggers.
“When Buddhism came to influence India (circa 500 BC), the Deity Nataraja was converted to become one of the four protectors of Buddhism, and was renamed Nar(y)ayana Deva (Chinese: Na Lo Yen Tien). He is said to be a protector of the Eastern Hemisphere of the mandala.”
Pu Sa Chin Kang Chuan (Bodhisattva Vajramukti)
(Po Fu) (Huo Ming) (Pa She) (Pai Chin)
Chuan Fa or Kung Fu
(Karate) (Tae Kwon Do) (Thai Boxing) (Ju Jitsu) (Judo) (Aikido)
(source: The Boddhisattva Warriors: The Origin, Inner Philosophy, History and Symbolism of the Buddhist Martial Art Within India and China, p. 3, 158-174 and 242)
The famous Shao-lin style of boxing is also attributed to Indian influence. Bodhidharma (5-6th century AD) who believed in a sound mind, in a sound body, taught the monks in the Shao-lin temple this style of boxing for self-defense for rejuvenating the body after exacting meditation and mental concentration.
According to the History Channel martial arts were introduced in China by an Indian named Bodhidharma, who taught it to the monks so that they could defend their monasteries. He was also said to have introduced the concept of vital energy or chi (“prana” probably corresponds to this). This concept is the basis of acupuncture.
Chuan Fa, the Buddhist martial arts, preserved many Ksatriya techniques in their original forms. The monks who practiced Chuan Fa were often the sole preservers of the Ksatriya art of Avasavidya, called in Chinese Huo Ming or Hua Fa.
During the first millennium, Indian racing games reached China. The well-known expert on the history of Chinese games, Karl Himly, on the authority of a passage from the Jun Tsun Su, a work of the Sung period (960-1279), suggests that the Chinese game t’shu-p’u was invented in western India and spread to China in the time of the Wei dynasty (220-265). T’shu’p’u is, in fact, the Chinese adaptation of the Indian chatus-pada (modern chupur). Chess was introduced from India, ca. 700. through the ancient trade route from Kashmir. The oldest and best of the native Chinese games, wei-ch’i, did not appear until 1000. Cubical dice (chu-p or yu-p’i), although found in ancient India and Egypt, are generally believed to have reached China from India, possibly quite early. Arthur Waley is of the opinion that the prominence of the number six in the Book of Changes was derived from the six sides of cubical dice.
Bhaarat’s Influence on Japan
Hinduism and Buddhism went from India to China and Korea to Japan. Images of Ganesha and Vishnu have been found throughout Japan. Numerous Buddhist deities were introduced into Japan and many of these are still very popular.
According to D. P. Singhal, “…some Hindu gods, who had been incorporated into the Buddhist pantheon, were amongst them. For example, Indra, originally, the god of thunder but now also the king of gods, is popular in Japan as Taishaku (literally the great King Sakra); Ganesha is worshiped as Sho-ten or Shoden (literally holy god) in many Buddhist temples, and is believed to confer happiness upon his devotees. A sea-serpent worshiped by sailors is called Ryujin, a Chinese equivalent of the Indian naga. Hariti and Dakini are also worshiped, the former as Kishimo-jin, and the latter by her original name. Bishamon is a Japanese equivalent of the Indian Vaisravana (Kubera), the god of wealth.
Even Shinto adopted Indian gods, despite its desperate efforts after the Meiji Revolution to disengage itself from Buddhism. The Indian sea god Varuna, is worshiped in Tokyo as Sui-ten (water-god); the Indian goddess of learning, Sarasvati, has become Benten (literally goddess of speech), with many shrines dedicated to her along sea coasts and beside lakes and ponds. Shiva is well known to the Japanese as Daikoku (literally god of darkness), which is a Chinese and Japanese equivalent of the Indian Mahakala, another name of Shiva. Daikoku is a popular god in Japan. At the Kotohira shrine on the island of Shikoku, sailors worship a god called Kompera, which is a corruption of the Sanskrit word for crocodile, Kumbhira. The divine architect mentioned in the Rig Veda, Vishvakarma, who designed and constructed the world, was regarded in ancient Japan as the god of carpenters, Bishukatsuma. The Indian Yama, the god of death, is the most dreaded god of Japan, under the name of Emma-o, the king of hell.
The climbers wearing traditional white dress, who scale the sacred Mount Ontake as a religious observance, sometimes have inscribed on their robe Sanskrit Siddham characters of an ancient type. Sometimes they put on white Japanese scarfs (tenugui) which carry the Sanskrit character OM, the sacred syllable of the Hindus.
According to Terence Duke, “The Gagaku dances of Japan contain many movements derived from the Indian Nata and the Chinese Chuan Fa.”
(source: The Boddhisattva Warriors: The Origin, Inner Philosophy, History and Symbolism of the Buddhist Martial Art Within India and China, p. 206)
The cultivation of cotton in Japan is traced to an Indian who had drifted to the shore of Aichi Prefecture in 799. To commemorate the event, the Japanese named the village where the shipwrecked Indian had landed Tenjiku; Tenjiku was the Japanese name for India, and means Heaven.
The popular Japanese game of sunoroku or sugoroku (backgammon) played at the royal of the Nara rulers and still popular in Japan is of Indian origin. In Japan the game is played as nard. Nard is generally regarded as an Iranian game, but the ninth century Arab scholar, Al Yaqubi, considered nard an Indian invention used to illustrate man’s dependence on chance and destiny. According to Wei-Shu, sugoroku was brought to China in ancient times from Hu country, which at that time meant a country somewhere in the vicinity of India. Again, as Karl Himly has pointed out, the Hun Tsun, Sii, written during the Sung period (960-1279), states that t’shu-pu, another Chinese name for sugoroku, was invented in western India, that it was known in its original form as chatus-pada, and that it reached China during the Wei period (220-265).
There is some Indian influence on Japanese art. A similarity between Shinto rituals and Hindu rituals (for example ringing the bell as one enters the temple). Narushima (Narasimha) Bishamondo is a famous temple in Japan. (Source: India and World Civilization – Dr. D. P. Singhal)
In conclusion, it can be said that China was more influenced by India than India by China. Whilst Chinese monks came to acquire knowledge and take it back, the Indian monks went to China on specific religious missions to impart knowledge. There is hardly any evidence that the Chinese monks brought with them any work which was translated into an Indian language. It seems that during this period of Sino-Indian contact, the psychological atmosphere was one in which India was naturally accepted as the giver and China as the taker. Whilst the best in Indian thought was carefully studied and carried back to China, Chinese ideas filtered through India whether they represented the best of their culture or not.
According to Jawaharlal Nehru in his book “The Discovery of India”:
“The most famous of the Chinese travelers to India was Hsuang Tsang who came in the seventh century when the great T’sang dynasty flourished in China and King Harshavardhana ruled over in North India. Hsuang Tsang took a degree of Master of the Law at Nalanda University and finally became vice-principal of the university.
His book, the Si-Yu-Ki or the Record of the Western Kingdom (meaning India), makes fascinating reading. He tells us of the system of the university where the five branches of knowledge were taught. 1. Grammar 2. Science of Arts and Crafts 3. Medicine 4. Logic and 5. Philosophy. Hsuang Tsang was particularly struck by the love of learning of the Indian people. Many Indian classics have been preserved in Chinese translation relating not only to Buddhism but also to Hinduism, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, etc. There are supposed to be 800 such works in the Sung-pao collection in China. Tibet is also full of them. There used to be frequent co-operation between Indian, Chinese and Tibetan scholars. A notable instance of this co-operation, still extant, is a Sanskrit-Tibetan-Chinese dictionary of Buddhist technical terms. This dates from the ninth century and is named the ‘Mahavyutpatti.’
Soon after Hsuang Tsang’s death in China, yet another famous pilgrim made the journey to India – I-tsing (or Yi-tsing). He also studied at Nalanda University for a long time and carried back several hundred Sanskrit texts. He refers to India as the West (Si-fang), but he tells us that it was known as Aryadesha – Arya means noble, and desha region – the noble region. It is so called because men of noble character appear there successively, and people all praise the land by that name. It is also called the Madhyadesha – the middle land, for it is in the center of a hundred myriads of countries. (source: The Discovery of India – Jawaharlal Nehru, p. 193-194)
Yet Chinese culture had some influence on India. The gabled roofs of houses on the western coast of India show a Chinese influence, as do the temples and houses in the Himalayan regions. Some Chinese influence is noted on Gupta coins. The use of a certain kind of silk (chinamsuka) in India, different kinds of fruits including pears (cinaraja-putra), peaches (cinani), and lichis, the technique of fishing in the backwaters, and the porcelain industry all owe something to Chinese influence. Indians also learned the art of papermaking from China.
India and China
It is a curious fact that Chinese culture, though so distinctive, all- pervasive and compulsive, could not come to India, or if it did come, it could not leave any lasting marks behind it.
Archaeologists and scholars tell us that Chinese ideas and ideals came to India with the Kushan Kings of the North, who were Tartars, but the influence that that dynasty has left on India is almost negligible. We are also told that there is influence of Chinese art on the Ajanta paintings. But that is only a theory, since there is nothing characteristically Chinese about these frescoes. The influence of India on China however is undeniable. It is not merely in religion that India influenced China, but in most subjects that go to make up national culture.
The Chinese, always proud of their civilization, looked upon the outside world with contempt. They called the tribes living to their North “Hun slaves,” and the tribes living to the North-West “barbarians,” while the Japanese were denominated by them “Dwarf Pirates.” But their attitude towards India was different. India was known to them by a number of names, not one of which was contemptuous. She was called Hsin Tu, the Kingdom of the Hindus, or Ti Yu, the Western Land; to Buddhists she was Fu Kuo, the Land of the Buddhas.
It is probable that there was contact between India and China even before the birth of Buddha; certain similarities of thought and belief between pre-Buddhist Indians and pre-Confucian Chinese go to strengthen that theory. According to Hindus, the world sprang from the union of Purusha and Prakriti, the Male and Female Principles; the ancient Chinese writers thought the same – the Purusha and Prakriti of Indians being called Yang and Yin in China. There is also the worship of mountains in both countries; what the Himalayas have been to Hindus that Mount Tai has been to the Celestials. I do not think that these are mere coincidences due to the similarity of all early beliefs. There was a good deal of action and reaction of early Asiatic civilizations upon each other of which a proper history has yet to be written.
With the rise of Buddhism we are, historically speaking, on firmer ground. It is said that Asoka’s missionaries had gone to China. There are however no records left of it. But we do know as a matter of historical fact that in 67 A.D., the Emperor Ming Ti received Kashyapamadanya from India, who bore with him presents of images and sculptures for the Chinese emperor. Since then the intercourse between the two countries continued uninterrupted till at least the eighth century. During that time it is estimated that between thirty to forty Indian scholars went to China, and some two hundred Chinese scholars came to India, who took back with them to their country Indian books, paintings, and statues.
The influence of India on China can be traced on Music, Architecture, Painting, Sculpture, Literature, Mythology, Philosophy and Science.
Influence of Hindu Music
We learn from Chinese writers that Indian music had displaced Chinese music in the seventh century in northern China; records of this music are said to be preserved in Japan. Although Chinese architecture is mainly wooden, still Indian architecture has succeeded in influencing it. There were certain temples built during the Tang Period in China which were the offspring of Indian and Chinese styles of architecture. Those temples are however in ruins now, and so they cannot be studied properly. But the Chinese pagoda fortunately still exists. It is called Chinese, though the country of its origin was Nepal. The Newars, a people living in the Valley of Nepal, evolved it by making certain alterations in the Hindu temple. Those alterations were: (1) They built the pagoda on a platform and not on the ground direct like the Hindu temple; (2) They tilted up the roof of their building, mainly because the rainfall in the country is very heavy. Mr. Ernest Havell is of opinion that the pagoda was a modification of the stupa, while Mr. Sylvain Levi thinks that it represents an Indian style of architecture which has now disappeared. When the pagoda went from Nepal to Tibet and from thence to China is not definitely known yet. The oldest pagoda in China is, I think, of the sixth century.
In painting, India influenced China considerably. From the East Chin dynasty to the Tang dynasty there was continuous intercourse between the two countries, and Indian paintings went to China in great numbers and influenced, if not actually displaced for a time Chinese painting in the North. This Indian School of Painting flourished in China till the rise to power of the Southern Sungs who favored the purely Chinese style of painting. I shall never forget the exquisite, ethereally delicate pictures painted on silk of this period which I saw at an exhibition at Messrs. Yamanaka’s art galleries in New York in 1923. The manager of the galleries on seeing that I was an Indian, approached me, and pointing at the pictures in front of us, remarked with his inimitable Japanese smile, “They are all Indian really!” Then there are the wall paintings of the Tun Huang Caves (the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas) which Sir Aurel Stein and others have recently excavated in Chinese Turkestan.
A Chinese writer tells us that before the introduction of Buddhism there was no sculpture in three dimensions in China. But most of the early Chinese Buddhist sculpture was destroyed by an Emperor who was anti-Buddhist. There are, however, the rock sculptures and reliefs at Lo Yang and Lung Men of that period still left intact which show the influence of Indian sculpture on them. There are also sculptures to be found at Yung Kwang which closely resemble the Indo-Greek sculptures of Gandhara.
The Sanskrit language and literature have influenced China to a certain extent, since the Buddhist scriptures had to be translated into Chinese. On account of the study of Sanskrit – which, by the way, is the language of the Mahayana Buddhism and not Pali as some people imagine – the Chinese were inspired to invent an alphabetical system. This alphabetical system which has now disappeared, was called Ba-lamen Shu or Brahminical writing. Sakuntala, the masterpiece of the great Indian dramatist Kalidasa, was translated into Chinese, and is said to have influenced the Chinese drama. In mythology, many Buddhist deities of India were adopted by the Chinese; for example, Kwan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, was the Indian Tara. It has been suggested that Lao Tze got his idea of Tao – the Way – from the Hindu Brahman, Universal Soul. It is likely that the Indian sciences of Astronomy and Medicine influenced the astronomical and medical sciences of the Chinese. There is very good scope for a competent scholar to make a full study of Indian influence on China and other Far-Eastern countries, and write a book on the subject.