ACROSS THE HIMALAYAN GAP
last twenty three centuries have seen a continuing cultural interflow
between the Western Paradise that is India and the Celestial Kingdom that is
China. The rustling breeze of Buddhist fragrance has awakened the mindscape
of both countries, endowing them with the web of thought, the harmony or
art, the magnificent colour of murals and sculptures, incarnating a new life
and sinking into the sensitivities of our peoples deep-reaching muscles of
mystery, draped in the intimacy of the mind. The first contacts were made by
Buddhist scholars from India who appeared in the Chinese capital in 217 BC
under the Qin dynasty. Contacts during the Qin dynasty are a fair
possibility as the Sanskrit word for Cathay is Cina, as such was the
dynastic name Qin heard by the Indians.
Voltaire (1694-1778), the unrivalled French writer and philosopher, was impressed by the "sublime ideas" of the Indians about the Supreme Being. His enthusiasm for Asian civilisation and Eastern wisdom was shared by Sir William Jones. Jones followed the standards set up by the French philosopher; and he read him assiduously. Voltaire admired the political organisation of China and her ethics based on Reason. He found in China a great civilisation which owned nothing to the Graeco-Roman or Christian tradition. The Chinese managed their affairs of state more rationally and without Christianity. The German philosopher Leibnitz too had established the Berlin Academy to open up interchange of civilisation between Europe and China. The more the Europeans investigated China the more they found India to be its roots, in fact India is the Greece of Asia, the birthplace of philosophical ideas with overwhelming influence on art and poetry.
The chinoiserie of the 18th century led to revealing the fabulous bonds of China with India. In their study of China, French scholars started to unravel Central Asia and India. Jean Pierre Abel-Remusat published a history of Khotan in 1820 and his French translation of the travels of Faxian (319 AD) through Central Asia, Afghanistan and India appeared posthumously in 1836. By his labour, it became evident that Chinese sources were fundamental to the understanding of Indian history. In fact, the Indian pronunciation of this first great Chinese pilgrim derives from Abel-Remusat's transcription, like that of his illustrious successor Xuanzang. The travels and biography of the latter were again translated by a French scholar, Stanislas Julien in 1853-58. The biography of Xuanzang after his return to China as summarised by Julien 132 years ago is still our main guide. Indian scholars rarely have access to this French work and are thus deprived of detailed knowledge of the academic achievements of Xuanzang after his return. Julien was again the first to point out that Sanskrit literature had been translated into Chinese on a gigantic scale for a thousand years. In his Sino-Sanskrit concordance of Buddhist works, published in 1849, he gave the Sanskrit titles of Chinese Sutras from a Chinese catalogue of 1306. Thus he injected a new dimension into Indic studies.
of Indian savants and sages, deities and divine beings, titles of works and
toponymns abound in Chinese chronicles, hagiographies, canonical texts and
other historical treatises. Complete Sanskrit texts of hymns are also extant
in Chinese transcriptions. These hymns have sunk their roots deep into the
lipping adoration of the Chinese. To decipher Sanskrit from them, Julien
wrote Methode pour dechiffrer et transcrire les noms sanscrits qui
se rencontrent dans les livers chinois in 1861. Even after the passing
of 130 years it remains our only guide, though in dire need of updating and
across the sands: Roman ladies of rank, draped in see-through muslin
cottons of India and in shining silks and brocades of China, were the eyeful
rage of Imperial Rome. Silk was imported from China, where its production
began as early as the New Stone Age (third millennium BC). The oracle bone
inscriptions of the Yin dynasty contain Chinese characters for mulberry,
silkworm, thread and woven fabric. The consort of the Yellow Emperor 2640 BC
made sericulture fashionable by herself cultivating mulberry trees, raising
worms and reeling silk. The Nihongi states that this fabulous fabric
was introduced in Japan around AD 300. The Roman empire at Rome and later at
Constantinople realised the potentialities of silk. Emperor Justinian had
two Iranian monks, who were living in China to smuggle silkworms to
Constantinople in the hollows of their bamboo canes in about AD 550. In the
19th century steeped in Classical antiquity, it was but natural that a
German geographer called the ancient way from Changan [Xian] to Rome: Seidenstrassen
or the Silk Route. This Eurocentric nomenclature emphasised the
commercial aspects of the route. After all, the Greek word serikos for
"silk" is derived from seres "Chinese", that is the
Chinese fabric. As children, we saw the Chinese cycling around the streets
of Lahore and peddling silk. China and silk were inter1inked in our minds.
However, Prof. Raghu Vira who was well acquainted with the glorious history
of China mentions that the Chinese were a symbol of the Confucian Classics,
great artists and architects, painters and sculptors of exquisite skills.
Buddhist icons in the flat and in the round, bearers of profound thought of
Buddhism, a vast segment of the world's cultural heritage, and a people who
had preserved thousands of Buddhist sutras whose Sanskrit originals had been
lost in India, the land of their origin. The Chinese paintings in our home
and the Shanghai and Taisho editions of the Chinese Tripitaka covering a
whole wall of the residence left a deep impression on my growing mind. In
later years when I took up the study of Central Asia, silk and sutras came
to mind again as two characteristics of the Chinese and of the Sutra Route.
the Chinese, Central Asia was the way to the Western World of India. Across
the vast stretches of desert, in the void of the self, they heard the echo
of "I am the Truth". Travelling and traveller became one, one with
the eternal. The water1ess deserts were the void of the self. The traveller
trod not with his feet, but with his heart on wings. Courage tore the terror
of the terrain, and despair turned to hope in the supreme quest of a beyond
without shores. The drop departed from its native home found a shell and
became a pearl. The desert and oasis became an embodiment of Buddhist
teaching, according to Takayasu Higuchi, "The desert symbolises hell
and the oasis paradise, or in the broader parameters of Buddhist philosophy
everything flows and nothing is permanent". Yijing speaks of the
hardships and perils that had to be braved to reach India: "No doubt,
it is great merit and fortune to visit the Western country (India) in search
of the Dharma but at the same time it is an extremely difficult and perilous
undertaking Many days have I passed without food, even without a drop of
water. I was always worried and no spirit was left in me If, however, a monk
happened to reach India after such perilous journey, he would find no
Chinese monastery there. There was no fixed place to settle down. We had to
move from place to place like a blade of grass swept by the wind." The
monk Xuankui, who could not come to India as he suffered from illness,
wrote: "My heart goes to the sacred land of Buddhist temples. I dream
to move in the land of the Buddha. Will that auspicious day ever come, when
with the help of a cup or bowl only, I shall be able to cross and reach
India? Shall I be able to witness the magnificent flow of Dharma in
the route has been named by the Europeans, it was not opened by them as a
communication system for silk. At the end of the second century BC, the Han
emperor Wu sern Zhang Qian to Xi-yu, the Western World. His return to
Changan in 126 BC was the opening of a regular road, as the Chinese realised
the importance of other cultures. Xenophobia and the concept of Barbarians
underwent change. Nomadic tribes traded silk with Central and Western Asia.
The main purpose of the journey of Zhang Qian was defence: to find the
wnereabouts of the Hun barbarians who had been a major menace to Han China.
The thorough-bred "heavenly horse" (tian ma) was imported
from Dawan to improve breed of horses during the Han dynasty. Zhang Qian was
amazed to see in Bactria staves or walking sticks made of bamboo of Qiong
and cloth of Shu, both from Sichuan. The Bactrians had purchased
them in India. This subsequently led the Chinese to the discovery of Yunnan.
An ancient trade route ran from Sichuan through Yunnan into North Eastern
India, thence to North Western India and then to Iranian lands. Silk-horse
barter was a feature of Western Han. The Han Emperor Wu twice despatched
troops under the command of General Li Guangli to obtain fine horses across
the Tianshan mountains from the West. The new breed reinforced the military
capability of China to such an extent as to eliminate the Huns and to expand
their power as far as Korea. The Imperial Mausoleum of Western Han in
Yangjinwan has thousands of clay figures of war horses. Kasyapa Matanga, the
first Indian teacher in China in the first century AD, stayed at the Baimasi
or White Horse Monastery. The word "white" can refer here to
the colour of the horse or the horse of the "white" people. The
ethnicon of Kucha was "white" and svetadvipa "white
land" refers to an area beyond North Western India. The white horse is
at the base of the modem economic miracle of Japan. At the end of the Second
World War, General MacArthur rode the sacred white horse of the Emperor of
Japan to seal the newly won victory, and offered the equivalent of Marshall
Aid to Japan. The Japanese responded: "No aid, only trade. We will work
hard and grow rich." The white horse became the heavenly horse that led
Japan to unprecedented economic heights.
Music, milk, paper, rice, fruits: In 138 BC Zhang Qian, the envoy of the Chinese Emperor, took back musical instruments and Mahatukhara melodies from India to the Chinese capital Changan. The son-in-law of the Emperor Wu wrote 28 new tunes . based on this melody which were played as military music. Along with Buddhism, the Tokharians of the route introduced milk to China. The Chinese ideograph pronounced lak in ancient times, which meant various kinds of fermented milk products, was a loan from Indo-European (Latin lactic). The peach and pear reached India in the reign of Kaniska and hence they were known as cinani .Paper had been manufactured out of silk in Han times, but with the introduction of Buddhism Indian cotton also became a component of paper, as is evident from the old lexicon entitled Gujin Ciku where the silk radical of the character zhi for silk is replaced by the cotton radical, after the invention by Cai Lun. Cotton cultivation had been introduced from India to China in the second century BC. The Japanese word uruchi is derived from the Sanskrit vrihi. It seems to have arrived via North Western India where Greek and Roman influences were dominant. Rice is oruza in Greek and Latin (oryza), both derivatives of vrihi. The knowledge of rice came to Greece from the expedition of Alexander and the mention of oruza by Theophrastus (c.320-300 BC) dates almost from the lifetime of Alexander who died in 323 BC. The Japanese is so close to the Greek form that its origin can be connected with a variant of vrihi that was prevalent in North Western India, from which the Greek and Japanese forms are derived. The peach and the apricot were introduced to Rome in the first century AD through Iran, via Armenia, Greece and Rome. In AD 647 the king of Gandhara in North Western India sent the "Buddha-land vegetable" to the Chinese court.
three Tathagatas of the past, present and future, in China and Japan are:
Dipankara, Sakyamuni, and Maitreya. Xuanzang localises the cult of Dipankara
the Tathagata of the past at Nagarahara (modern Jalalabad in Afghanistan).
His names, translated into Chinese by various pairs of characters meaning
"Constant Light", "Universal Light", "Blazing
Torch", show proximity to the Iranian light cult. The sitting posture
of Maitreya, with his feet hanging down the seat in European fashion, are a
feature of North Western India, where Iranians, Greeks, Romans, Scythians,
Kushans, and Tokharians jostled with the Indians.
continued political presence of the Achaemenians, Parthians, Seleucids,
Indo-Greeks, and Kushans had a far- reaching impact on the cultural hegemony
of North Western India. It rendered the osmosis of Iranian and
Hellenistic ideas into Buddhism. The king-cult or emperor-worship was
prevalent in Iran, Greece and Rome. The deification of kings was a solemn
act of legislation in Greece even before Alexander crossed over into Asia.
It was transplanted into Rome. Images of deified kings were installed in
temples in live physical dimensions or in heights of multiples thereof to
express greater loyalty. The loyalty of the provinces to Rome was gauged by
the veneration which they felt for the person of the Emperor, whom they were
prepared to treat as a god. The practice of offering divine honours to
Augustus began in the East soon after Actium and in the course of his reign
penetrated to all parts of the Empire.
The renzhongxiang have been a puzzle to Japanese, Chinese and European scholars (for instance, Yoshimura Rei, Roshana Hokai renzhongxiang no kenkyu, Bijutsu Kenkyu 203.125-39). They were personalities in statues. These were life-size sculptures, made to the breadth of the donor's finger (angula). There are several instances of them in the Buddhist world. The proportions of a Tibetan Buddha are those of the Prince of Shalu (Zhva.lu) or the image of an Avalokitesvara has the same size as Sontsengampo, the first emperor of Tibet. These portrait-statues of the royalty were an expression of sanctified power. The Sanskrit word pratima means a portrait-statue done to (prati) the measures (ma) of the donor. The Daibutsu, larger than life- size, were an extension of this principle: the colossal Maitreya statue at Dare' seen by Faxian, the two images at Bamiyan, the 27 metre high standing Maitreya at the Binglingsi caves are royal enterprises. They remind us of the colossi in the Graeco-Roman world. The colossus of Apollo astride the entrance of the harbour of Rhodes was the most celebrated in Greek antiquity, 120 feet high, made by Chares in 250 BC. Colossal statues of deities and emperors were erected all over the Roman empire to impress the might of Rome on the people. Zenodorus was summoned by Nero to Rome and there he made a statue 106 feet high to represent the emperor but dedicated to the Sun. In the eighth century, Rocana of Nara, symbolised imperium. Emperor Shomu ordered, in AD 743, the construction of the gigantic statue (daibutsu) of Rocana, 16 metres in height, at the Todaiji monastery, in his attempt to unify the nation in an awareness of its power, to consolidate the sovereignty of nation in a harmony of the emperor and his people on the deeper spiritual levels of a shared awareness: it was a "Grand National Temple". Portrait- statues or colossi in China and Japan go back to North Western Indian prototypes which were cognate to Roman concepts of imperial power expressed as cult images.
The portents of sweating, weeping, shaking, light-emitting images from the Jin (AD 265-420) to the Northern Qi and Northern Zhou (AD 550-81) dynasties are sensitive not to individual worshippers but to the body politic. Their forerunners were the state cults of Greece and Rome. The Roman historian Livy records sympathetic sweating while Hannibal was in Italy at a critical stage of the Second Punic War. Livy and St. Augustine cite that Apollo of Cumae lamented publicly when the Greeks were worsted by the Romans in three sucoessive wars of the second century BC. Just as the safety of ancient Troy depended on the statue of Pallas, the Buddhist images in China were also palladia. It is an indication that the Graeco-Romanised peoples of North Western India were active intermediaries not only in the trading of silk, but also in the transmission of the sutras. The role of the Graeco-Roman world in the conditioning and in the transferring of Buddhism across the Sutra Route, deserves a close study.
From Jade beauties to flying devis: The Chinese were fascinated by jade beauties and by the music and dances of the Central Asian peoples. The Zhou (1027.256 BC) got music of the Western Barbarians and played it on special occasions to vaunt their political might. The first three masters of Buddhist psalmody (bombai) in China were Kuchean, Scythian and Sogdian. In AD 384 Lu Guang brought music from Kucha as triumphal booty.
Mogao Caves at Dunhuang and the Yulin Caves have extensive representation of
flying goddesses some of whom hold musical instruments. Beginning with
Northern Wei (386-534) they came down to the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). They
emerge from the Pool of Seven Jewels in the Pure Land of Sukhavati. They
dwell in heaven and refrain from taking meat and wine, but collect the sweet
nectar of different flowers and scatter blossoms from the sky to make the
world fragrant. With no robes above the waist, they fly in the air in their
flowing scarves. The flying celestials at Dunhuang with long silk scarves
trailing out gave rise to the "Scarf Dance". Their hand and body
postures are strongly reminiscent of the Indian style of dancing.
In 568 Emperor Wu of the Northern Wei married a Turk princess of the A-she-na family. The princess brought in her train the musicians of Kucha. Since then we find the music of Kucha, Kashgar, Bukhara and Samarkand in Northern Zhou.
concupiscent statues of goddesses at Nau Bahar in Bactria established the
equation "ideal beauty = Buddhist image" in the East Iranian
world. Even when Buddhism had faded away, early Persian poetry continued to
cultivate abstract mental forms poignantly recalling ideas of the grace of
Buddhist statues. Ayyuqi writes of his beautiful heroine that "she
was... a Buddhist statue in a temple full of offerings". Further on, we
find the crescendo in stanzas 2138-42 where she is addressed as Bot (Buddhist
statue), then lo'bat (statuette), and finally as naubahar, the
Buddhist monastery which was well-known for its graceful statues in Iranian
literature upto the time of Yaqub in the 13th century. No wonder that the
metaphor of the Bot "Buddhist statue" is constant in early
Annals of the Sui and Tang dynasties record Iranian dances and musical
instruments. Prosperity flowed into the Tang capital Changan, an
international centre of politics, trade and culture, as it was the eastern
most terminus of the trans-national Silk Route. Chinese poets speak of
citizens of Changan enjOfing wine served by Barbarian women in the taverns.
Some of the finest murals at Dunhuang are of dancing goddesses in the joyous
tenderness of their vibrant movements. These dancing angels are Indian for
they wear no raiments above the waist. Dunhuang Caves show three types of
female dresses: the flowing drapery of Chinese ladies, the tight wear of
Central Asian beauties and the sensuous elegance of the bare bodies of
Indian belles who bid the onlooker to accompany them into worlds of luminous
In the reign of Kaniska bilateral relations entered a new phase in economic, political and cultural domains. Kaniska as the greatest of Kushan emperors symbolised his international status by the adoption of four titles: Devaputra or son of Heaven from China, Shaonana Shao or King of Kings from Persia, Kaisara or Caesar from Rome, and Maharaja of India, signifying the imperial dignity of the four superpowers of the time: China, Persia, Rome, and India. He played a major role in the dissemination of Buddhism to China. The policy of cultural internationalism enunciated by Asoka found its prime efflorescence in the reign of Kaniska. Xuanzang relates that Kaniska defeated the Chinese in Central Asia and Chinese princes were sent as hostages. Territories were allotted to them in Panjab which were known as Cina-bhukti, an area that Xuanzang visited in the seventh century. Now it is a village Chiniyari near Amritsar, and Chiniot from Cinakota. The Chinese princes introduced two new fruits to India: the peach and the pear. They came to be known respectively as cinani and cinarajaputra which means "Peach the Chinese Princess" and "Pear the Chinese Prince".
Yuechi rulers presented Sanskrit texts to the Chinese court in 2 BC. The Han
Emperor Ming dreamt of a golden person. On enquiry from his courtiers he
learnt that He was the Buddha. He sent ambassadors to the West (i.e. India)
to invite Buddhist teachers. They returned with Dharmaraksa and Kasyapa
Matanga. They arrived on white horses laden with scriptures and sacred
relics. The first Buddhist monastery was built for them on Imperial orders
and it came to be known as "The White Horse Monastery" (Baimasi).
They wrote "The Sutra of 42 Sections" to provide a guide to
the ideas of Buddhism and to the conduct of monks. This monastery exists to
this day and the cenotaphs of the two Indian teachers can be seen in its
translation of the first Sanskrit sutra into Chinese is by An Shigao in the
middle of the second century. He was a Parthian prince turned Buddhist monk.
He had abdicated the throne in favour of his uncle to take up the robes. A
number of his translations have survived. He founded a school of translation
of Sanskrit texts into Chinese, which was hailed by the Chinese literati as
"unrivalled". Among his associates were bhiksus from
Sogdiana (corresponding to modern Samarkand and Bokhara) known as Uttalapatha
or "Northern India" in Chinese historical works. The name of
Kang Seng-hui from Sogdiana stands out as a master of Sino-Indian literature
and as one who preached in South China in a systematic manner. He even
translated a short Ramayana into Chinese.
born of an Indian father and a Kuchean princess, educated in Kashmir and
Kashgar, was a scholar of great reputation. He reached Changan in 401 and
worked till AD412. He translated 106 works into Chinese. Most outstanding is
his Chinese translation of the Sanskrit text entitled Saddharma-pundarika-sutra,
known for short as the "Lotus Sutra". He is one of the most
outstanding stylists of Chinese prose. He is the only Indian whose Chinese
diction has been hailed over the centuries by Chinese men of letters.
Lotus Sutra is at once a great work of literature and a profound religious
classic. containing the core and culmination of Buddha's ageless teaching of
compassion and the way to achieve liberation from suffering. For more than
fourteen hundred years. it has been a rich source of themes for art.
Generations of monks, nuns, and lay believers confident in the sutra's
promise of spiritual reward for those who revere it and pay it homage have
made opulent transcriptions of it, fashioned lavishly ornamented caskets for
its preservation, and commissioned votive art depicting its narratives and
religious teachings. The range of artistic expression inspired by the Lotus
Sutra is astonishing.
path of sutras: This
route is the first and foremost pathway of texts and translators, of sutras
and schools of thought. of the triumphs of Buddhism as the mental and
material culture of East Asia. The development of Buddhist temple
architecture, new stylistic features in Chinese that arose from translations
of Buddhist texts. the Buddhist plurality of inhabited worlds as opposed to
the Chinese earth-centred world view. and various elements of cultural
transmission, opened up Sinocentrism to wider horizons. The several people
inhabiting the route participated in the cultural exchange for a millennium.
The earliest and most celebrated of the masters was the Parthian An Shigao
who organised the first translation team. after his arrival at Luoyang in AD
148. An Xuan (AD 181). Tian-ti (AD 254), An Faxian, An Fajin (AD 281-306)
are other Parthians who translated Sanskrit works. From Gandhara came
Jnanagupta who translated the Kannon chapter of the Lotus Sutra (AD 561-78).
or Kabul. the capital of modern Afghanistan, sent the largest number of
scholars whose Chinese translations are found in the Tripitaka. In AD
383 Gautama Sanghadeva arrived at Lu(y.fang. Vimalaksa was another teacher
of Kabul who was a great master of Vinaya. He was a teacher of
Kumarajiva at Kucha and he came to China in AD 406. Sanghabhuti from Kabul
translated three works in AD 381-85. In AD 404 Punyatara of Kabul translated
the Sarvastivada-vinaya, together with Kumarajiva. Buddhayasas (AD
403-13). Dharmayasas (AD 407-15), Buddhajiva (AD 423). Dharmamitra (AD 424),
Gunavarman (AD 431), Buddhatrata, Buddhapala (AD 676). Prajna (785-810) were
from Kabul who took part in the translation of vinaya, vaipulya and
other texts. The Chinese monk Zhiyan went to Kabul to obtain Sanskrit texts.
He was a companion of Faxian on his journey to India. The Brahmana Wutao of
Lampaka (Lamghan in Afghanistan) translated a Dharani of Amoghapasa
in AD 700.
Udyana or Swat, Vimoksasena came to China in AD 541. He was a descendant of
the Sakya family of Kapilavastu. Narendrayasas (AD 557-68). Vinitaruci (AD
582), Meghasikha (AD 705). Danapala (AD 980) were from Udyana. Danapala
translated 111 works, which are found in the Tripitaka.
(AD 384) and Mitrasanta (AD 705) were monks from Tukhara. Yijing saw a
Tukhara monastery in Eastern India, which had "been built long before
by the people of that country for the accommodation of the Buddhist monks
from Tukhara. The monastery was very rich and had an abundant supply of all
necessities and comforts of life. No other monastery could surpass it in
Yueh-chih were the earliest non-lndian translators of Sanskrit texts into
Chinese. Lokaksema came to Luoyang in AD 164 and worked till AD 186, and has
left 12 including the longer Sukhvanti-vyuha (Nj)25) and Aksobhyavyuha
(Nj 28). He is the third translator of sutras after kasyapa Matanga and
Dharmaraksa. He was followed by a Yueh-chih householder Qian in AD 220 who
taught the heir apparent of the Wu dynasty. The Tripitaka has 49
works by h9im, which include the Prajanaparamita of 10, 000 verses,
the longer Sukhavanti-vyuha and Vimalakirti-nirdesa. The greatest of
Yueh-chih master is Dharmaraksa whose family had lived at Dunhuang.
He was born around AD 230 at Dunhuang. He came tq Luoyang in AD 266. He
translated several sutras of the Vaipulya class for the first time.
Ninety of his work: survive in the Tripitaka. He was called e "Bodh!sattva
from Dunhuang", and he contributed the most in the conversion of China
to Buddhism, and made Changan the foremost Buddhist centre in China. A
tireless itinerant preacher and ingenious translator, he integrated Buddhism
in the intellectual Id spiritual life and gave China its classics of
Mahayana. He translated the Lotus Sutra for the first time, which later
became e most venerated and fundamental scripture. He got Sanskrit
manuscripts from Kashmir, Kucha, Khotan. His collaborators Included two
Kucheans, a Yueh-chih, a Khotanese, a Sogdian, and Indians. Various
nationalities on the Sutra Route climaxed his person. In AD 373 a Yueh-chih
householder Shih-lun translated four works.
first Kuchean monk who translated sutras at the White Horse Monastery in AD
257 was Van. In AD 307-12 came Srimitra who translated the Mahamayuri. Towering
over all is Kumarajiva whose translation of the Lotus Sutra is a marvel of
transcreation. He translated a number of Prajnaparamitas. Sanskrit
manuscripts used to come to China from Kucha, for instance, the Avaivartika-cakra-sutra
was brought to Dharmaraksa by a Kuchean envoy. Sujiva, a member of the
royal house of Kucha, came to China in AD 568 and introduced the seven keys
of Indian music: sadharita, kaisika, sadja-grama, sadja, sadava, pancama,
Sogdian Kang Zhu translated a sut/a at Luoyang in AD 187. In the next
decade, came another compatriot Kang Meng-Xiang who translated at Luoyang
six works, including a life of the Buddha, in AD 194-99. Half-a-century
later Kang Sengkai Sahnavarman translated some works at the White Horse
Monastery in Luoyang in AD 252. Kang Seng-hui the eldest son of the prime
minister of Sogdiana, came to the capital of the Wu kingdom in AD 241. In
251 he began his work of translation. In AD 396 Kang Daohe translated a sutra,
which is lost. Yijing gives a bio-sketch of Sanghavarman of Sogdiana who
came to China around AD 656. He was ordered by Emperor Gaozong to go on a
pilgrimage to India. In Chinese texts Sogdiana is a part of northern India,
Uttarapatha in Sanskrit, or its Chinese translation "Northern
India" which extended from North-western India upto Sogdiana. This
usage was common in India and China. Northern India in Chinese texts refers
to north-west India, and regions beyond, in fact to the dominions of the
erstwhile Kushan empire or Kusansahr.
the Sogdians and their language had disappeared, European expeditions have
discovered fragments of Sogdian taxts near Dunhuang and in the Turfan
depression. They reflect Chinese Buddhist literature from which they are
predominantly translated. Majority of the translations date from the Tang
dynasty's dimination in Central Asia (about AD 650-750).
speaks of the nobility and purity of the monk Changmin in the following
words: "He sacrificed his life for the good of others. He was pure like
a mirror, he was priceless like the jade of Khotan". Khotan was famed
in China for its jade and sutras. In the eloquent panegyric of Visa
Samgrama (P 2787) Khotan is called Ratna-janapada, "the Land of
Jade". Zhu Shixing, the first Chinese to leave his country in quest of sutras,
chose to journey to Khotan, famous for Sanskrit originals. He undertook
this arduous journey in AD 260 and succeeded in locating the Sanskrit text
of the Prajnaparamita in 25,000 verses. He had a copy made at Khotan.
In AD 282 he sent his Khotanese disciple Punyadhana together with the
Sanskrit manuscript to China. written on birch bark leaves it was preserved
in a Chinese monastery till the sixth century. In AD 291 the Khotanese
Moksala and the Indian layman Zhu Shulan started its translation. It was
given the title Fangguangjing "the sutra of the emission of
light". True to its name, it was to playa dominant role in the
formation of Buddhist thought in East Asia. In AD 296 the Khotanese
Gitamitra arrived at Changan with a copy of the same scripture. In AD 401
the Chinese pilgrim Faxian spent three months at Khotan and speaks of the
flourishing community of Mahayana. In the beginning of the fifth century Zhi
Faling found the text of a shorter recension of the Avatamsaka sutras at
Khotan. It was translated by Buddhabhadra in AD 422. In AD 689-91, the
Khotanese monk Devaprajna translated six works. Siksananada of Khotan
rendered several works, of which 16 are found in the Tripitaka. Reigning
Empress Wu (684-705) sent a special envoy to khotan for the Sanskrit text of
the Avatamsaka and organised its translation along with Siksananda
for five years (AD 695-99). In AD 721 Zhiyan, a son of the king of Khotan,
translated four works. Khotan was in the forefront of the transmission of
Sanskrit sutras to China. A bilingual Sanskrit-Khotanese conversation roll,
the only one of its kind, was discovered at Dunhuang. The conversation has
the following sentences:
"Have you equipment for the road or not.
I do not like equipment for the road. A horse or two and I shall go.
Have you books or not?
I have some.
What is the book?
Abhidharma, Vinaya, Vajrayana.
these what book (i.e. title) is there?"
conversational piece is a clear indication of the frequent transmission of
Sanskrit sutras from Khotan to China.
The standard Chinese expression for travelling monks means that they went primarily "to obtain the doctrine." The oldest Sanskrit manuscript of the Lotus Sutra in existence today, the so-called Kashgar manuscript, is a manuscript from Khotan and it has a colophon in the Khotanese language giving the names of donors and benefactor relations. History lives. We also know that Hyecho, a famous Korean monk of Siils returned from India via Anxi near Dunhuang in AD 723.
Khotan established its hegemony over the Southern Central Asian states in the first century AD by breaking the power of Yarkand (Sha che) and extended its authority upto Kashgar. Yarkand is mentioned in the Kasika commentary on the Sanskrit grammar of Panini. It had brilliant academic traditions. Kumarajiva was initiated into Mahayana by Suryasoma, the rOfal prince of Yarkand. Kumarajiva confessed that when he studied the Hinayana texts he considered stone to be wonderful and had not recognised gold.
the great master of "Fundamental Non-being" (ben-wu) was fully
conversant with the concepts of emptiness versus phenomenal existence, or
the relation between "Absolute Truth" and "Worldly
Truth" as expounded in the Prajnaparamita. It reminds us of the
convergence of the spiritual and the secular, or be!ler their symbiosis, in
the ideas of President Ikeda-san. They are the live hues of sensibility of
the dawning century of an open society. Dao'an used to explain the entire
text of Moksala's Fangguangjing twice a year at Changan. To enable
him to complete and correct his understanding on many points, he obtained a
Sanskrit original of the Astasahasrika from Turfan in AD 382. Turfan
introduced systematisation of Abhidharma, till then unknown in China. The
king of Turfan sent his royal priest and Abhidharma-expert Kumarabodhi to
Changan in AD 382, as a member of a tribute mission to the Chinese court.
The pilgrim Yijing mentions two monks of Turfan, Pi'an and Zhi'an who
boarded a ship to India. They fell sick on board and died.
has many grottoes that rival Ajanta in their synthesis of Indian suppleness,
Hellenic elegance and Chinese grace. The Yungang caves were excavated
between AD 414 and AD 520 under Wei rulers. Fiftythree caves remain till
this day and contain over fiftyone thousand statues. It is one of the
largest groups of stone cave temples in China. After the first Wei capital
Datong was transferred to Luoyang in 494 work commenced on Longmen.
Sculpting went on for 400 years till the Tang dynasty. It has around
1,00,000 statues; the highest is 55 feet high. It is a treasure-house of
China's heritage of sculpture.
the ancient Han frontiers, in the vast deserts of Inner Asia lies the sandy
city of Dunhuang, the "Blazing Beacon". In this tiny oasis are the
sacred grottos of Qian FoDong or "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas"
(also named "Mogao caves"), carved into a rocky cliff rising aside
a meandering rivulet. The walls of these caves are covered by murals of
surpassing beauty, with the largest array of authentic paintings extending
over several dynasties: a task of sixteen centuries. It has ever been the
sacred oasis, one of the glories of Buddhism. A stone tablet of the Tang
dynasty states that the first "Cave of Unequalled Height" was
constructed by an Indian monk in AD 366, increasing upto 460 caves as faith
continued to inspire radiant visions.
Sutra Route is an age-old witness to the mingling of many ancient cultures
of the Chinese, Iranians, Tokharians, Graeco-Romans, and Indians. The
outstanding achievements of mankind are strewn along this path which
culminates at Dunhuang, with its golden sands and blue skies. The first town
was established here as a midway stop of the travel route in the first
century BC at the time of the Han dynasty. It has seen Zhang Qian the Han
ambassador to befriend the tribes of the West, Xuanzang the prince of
pilgrims to procure sutras, Marco Polo on his return to Europe, and others,
too many to specify. Ancient ballads tell the sad and lonesome life of
Chinese soldiers on these remote borders of the west. The prosperity and
stability of the country under Emperor Wu (AD 265-90) favoured the
development of international trade and cultural exchange with improved
agricultural techniques and irrigation. In the middle of the third century
it became a main commercial centre with a mixed Chinese and Barbarian
the grottoes of Dunhuang Pelliot went through 16,000 manuscripts crouched in
a tiny space, working by the light of a candle or in his own words: "a
philologist travelling at the speed of a racing car." He selected all
the rolls that were of any importance for their contents or for their
antiquity authenticated by dated colophons. The Pelliot Collection at Paris
is a repository of historical data that will be under investigation for
another century. Local legends in Central Asia claim that three hundred
towns lie buried beneath the desert with great treasures protected by
demons. The number 300 reminds of the Tri-ratna of Buddhism. The
Buddhist past of Serindia obliterated by the onslaught of Islam and
abandoned to the all-devouring sand is being brought to light by a devoted
band of scholars in Paris. The hand-written notes of Pelliot have been
translated into Chinese at the Dunhuang Institute, such is their importance.
The photographs of the chapel interiors taken by the Pelliot Mission have
formed the principal basis for the international study of Dunhuang art.
Dunhuang was the occidental bastion of Chira, the gateway to the
Indo-Iranian and Roman worlds. It was the sentinel of a trail whence China
gave the pear and peach to India, orange, rose, peony and chrysanthemum to
the West. The first ever moveable printing types were found by Pelliot at
Dunhuang and are dated by him to about 1300. This discovery is so momentous
that even Webster's New international Dictionary records it under the
entry "Type". Paul Pelliot's Notes on Marco Polo are a mine of
information on historcial geography and on the etymologies of place-names
which reveal lost dimensions. For instance Bokhara, with its modern Turkman
form Buhara, is derived from Sanskrit vihara through its Sogdian,
Uighur and Mongolian form buqar, a city whose skyline was dominated
by the spires of Buddhist monasteries and hence this name. The city retained
its sanctity and importance even after Islamisation. It was here that the
first of the seven Sunni Imams, known as Imam Bukhari (810-70), was born in
the 9th century. His collection of 7,000 hadith constitute the Sahih
or true compilation which is regarded as the most authentic book of
traditions by the Sunnis, held sacred only next to the Quran. What a
dissembling coincidence that the Imam of Delhi is Imam Bukhari.
musical instruments are played to which heavenly angels or apsaras dance in Sukhavati
the resplendent Western Paradise of Amitabha. The flying goddesses from
cave 321, which belongs to the golden age of Early Tang (618-741 AD) are
unique. The sensuous tenderness of the body, the delicate flowing lines of
drapery, the joyous colours, garments vibrating with the rhythm of space:
mirror the vigorous culture of Serindia. Bearing in their hands trays of
fruits and flowers, arrested as it were in their stately flight for a
moment, they seem to bid the onlooker to accompany them into worlds of
was carried to China by Bodhidharma, the youngest son of a king of
Kanchi and a follower of Prajnatara's eminent line. Palm leaves inscribed by
Prajnatara have survived in Japan. Bodhidharma reached China early in the
sixth century after long peregrinations. He had an audience with the noted
patron of Buddhism, Emperor Liang Wu (502-550) of South China. He pointed
out to the Emperor the futility of establishing monasteries, copying sutms
and supporting monks. The historicity of Bodhidharma has been
controversial. The first mention of Kanchi is in "The Record of the
Transmission of the Lamp" compiled in 1002. The Chan tradition
says that their doctrine was transmitted by an uninterrupted succession of
twenty-eight Indian patriarchs: from Mahakasyapa the disciple of the Buddha,
to Bodhidharma who brought it to China. Bodhidharma handed down the doctrine
to Huike (traditional dates: 487-593), and from him through four other
Chinese patriarchs to Huineng (639-716). Bodhidharma finally transmitted the
"Seal of 'v1ind" to Huike, who had cut off his arm to express the
deep sincerity of his resolve. In the Kozanji ink scroll of the Six
patriarchs of the Bodhidharma lineage, Huike kneels down in front of him.
Blood gushes forth from the stump of his left arm, and the knife and the
cut-off arm lie next to him on the ground. According to late accounts
Bodhidharma crossed the Yangtze on a reed, and spent nine years in
meditation in front of a rock wall at the Shao-Iin monastery.
had said that Daofu had acquired the skin, the nun Zongchi the flesh, and
Taoyu the bone, and that Huike had penetrated into the marrow (the essence)
of the doctrine. Like this statement, mist surrounds the evolution of the
legend of Bodhidharma, which is as controversial as he himself must have
been in life. The tradition is consistent in pointing out that he was a
prince of Kanchi. His association with Tamil-speaking Kanchi is confirmed by
the Japanese form of his name: Bodai- daruma, shortened to Daruma. The Tamil
form is Bodhi-daruma; a modern painting at the Kanchi Seminar on Dhyana and
Tantric Buddhism held on 10-15 March 1986, had the caption Bodi-daruma. The
Japanese name Daruma goes back to an ancient popular name of the master.
moreover, the tradition that the doctrine was transmitted from Mahakasyapa
to Bodhidharma appears to have a basis. It seems that the modern
Kacchapesvara Temple at Kanchi was a Buddhist sanctum in ancient times
dedicated to Mahakasyapa the first patriarch of Dhayana Buddhism. To
this day there are some Buddhist sculptures in this temple. The tradition of
twenty-eight patriarchs of Dhyana Buddhism can be of Indian origin.
are three basic scriptures of Chan (i) Lankavatara-sutm, (ii) Vajmcchedika
Pmjna-paramita and (iii) the Hymn to nilakantha Lokesvara. Bodhidharma
took Gunabhadra's translation of the Lankavatara-sutra as its
scripture, as it was the only available Chinese version at the time.
The "Record of the Succession of the Dharma-treasure", a history of Chan Buddhism discovered from the Dunhuang Caves, says that the first patriarch of the Lankavatara as representing the Dharma-treasure was Bodhidharma who revealed the inner meaning of the Sutra. The c011nection of Bodhidharma and Lankavatara is thus intimate. Lankavatam can refer to Kanchi. It is stated in the life of Xuanzang by Huili: "Kanchipura is the sea-port of South India for Ceylon. the voyage to which takes three
Further, subtle nuances point to Kanchi as the native place of Bodhidharma
and as the home of Chan. The tea ceremony ends with the banging of
the lid on to the teapot. When I enquired of my Japanese host, Prof. Chikyo
Yamamoto, he said: "Master Bodhidharma used to slam the lid in times of
yore". How Indian! I was sure once again: It must go back to
adepts reject the written word and claim an unwritten doctrine,
transmitted from mind to mind, where the heart of man directly sees into its
own nature. Yet, when Huineng was invested as the Sixth Patriarch, the
corridor was painted with scenes from the Lankavatara, besides the
paintings of the Five Patriarchs Transmitting the Robe of Bodhidharma and
the Dharma as a testimony for future generations. Bodhidharma had sanctioned
the lineage of five Chinese Patriarchs of Chan in a gatha that
ran: "one flower with five petals is unfolded". In its earlier
phases Chan Buddhists were mainly a kind of Lankavatara sect.
The teachings of pratyatma-gati-gocara of the Lankavatara provide
a philosophical basis for the transcendental intuition of Chan. In
the Lankavatara, Buddha tells Mahamati to attain a state of inner
realisation (pratyatma-gocara) and when one has pratyatma- jnana one
is enlightened. The Lankavatara is unique in emphasising that life is
experiencing truth: seeing must be living and living seeing. The Lankavatara
certifies the existence of the Buddha-mind in each of us and provides Chan
in doctrinal base. The Lankavatara forbids meat-eating and
recounts eight reasons for abstaining from meat. To take the lives of
animals and eat their flesh is like eating our own. Eating meat is spiritual
pollution. To this day, food in Chan monasteries is vegetarian. While Chan
stands on its own, the Lankavatara confirms it and is also its
Lankavatara was highly philosophical and abstruse to the Chinese.
During the time of the Sixth Patriarch Huineng the emphasis shifted to the Vajracchedika
which was more understandable than the recondite Lankavatara. Besides
meditation, painting was the other forte of Chan. Prajnaparamita lent
itself admirably to the tenor of Chan painting. The Chan masters
of Mid Tang were distinguished by their non-conformist techniques of
painting. Wang Mo "Ink Wang" painted landscapes starting from
configurations of ink splashes, the manner of Chan painters who
delighted in expressing their sincerity in trans-logical forms like a
"one stroke" Bodhidharma (Jap. Ippitsu Daruma by Shokai Reiken
1315-1396). The dictum rupam eva sunyata sunyata eva rupam of the Vajracchedika
inspired Chan art which vanished into nowhere, with its diaphanous water
colours and empty spaces interfering with the coherence of thought and form.
A painting shimmered in meditation. Chan was deeply steeped in the Prajnaparamita
philosophy of sunyata.
Mahaprajnaparamita-sutra is called "the king of sutras which
protect the state". surras have been copied, chanted and
expounded with the belief that the merit of these acts would stop calamities
in the state and attain peace and security.
fifth chapter of the renwangjing is entitled Huguo (Japanese Gokoku)
"protecting the country". Tathagata says: "You, sixteen
Great Kings, must practise the Rite of Protecting the Country, and you must
keep, read and explain this surra. If in future ages the kings of
countries wish to protect their kingdoms and to protect their own bodies,
they too must act in the same way."
Tang dynasty established an extensive empire and under it Buddhism reached
its apogee by the induction of Vajrayana texts. The grandeur of their
ritual ensured unprecedented popularity in the imperial household, in the
great families of the realm as well as among common people. surras were
used for "the benefit and advantage of the state". The logistic
problems involved in distant military campaigns in Central Asia were
resolved with success through Vajrayana rituals. It would suffice to cite
the strategic military role of Vajrayana rituals of Vaisravana who was
venerated in China and Japan as a god of war. T1248 by Amoghavajra gives a dharani
entitled Oharani of Oevaraja of the north. Vaisravana watches
over armies for protecting the Oharma: If one pronounces this dharani
before an image of Vaisravana which represents the Devaraja under his
terrible aspect, he sends his third son Nada to the side of those who direct
their troops for the protection of their country; or still, if one covers
the armour plate of his image with the powder cf gold and offers him
perfumes, flowers and other offerings while pronouncing the dharani a
hundred thousand times, he himself takes the command of his celestial troops
and goes to support his devotee, to whom he assures victory; or furthermore,
if one recites non-stop day and night he delegates his heir-prince Dokken at
the head of celestial troops; or still one can suspend his image on a staff
and carry it as a banner fifteen paces in front of the army which will
render the enemy ineffectual. The Vaisravana-kalpa (T 1247) by
Amoghavajra, specifically consecrated to Nada, adds in the colophon that
during the "grand troubles of the Five Kingdoms", one tried in
vain during eight months all sorts of other ceremonies. Only the rite
prescribed in this text proved efficacious for stabilising the country. It
refers to the troubles which burst forth in Central Asia at the end of the
reign of Emperor Xuanzong during the Tang dynasty and by the "Five
Kingdoms" are intended the five foreign peoples who besieged the city
of Anxi. The incident is reported in details in the "Ritual of
Vaisravana" by Amoghavajra (T 1249). In AD 742, the Five Kingdoms
of Seiban= Tibet, Daiseki=Arabs, Koko=Sogdians, and others besieged the city
of Anxi. On the second day of the second moon, a report was presented to the
Emperor demanding relief
troops. The Emperor said to master Yijing: "Master! the city of Anxi is
besieged by Arabs and others and it requires troops. But as it is situated
at a distance of 12,000 leagues, it will take eight months for my troops to
arrive the-re, and I do not know what to do". Yijing replied: "Why
does Your Majesty not invoke to your aid the Devaraja of the north,
Vaisravana with his celestial troops". "How can I invoke
him?" "By the intervention of the Serindian monk Amoghavajra".
The Emperor sent word to this monk who invited him to provide an
incense-burner and follow him to the monastery. The monk pronounced a dharani
from the Renwangjing (tr. by Amoghavajra) 27 times. The Emperor
then saw hundreds of soldiers in arms and the monk explained to him that
they were the troops of Dokken the second son of Vaisravana, who had come to
take charge before departure for Anxi. In the fourth month he received a
report from Anxi, declaring that, on the very day of the ceremony they saw
appearing in the north- east of the city, the envelopings of an obscure
haze, of giants dressed in armour plates of gold. They heard an uproar of
drums and of horns, and experienced a violent trembling of the earth. The
troops of the Five Kingdoms, frightened, retired to their camps, where rats
of gold gnawed the strings of their bows and of their traps. A voice in the
sky enjoined to spare the old and the feeble, who could not flee away. Then
Vaisravana manifested himself in person on the northern gate of the city.
They drew his image which was appended to the report addressed to
first Tang Emperor Gaozu (AD 618-627) received from Fu Yi his seventh
memorial in AD 626 requesting a ban on Buddhism. His Councillor Peiji
reminded him: "0 Your Majesty! formerly when you raised the righteous
armies, you promised before the Three Jewels that you would open the doors
of the profound school (Buddhism) if you were enthroned. Now, the world has
come under your benevolent administration and you possess the wealth of the
four seas. If you want to accept the words of [Fu] Yi, it will affect your
past virtues and foster what is evil in you." Thus, profundity of
Buddhism lay embedded into the very foundations of the Tang state. A natural
consequence was the quest for Tantric texts in India and elsewhere, their
translation into Chinese and the efficacious utilisation of their ritual. It
led to the progressive development and continuous spread of Tantras in
China, spurred on by periodic Chinese reverses in Central Asia.
AD 629, or the first month of the third reignal year of Emperor Taizong (AD
627-649), an Imperial edict ordered Buddhist monks to recite the Renwangjing
in the national capital on the 27th of every month to pray for the
welfare of the nation. The government undertook to supply all the materials
for the ceremonies.
manuscripts and scholars are allies in China. In the beginning of the
seventh century after a military expedition to Champa, the Chinese army
returned with a rich booty of 1,350 Buddhist manuscripts among other things.
They were all of Indian origin.
the Tang dynasty Indian astronomers served on the Imperial Board for the
purpose. Three Indian astronomical schools of Gautama, Kasyapa and Kumara
were known at Changan in the seventh century. More accurate calendars were
prepared anew by Indian astronomers. Sanskrit mathematical works were
translated into Chinese which are lost.
the seventh and eighth centuries, scientific works were known as "Brahmana
books" in China. Books with the prefix "Brahmana" dealt with
astronomy, calendrical science and mathematics. Unfortunately, since all
were subsequently lost, one cannot now estimate what they had contributed.
It is certain, however, that during these two centuries Brahmana scholars
were employed in the Astronomical Bureau at the Chinese capital. Kasyapa
Xiaowei, who was there shortly after AD 650, was occupied with the
improvement of the calendar, as were most of his later Indian successors.
The greatest of them was Gautama Siddha who became President of the Board.
It seems that these brahmanas brought an early form of trigonometry, a
technique which was then developing in their country.
Though most of their writings failed to survive, something more should be said here of these Indian astronomers and calendar-experts of the Sui and Tang. The story begins with the books of Brahmana astronomy such as the Polomen tianwenjing, mentioned in the Sui Shu bibliography, but long lost. These must have been circulating about AD 600. During the following two centuries we meet with the names of a number of Brahmana astronomers resident at the Chinese capital.
first was Gautama Lo, who produced two calendar systems in AD 697 and AD
698, but the greatest was Gautama Siddha who compiled the Kaiyuan
Zhanjing about AD 729, in which a zero symbol and other innovations
appeared. It is a work of great importance often mentioned. In any case the
paradox remains that we owe to the Brahmana Gautama Siddha the greatest
collection of ancient and mediaeval Chinese astronomical fragments.
masters, Subhakara, Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra, arrived in China and
translated the rnajor texts of their school into Chinese during the reign of
Emperor Xuanzong. Hence it is important to evaluate the varied dimensions of
his glorious rule.
a poet, the Emperor welcomed poets like Li Bo (701-762), and Du Fu
(712-770). Existing forms of poetry were brought to the highest perfection
in the period. The Tang dynasty was to be most famous for its poetry.
"Poets and painters contributed to the elegance of his magnificent
court ceremonial." The Tang lyric poetry was inspired by the cosmic
reverie of Taoism and the universal impermanence of earthly things, evoked
by Buddhism. It is very apparent in the poems of Li Bo. A clear prose style
of the essayists developed. "New forms of sentences make their
appearance in prose writing, with new pictures and similes brought from
India through the medium of Buddhist translations."
the domain of painting lay the principal achievement of Tang. The six
fundamental laws of painting laid down by painter Xiehe were drawn from the
Indian sadanga canons. Central Asian monks were continually pouring
into China as decorators of Buddhist temples. The famous Tang painter Wu
Daozi was strongly influenced by Central Asian techniques. As a pious
Buddhist he painted pictures for temples. In such an environment the mandalas
must have been welcome as new visual types of a complex and hence
advanced idiom in Buddhist painting. Sculptures in stone and bronze,
excellent fabrics, finest lacquer, high quality porcelain had the active
encouragement of the Emperor.
administration was strong, and schools were established in every village.
Fond of music the Emperor founded a Music School in 714 to train musicians
in the fashionable foreign-influenced music. The Emperor selected an elite
of 300 best musicians and trained them personally in the Agreeable Spring
Court of the Imperial Pear Garden. The Emperor is honoured as the patron
saint of the theatre. The members of the Left Jiaofang school were dan~ers,
those of the Right were singers. The Buddhist scenes of song and dance at
Dunhuang evoke memories of foreign dancers who are bare on the upper portion
of the body: "Women ceased to veil themselves as of old."
A few hundred
Indian teachers went to China from the first to the twelfth century. They
have bequeathed a legacy of about 3,000 works translated from Sanskrit into
Chinese. We may mention a couple of them: Gunavarman a prince of Kashmir who
reached Nanjing in AD 431; Buddhabhadra, born at Nagarahara, claimed direct
descent from Amrtodana, the uncle of Lord Buddha. Nagarahara is modern
Jalalabad. He died in China in AD 429. Bodhiruci was from south India. A
Chinese envoy came to the Chalukya court in AD 692 to invite Bodhiruci. He
reached China in AD 693 by sea and translated Sanskrit works. One of the
last outstanding Indian teachers in China was Dharmadeva of Nalanda. He was
received by the Chinese Emperor in AD 973.
Chinese pilgrims to India like Faxian, Xuanzang, Wang Xuanze, Yijing, and
others have bequeathed historic records which are invaluable for the
understanding of the cultural and political history of India. Yijing has
left short bio-sketches of 60 eminent Chinese monks who visited India. In
964, three hundred Chinese monks started for India, to pay Imperial homage
to the holy places. They set up five Chinese inscriptions at Bodhgaya. One
of the inscriptions ends: "I now make use of the eulogy of the
marvellous excellence of the three bodies and the sculptures that I have
executed of the extraordinary acts of the Thousand Buddhas, in order to
secure the prosperity of the glorious sovereign of my country and to offer
to him for many years a holy longevity." Edouard Chavannes brought to
light these five Chinese inscriptions at Bodhgaya, the only ones in India.
They were erected in the 10th and 11th centuries to pay imperial homage of
China to the holy places of India in moving language. Unswallowed by
devastating centuries, they are with us still: alas! cenotaphs to the
splendid creativity of a millennium smothered by fundamentalism. Chavannes
translated into French the lives and voyages of over sixty Chinese pilgrims
to India written by Yijing. His translation of the voyage of Songyun to
Udyana and Gandhara (518-22) and of the itinerary of Wukong (751-90) are
primary sources for Indian history. For wider dissemination they deserve to
be translated into English. The four volumes of his Cinacents contes et
apologues, running to over 1600 pages, are a treasury of Indian story
literature, extracted from the Chinese Tripitaka. It is a sine qua
non for the history of our literature and for our folklore. Like several
other French classics on Indology and allied disciplines, it needs to be
done into English.
scholars were honoured guests as late as the Ming. Pandita Sahajasri led a
twelve.member Indian Buddhist delegation to China. He was received by the
Yuan and Ming emperors in 1364 and 1371. He was from a ksatriya family
of Kapilavastu. His status and privilege placed him in a position to soften
the autocratic temper of the emperor. Recently a blue and white jar of the
Xuande period (1426-1435) has been discovered with Sanskrit mantras all
around: diva svasti svasti 7Jadhyandine... It seeks good fortune by
day, by midday, by night: at all times.
The long and time-honoured contacts have been matured over time, reverberating in a subtle interweave of thought, ritual, leegend and art. They are symbolic of the depths of our hearts. India and China were linked by a route of thought, the way of cultural exchange, the Sutra Route and not only the Silk Route. Ideas, imperia and emporia; intellectuals, generals and traders; monks, marshals and merchants; cassocks, armour and silk were all pilgrims on this route bringing together many races in companionship. Fabrics, fruits, vegetables, and technologies enriched life. This spirit of an "open society" was the bridge of dreams floating under an open sky.
©1998 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher.
Published in 1998 by
Gyan Publishing House
5, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj,
New Delhi - 110 002.