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India in the Chinese Imagination

India in the Chinese Imagination: Myth, Religion, and Thought

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 352
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    India in the Chinese Imagination
    Book Description:

    India and China dominate the Asian continent, but the two lands are separated by formidable geographic barriers and language differences. For many centuries, most of the information that passed between the two countries came through Silk Route intermediaries in lieu of first-person encounters-leaving considerable room for invention. From their introduction to Indian culture in the first centuries C.E., Chinese thinkers, writers, artists, and architects imitated India within their own borders, giving Indian images and ideas new forms and adapting them to their own culture. Yet India's impact on China has not been greatly researched or well understood.India in the Chinese Imaginationtakes a new look at how the Chinese embedded India in diverse artifacts of Chinese religious, cultural, artistic, and material life in the premodern era. Leading Asian studies scholars explore the place of Indian myths and storytelling in Chinese literature, the ways Chinese authors integrated Indian history into their conception of the political and religious past, and the philosophical relationships between Indian Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, and Daoism. This multifaceted volume, illustrated with over a dozen works of art, reveals the depth and subtlety of the encounter between India and China, shedding light on what it means to imagine another culture-and why it matters.Contributors:Stephen R. Bokenkamp, Bernard Faure, John Kieschnick, Victor H. Mair, John R. McRae, Christine Mollier, Meir Shahar, Robert H. Sharf, Nobuyoshi Yamabe, Ye Derong, Shi Zhiru.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0892-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Liu Songnian’s (ca. 1155–1218)Arhatis considered a masterpiece of Chinese portraiture (Figure 1). The renowned court painter depicted in it an Indian Buddhist saint (arhat) as he had imagined him to appear. Liu likely never met an Indian in person. In order to render one he merely exaggerated the facial features the Chinese had long associated with foreigners from the west: prominent nose, bushy eyebrows, bulging eyes, and a bearded chin. He even furnished his fanciful Indian subject with pirate-like earrings. The whimsical effect notwithstanding, Liu’s arhat is deeply moving. Gazelles grazing at his feet and gibbons frolicking...


    • Chapter 1 Transformation as Imagination in Medieval Popular Buddhist Literature
      (pp. 13-20)
      Victor H. Mair

      From its very beginnings, Chinese civilization has been preoccupied with record-keeping and history-making.¹ No other civilization on earth can match the sustained dedication to the enterprise of writing down for posterity the main events of each dynasty and reign that has transfixed China for two millennia and more. The monumental twenty-five official histories, impressive though they may be, constitute but a small part of the remarkable Chinese commitment to historiography.

      By the same token, however, the perennial obsession with history has put fiction on the defensive in China. Naturally, as with all other civilizations, the Chinese have felt the impulse...

    • Chapter 2 Indian Mythology and the Chinese Imagination: Nezha, Nalakūbara, and Kṛṣṇa
      (pp. 21-45)
      Meir Shahar

      “Even if he is a Nezha [freak], bring him here at once!” Thus exclaims a glamorous lady in Cao Xueqin’s (ca. 1724–ca. 1763)Dream of the Red Chamber. Her allusion to the notorious holy terror is immediately effective, as the bashful Qinzhong is introduced to Xifeng, who finds the queer boy delightful.¹

      Who is the monstrous Nezha that an eighteenth-century Chinese lady invoked as the quintessential enfant terrible? In this chapter I trace his origins over two thousand years, from late imperial China back to ancient India. For the sometimes terrifying sometimes mischievous Nezha is none other than Vaiśravaṇa’s...

    • Chapter 3 Indic Influences on Chinese Mythology: King Yama and His Acolytes as Gods of Destiny
      (pp. 46-60)
      Bernard Faure

      Indian influence on Chinese culture is usually seen through the prism of Buddhism. For all its foreignness, Buddhism was probably one of the aspects of Indian thought and culture that was easiest to adopt by and adapt to Chinese consciousness. Indeed, as a philosophical and moral teaching, it had some obvious Chinese counterparts (and potential rivals).¹ However, as Rolf Stein and Michel Strickmann have argued, an important aspect of Buddhism’s appeal for the Chinese was its mythology, and in particular its demonology.² The latter was also its most “Indic” characteristic, although it has been largely ignored by Buddhist scholarship.


    • Chapter 4 Indian Myth transformed in a Chinese Apocryphal Text: Two Stories on the Buddha’s Hidden Organ
      (pp. 61-80)
      Nobuyoshi Yamabe

      This chapter is a discussion of two fairly peculiar stories found in theGuanfo sanmei hai jing, or the “Sūtra on the ocean-like samādhi of the visualization of the Buddha” (hereafterOcean Sūtra).¹ This sūtra was allegedly translated by Buddhabhadra (Fotuo batuoluo) (359–429) in the fifth century and is extant (almost exclusively) in Chinese.² It purports to teach how people can visualize the brilliant body of Śākyamuni Buddha after his demise. In fact, the methods of visualization explained in this sūtra are, although detailed and pictorial, not complete (the visualization of various parts of the Buddha’s body that starts...


    • Chapter 5 From Bodily Relic to Dharma Relic Stūpa: Chinese Materialization of the Aśoka Legend in the Wuyue Period
      (pp. 83-109)
      Shi Zhiru

      Appearing in a thirteenth-century Buddhist anthology,Fozu tongji(The Complete Records of the Buddhas and Patriarchs), this passage describes the reenactment of King Aśoka’s (r. ca. 273–232 BCE) legendary building of the eighty-four thousand stūpas in the tenth century by Qian (Hong)chu (928–988; r. 947–978), the last king of Wuyue Kingdom (907–978).¹ This historic event is well documented in an array of literary sources, and modern scholars now refer to the artifact as “Gilt Stūpa” (jintu ta), or “Stūpa of the Precious Chest Mudrā” (baoqieyin ta), or even “Aśoka Stūpa”(Ayuwang ta).² In the twentieth century,...

    • Chapter 6 “Ancestral Transmission” in Chinese Buddhist Monasteries: The Example of the Shaolin Temple
      (pp. 110-124)
      Ye Derong

      The expansion of Indian civilization into East Asia is doubtless among the momentous events of human history. Indian culture was brought to China by the medium of the Buddhist faith, which left an indelible mark on China, even as it was deeply influenced by it. In this chapter I am concerned with the Chinese transformation of Buddhist monasticism. In order to survive in its new environment, Buddhism had been forced to adapt to the Chinese family system. The structure and the operation of the Chinese sangha had been fashioned after those of the Chinese clan, with “ancestor worship” becoming an...

    • Chapter 7 The Hagiography of Bodhidharma: Reconstructing the Point of Origin of Chinese Chan Buddhism
      (pp. 125-138)
      John R. McRae

      What is the historical relationship between Chinese Chan and Buddhism in the rest of the first-millennium world? No one could deny that there is a deep connection over the long term, since no matter how quintessentially “Chinese” Chan may have been, it arose only as part of the massive historical event that was the propagation of Buddhism across Asia. Previous scholarship has focused on long-range connections between Indian Buddhism and Chan, suggesting continuities from Buddhist meditation practice or the doctrinal impact of the perfection of wisdom and Mādhyamika philosophy. Are such analyses sound, and are there other such continuities that...


    • Chapter 8 Is Nirvāṇa the Same as Insentience? Chinese Struggles with an Indian Buddhist Ideal
      (pp. 141-170)
      Robert H. Sharf

      What makes an animate thing animate? How do we know if something is sentient? Is consciousness ultimately material or immaterial? Or is it neither—perhaps an “emergent property” that cannot be reduced to or disaggregated from a physical substrate?

      These are big, complex, and conceptually muddy questions about which philosophers, biologists, and ethicists have had much to say over the millennia. Recently, cognitive psychology has gotten into the act as well, producing hundreds of empirical studies on the cognitive foundations of the conceptual distinction we make between the animate and inanimate. Studies show that very young children have markedly different...

    • Chapter 9 Karma and the Bonds of Kinship in Medieval Daoism: Reconciling the Irreconcilable
      (pp. 171-181)
      Christine Mollier

      The confrontation of Daoism with Mahāyāna Buddhism, during the first centuries of the common era, led the “indigenous” religion to an identity crisis which was manifest in a pattern of simultaneous rejection and appropriation of the foreign tradition. Among the results were Daoism’s ever-increasing production of “sūtras,” the creation of its first canonical corpuses, and the development of its liturgy. Erik Zürcher, in his pioneering article “Buddhist Influence on Early Taoism,” showed through a systematic examination of Daoist sources how this influence remained, as a whole, rather superficial, since it was essentially a matter of formal and stylistic elements.¹ However,...

    • Chapter 10 This Foreign Religion of Ours: Lingbao Views of Buddhist Translation
      (pp. 182-198)
      Stephen R. Bokenkamp

      When I was asked to participate in the discussion that has resulted in this volume, I planned to contribute a continuation of Erik Zürcher’s influential “Buddhist Influence on Early Taoism.”¹ I wanted to rehearse, and hopefully improve on, Zürcher’s findings concerning what the Daoist Lingbao scriptures might tell us about Chinese reception of Buddhist cosmology, morality, narrative styles, and the like. The early Lingbao scriptures, composed around 400 CE in the environs of present-day Nanjing, contained, Zürcher found, the “lion’s share of Buddhist loans.”² The uses to which Lingbao Daoists put this material show the oscillation between the poles of...

  7. Glossary
    (pp. 199-216)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 217-268)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-298)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 299-300)
  11. Index
    (pp. 301-305)