this unique history of India – China relations has been written on the basic of author’s original research and thorough knowledge of Chinese Buddhism in all its aspects.
the work has long been out of print. It has now been brought out with a new look to suit the needs of both the old and new generation of Sinologists and students. All the Chinese words have been transliterated into pinyin system of Romanization which in their French forms were inaccessible to the readers. Both qualitatively and quantitatively, it is the best of its kind. Written in lucid, simple and attractive style, it will satisfy the needs of both the general readers as well as the specialists. The young and budding scholars will find here enough food for scholars will find here enough food for thought and data for further study.
Prof. Prabodh Chandra Bagchi (1898-1956), one of the outstanding Sino-Indologists of the century, started his research career under the famous French scholar Sylvain Levi, and obtained the prestigious degree of Docteur-es Lattres from the Paris University. A pioneer in Sino-Indo-Tibetological studies Dr Bagchi was also an efficient administrator. He served Visva-Bharati in different capacities and when he died, he was its Vice-Chancellor. He also surved the Peking University as a Guest Professor in 1947. His works include among others, Studies in the Tantras; India and Indo-China; Caryagitikosa of the Buddhist Siddhas; Kaula-Jnana Nirnaya and Some Minor Texts of the School of Matsyendranatha; India and Central Asia; Pre-Aryan and Pre Dravidian in India; and She-kia-Fang-che and Indological Studies. He contributed nearly 200 articles in English and Bengali to various journals.
Dr. Haraprasad Ray, the editor, formerly of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and presently a Senior Fellow and Scholar Supervisor at the Asiatic Society, Kolkata, is a senior Chinese expert with six publications and over fifty scholarly articles his credit.
The accidents of the war have brought together the two peoples who had almost forgotten their common past. The roads connecting their countries had lost themselves in the desert sands or in tropical forests, uncared for the footprints of the ancient messengers had been effaced by the ravages of time and the old literature had become a sealed book. The history of the cultural collaboration of the two peoples has to be unfolded by the historians and archaeologists. Yet, the theme has more than a mere historical interest. The great song philosopher Chu-his (Zhuxi) said: “The act is past, the ancestor is no more, but life and gratitude remain.” Perhaps we are not yet fully aware of the magnitude of this gratitude which we should feel for our ancestors who had sacrified themselves for the selfless work of building up a common civilization for the two largest agglomerations of people in Asia. The accounts of their twilight of a new age.
An outline of those accounts will be found in this small book. The materials are too scrappy to allow a more connected treatment. I have, however, tried to make it as free from academic discussions as possible and it is for the reader to judge if I have been able to make it interesting enough. It has not been possible for me to attach illustrations to the chapter of Art I have referred to only such relics of art as are illustrated in the standard works on the art of China and Central Asia.
I have presented this little book to our friends in China as a taken of our gratefulness for what we owe to them. In this I have been led by the same sentiments that were expressed almost thirteen hundred years ago by a Buddhist scholar of Bodhgaya in a letter written by him to the famous pilgrim Hiuen-tsang. A translation of this letter will be found infra, pp. 75-76.
I have to thank Mr. S.F. Che, the Director of the China Press Ltd., without whole kind help this book would not have come out in this form.
This Tome, by one of the most outstanding Sinologists dealing with our classical past, provides an excellent perspective and furnishes the background for new historical insights. It makes very worthwhile reading for students of India-China relations especially for Sinologues. It is most illuminating to read from an Indian viewpoint the rise of the Central Asian kingdoms and China’s westward expansion into those regions simultaneously with the introduction and expansion of Buddhism in and around China. The author’s broad learning and incisive analysis, a rich vocabulary and a fine style makes for ease in following his arguments. While drawing substantially on the work of Chavannes, Pelliot and Sylvain Levi, especially on the travels of the early Buddhist missionaries and the Chinese pilgrims who came to visit India, he has his own contributions to make. His vast learning and complete grasp of original sources in Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Tibetan, and Nepalese languages leave a stamp of authority on every page of the work. For the first time, a plethora of important materials collected from original Chinese sources combined with the findings of French and German experts have been presented before the English knowing scholars.
As a prelude to the discussion, the routes of communication between India and China have been discussed in the First chapter. After tracing the development of early trade and cultural contacts between us, the author goes on to show that these essentially trade routes were practically “Buddhist routes” through which comprehensive cultural interflow continued one country to the other. Emperor Asoka who was the first Indian to look beyond the frontier, was in a way the person responsible for bringing the countries of Southeast and East Asia closer to India. Dr. Bagchi was one of the first to make pointed reference to the earliest evidence of Indian export to the countries across India’s northwest frontiers as evidenced by Zhang Qian’s testimony in the second century BC. What was a trade relation shrouded in obscurity has today become a truth through the studies of modern Chinese and Indian scholars as shown in our notes at the end.
The Second chapter, covering a long period of one thousand years discusses the significant aspects of the exploits of the missionaries. The feats of celebrities like Dharmaraksa, Kumarajiva, Sanghabhuti, Sanghaveda, Buddhayasas, Bodhiruci, Jinagupta, Vimoksasena, Dharmagupta, and others have been firefly referred owing to the limitation of the scope of the inquisitive scholars can go into the source material for fruitful studies.
The author has devoted the entire Third chapter to the Chinese pilgrim-monks like Daoan, Faxian, Xuanzang. Wang Xuance, Yijing, Zhiyan, Zhiming, and others. The memories or travelogues of some of these pilgrims are available. These accounts and the account of Hui Zhao (Hye Ch’o in Korean) (eighth century AD) and other writings are sure to provide us useful data.
Based mainly on Chinese sources, the Fourth chapter enlightens us on the services to Buddhism by Chinese emperors, and schools like Lushan, Tiantai, etc. We feel that Bodhidharma deserves more space than what is allowed to him. An important point brought to our notice in the short history of Buddhism in China is that, in the beginning, Buddhism did not get a favourable response from the rulers; the change came gradually, and from the fifth century onwards, Buddhism was no longer considered in China as a foreign religion, and “was a living force in the life of the Chinese people and was exercising a deep influence on the Chinese culture which manifested more in the field of art and literature.” (pp. 97-98)
The vast body of Buddhist literature forms the topic of the fifth chapter. Translated from the Indian original sources, the entire collection of Chinese Buddhist Tripitaka in the latest Japanese edition includes 2184 texts in over 7000 chapters (juans). These translations were made in China in the course of the first millennium AD. A large number of these Indian originals are now lost and available only in these Chinese translations. This short survey is invaluable to us, especially the introduction to the Buddhist mystic literature. Dr. Bagchi rightly concludes that the history of Buddhism and of Indian civilization in its various ramifications cannot be properly studied without the help of this literature which China has so zealously preserved for the posterity.
Migration of Indian art and sciences to China is the subject of the next chapter where the author has shown the historical process that led to the grafting of Buddhist art on Chinese soil giving birth to a new art in China which he styles as “Sino-Indian.” The influence of Indian Music, Medicine, Astronomy, and Mathematics are discussed in their proper perspectives which will surely inspire researchers to probe further these themes.
The new chapter added by Dr. Bagchi in the second edition and titled “The Two Civilizations: A Synthesis,” is indeed the result of years of his introspection and intensive research. The cultural and social ideals of the two nations had much commonality among them amidst great diversities of manifestations. We find that both the countries rely on similar force of tradition and social ideals that characterize the two civilizations in the past. For example, the pitrs, the departed ancestors occupy even today the same important place in the life of the Hindu as in the life of the Chinese; there is also a close similarity between the conception of Dao (Tao) and that of the Upanisadic Brahman. His delineation of the rationalistic philosophy pioneered by its greatest exponent Zhu Xi in unique and is sure to encourage more and more scholars to delve into the different facets of the philosophies and thoughts of both the countries.
The Eighth chapter has been significantly entitled “China and India.” Here the author traces certain Chinese influences on Indian life and thought. The Tantras and the Sahajayana are such instances. In regard to the Tantras, he points out in particular the apparent effect of later Taoist ideas and practices on the Sahajayana school of Buddhism and on the Sahajiya sect of the Vaishnavites in eastern India, although in India (as in later China) these practices tended to be confined to secret societies and hence their influence was rather limited.
The book concludes with an Appendix containing short bibliographical notes on the Indian scholars who worked in China. Though brief, these sketches should prove useful as reference for students of Buddhism and Indo-Chinese cultural links.
This synopsis of the contents of the work demonstrates the value and importance of Dr. Bagchi’s endeavour in furthering intercultural nexus between these two trans-Himalayan neighbours, and we sure this little book will be of interest to all students of East, Southeast, and Northeast Asia. Each chapter and each topic, nay each passage of this book, may form a separate topic of research. Inquisitive scholars should study his original work Le Canon Bouddhique en China (2 vols.) in French. It is high time that this epoch-making work along with his Deux Lexique Sanskrit Chinois be translated without delay for the benefit of the English-knowing world and for advancement of Chinese studies in India.
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