The geographical proximity of India and China have led to conditions that many times we see with our neighbors. There are very few neighbors who remain to be very close and friendly in normal day to day life. Indo-China relations have never been very amicable and the future isn’t going to be that rosy as well with the world looking at these two countries which hold one third of the world’s population as the so called “bright spots” in the extremely difficult economic situation.
I would like to see from the historical viewpoint how the relations were between these countries. Chinese were very meticulous than Indian counterpart in recording of information and because of them there are some written records that dates back to 5th century. There are three Chinese monks that have left well written memoirs because of which there is some glimpse of those days. These monks were well respected in their own country as well as India. They were scholars of the highest order and in order to collect original Sanskrit manuscripts of Buddhist texts they made extremely difficult journeys to India. Fa Hien was the first one who arrived in India in start of fifth 5th Century and he traveled across India’s important Buddhist sites. Yi Jing was another traveler who visited around 300 years later to Fa Hien but the most famous was Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) who has many stories associated which are now more myth than reality. All three of them came to India in order to collect original Buddhist manuscripts as many translation available in China were not complete or were misrepresentation of the philosophy. This exchange of Buddhist philosophy happened until 11th Century between India and China and there was steep decline in popularity of Buddhism in the country of Origin itself. The last rulers that supported Buddhism “Palas” of Bengal lost their Kingdom.
The fact that Buddhist philosophy was foreign and not central to the Chinese culture created resistance in China and ideas of Confucianism and Daoism gained more popularity. There was lot of anti Buddhist ideas that gained currency to enhance Chinese nationalism.
There were other ideas apart from religious ideas that were exchanged between these countries like Mathematics, Science, Literature but these don’t get the kind of importance that Buddhism gets. It is also difficult to ascertain who developed the idea first and it leads lot of complexity in analyzing such scenarios.
Indians may be proud that Buddhism is one their exports to the world but probably it may be one of the reasons that China has not been that comfortable with it’s neighbor. Indians were not very keen mixing up with foreigners those days foreigners were called “Mlecchas” meaning barbarians 🙂