Monday, January 27, 2014

Lord Krishna and Shiva Worship in Ancient China

The civilizations of China and India have a long history of interaction. The links between these two ancient civilizations were numerous and were sustained for thousands of years. The Chinese tell of a tradition in "Schuking" in which it is stated that the ancestors of the Chinese people came to China after crossing the high mountain ranges to the South.


In his book ‘The Aryans: A Modern Myth’ Paramesha Caudhuri writes, “In my book ‘Indian origin of the Chinese Origin’ pt I & II, I have spoke much of this topic trying to prove that the original Chin race of India dwelling in Kashmir, and several parts of South India colonized Shensi, a province of Central China and subsequently subjugated all other petty kingdoms and thus became the emperors of perhaps the one of the largest empires of the world. The name China and the Chinese were after the Chins of India and hence the scholars are unanimous about the Indian origin of the name of China. What I have done novel is highlight that the Indians did not only name a great country but also created the Chinese nation”.

While this statement is based on the ‘Indian Origin Theory’ as the source of Chinese civilization, it is important to understand that regardless of the origins of the Chinese, the evidence reveals that ancient Chinese culture was Vedic in nature. The Vedic tradition has undoubtedly been best preserved in India yet the universality of Vedic culture is such that none can claim to be the sole inheritors or originators of the Vedic traditions. These traditions are part of the basic fabric of nature and the universe and can be accessed by anyone anywhere at any time. Yet just as Buddhism developed in India and was spread throughout a large apart of the globe by Indian missionaries, there can thus be no doubt that India has always been a primary source of Vedic wisdom.

As in the past, India is to this day the primary source of recurrent revivals of the Vedic traditions throughout the world. The same ‘eternal’ tradition known as Santana Dharma is at the very core of Chinese civilization. There are many hints of this phenomenon throughout history. For instance, the Imperial Tang dynasty (618–907 AD) used the Hindu/Vedic calendar alongside with the Chinese calendar. Amongst the Gods, the Lord of Death and the Underworld known in Sanskrit as Yamaraj is called ‘Yanmo Wang’ within the Chinese tradition. Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang (ruled 712–56) called upon the Indian monk Vajrabodhi (671–741) to perform ‘Tantric’ rites to avert a drought in the year 726 AD.


In the Fujiyan province, in the Xinmen area of Quanzhou, there are the remains of a Shiva Temple. It still has a Shiva-linga over five meters tall. An ancient stone that still stands today; it has been widely identified as a Shiva Linga. Chinese records reveal that it was cut in half in the year 1011 AD and then rebuilt in the 1400s. Even as late as 1950, childless mothers would go to it to invoke the blessings of the deity for motherhood. Likewise in Hsuan-wu, Lo-yang district there is a pillar with Sanskrit writings from top to bottom and right to left. The scholar Henry Rudolph Davies wrote that besides Buddhism, Shaivism was also popular in Yunan as is manifest from the prevalence of the cult of Mahakala there. This ancient Indian colony in the south of China was a strong link in the Sino-Indian cultural relationship.

The research of the scholar M. Sushama presented in her book 'Hindu Wisdom' highlights the many references to China found within the Sanskrit texts. Sushama writes, “The Mahabharata makes a reference to presents brought by the Chinese to the Rajasuya Yajna of the Pandavas. In the Vana-Parva of the Mahabharata it is stated that the Pandava brothers crossed the country of the Cinas (China) during their trek through the Himalayan territory north of Badri. They are said to have reached the realm of the Kirata King Subahu. Also in the Mahabharata the Cinas (Chinese), with the Kiratas, are found among the armies of King Bhagadatta of Pragjyotisa, India’s modern Assam region. In the Sabha-Parva this king is described as surrounded by the Kiratas and the Cinas. In the Bhisma-Parva of the Mahabharata, the corps of Bhagadatta,consisting of the Kiratas and the Cinas of yellow color, are said to ‘look like a forest of Karnikaras”.

In the Artha Shashtra of Chanakya, China is mentioned as well. It is theorized that the name China is based upon the name of the kingdom, Ch’in, which was established by Shih Huang Ti in the year 221 BC. However according to the French art historian, Réné-Grousset, the name China comes from “an ancient Sanskrit name for the regions to the East”. The Chinese word for lion, ‘Shih’, used long before the Chin dynasty, was derived from the Sanskrit word, ‘Simha’. Notably the African Swahili word for lion ‘Simba’ is virtually the same as the Sanskrit ‘Simha’ as well. The Greek word for China, ‘Tzinista’, appears to be derived from the Sanskrit ‘Chinasthana’. M. de Guigues wrote in the ‘Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. v’ that, ‘Magadha was known to the Chinese by the name Mo-kiato, and its capital was recognized by both its Hindu name Kusumpura, for which the Chinese wrote Kia-so-mo-pon-lo and Pataliputra, out of which they made Patoli-tse by translating putra, which means son in Sanskrit, into their own corresponding word, tse. Such translation of names has thrown a veil of obscurity over many a name of Hindu origin. Hindu geography has suffered a great loss’. In other words the Chinese translated Sanskrit words into Chinese and thus the original pronunciation was lost. We see this clearly in the Chinese version of the Indian city ‘Patali-Putra’. Patali-Putra means ‘Patali’s Son’. The Chinese kept the Patali part of the name but changed the Sanskrit word for son, ‘Putra’ to the Chinese word for son ‘Tse’. Thus the name Pataliputra became obscured as ‘Patoli-tse’. Thus even those familiar with the city of Pataliputra, being unfamiliar with the Chinese language, could not discern the original name as it was translated into the Chinese. We find another clear example of the impact of dialect upon a language in the Sanskrit word ‘Maṇḍala’. In Japan it becomes ‘Mandara’ but in China it is ‘Màntúluó’

The Italian writer Gerolamo Emilio Gerini (1860 -1913) stated: ‘During the three or four centuries, preceding the Christian era, we find Hindu dynasties established by adventurers, claiming descent from the Kshatriya potentates of Northern India, ruling in upper Burma, in Siam and Laos, in Yunnan and Tonkin, and even in most parts of southeastern China’. A study entitled “China and India” states, “China was part of the Indian ‘Vedic Empire’. This 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 YuktiKalpataru (an ancient Sanskrit technological text) and exemplified in the ships and boats of old Indian arts’. YuagXianji, member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, speaking at the C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation, Madras on March 27, 1984 revealed that, “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 Chinese 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.” Albert Etienne Terrien de Lacouperie also highlighted the maritime intercourse of India with China dating it from about 680 B.C. That was the year sea traders of the Indian Ocean whose ‘Chiefs were Hindus’ founded a colony, called Lang-ga. Named after the Indian word Lanka it was located near the present gulf of Kiaotchoa. It is obvious that India and China were connected far earlier and this date only refers to founding of the Indian colony of Lang-ga. Since the incidents of the Mahabharata have been proven to have occurred over 5100 years ago it is obvious that contacts between India and China existed long before 680 B.C. Indeed India had interactions China from very ancient times. Cultural connectivity was maintained through several methods and of these there were three main routes. The first was through Yunan and Burma and the second was through the Central Asian region. The third was by the seas. Currently Orissa’s coastline is blocked in by massive sand bars but in ancient times prior to 1000 AD, Orissa was a major maritime power. Many discoveries from the ancient civilizations of Babylon, Sumeria, China, Greece and Rome have been discovered throughout Orissa. Along with Orissa, ships from India’s southern ports frequented the ports of the China and Japan in the East and Rome, Alexandria and Greece in the West. It was through these routes that India’s Vedic and Buddhist cultures were spread throughout the world.


Theories positing an invasion by outsiders as the source of Vedic Indian civilization are unsubstantiated yet they are taught as fact by nearly every school, college and university in the world. On one hand we have a vast tradition and culture that developed over many millennia and which has the Ramayana and Mahabharata at its very basis. On the other hand we have theories that were developed by outsiders that completely contradict the perspective of those who live and breathe the culture. The native peoples of the world are not allowed to own their past. Their traditional perspectives of themselves are discounted as imagined myth or exaggerated legend. It is thus imperative to develop timelines and histories that actually coincide, not only with the scientific evidences, but with the living traditions of the people as well. Using this method we find that the Chinese traditions have many correlations with the Vedic.

According to the research of Eberhard, the Chinese Creation ‘Myth’involves a ‘Boy of the White Crane'. He is said to live in the palace of ‘jade emptiness’. This is believed to represent the ‘Primeval Ocean’ and Lord Brahma who rides a white swan and is born from the navel of Lord Vishnu as he rest in the Primeval Ocean. Also the "Supreme God in Chinese popular religion" is called ‘Yùhuáng[-dà]-dì’, which translates as "Jade-Emperor-Big-Supreme Being". Thus we find that, like Quetza-lcoatl, the Supreme Being of the Mayans and Aztecs, and Rama-chandra, who is Vishnu, the Supreme Being within the Vedic tradition, the Chinese Supreme Being Yu-Huang di is green as well. Since this ‘Jade-Green’ is considered to be sea colored green we see yet another Supreme Being connected with the color of water which iconically means the color blue. China’s leading expert on connections between India and China, the late Professor Huang Xinchuan of the Department of Oriental Philosophy in Beijing University stated that ancient China once had many Vishnu and Shiva Temples.

During an interview with the Professor he personally informed me of the many evidences regarding China’s Vedic past. He also referred to himself as ‘The Last Chinese Hindu’. According to his research the location of these early Chinese Vedic Temples can be traced by following the ancient Incense trade routes between India, Nepal, Tibet and China. He also referred to himself in a meeting I arranged between the Professor and Ram Madhav (RSS Natinal Executive) as ‘The Last Chinese Hindu’. In a paper Proffesor Huang Xinchuan wrote, “Following the Buddhist and Hindu religious activities, the Indian orthodoxy philosophy, the six Darsanas, Vedanta in particular once flourished in China. Vedanta had exerted also some influences on Chinese Buddhism and Taoism in its own way.In China we have preserved abundant historical records and relics of Hinduism as well as Buddhism.

Since the third century AD, China has discovered numerous Hindu scriptures in Sanskrit. There are records in Buddhist and Hindu scriptures either systematic or piecemeal. For example, the Vedas and Upanishads as seen in Chinese historical record were translated freely into Chinese as Ming-Lun (the Science of Knowledge), Zhi-Lun (the Science of Intelligence) or transliterated into Chinese as Feituo, Pituo, etc. Besides, there are Chinese historical sources of Vedangas. Chinese Taoism has something in common with Shaktism. We can find some examples.

One text in which the Tung Hsuan Section of the Tao Tsung (Taoist Canon) originated goes by the name Lin Pao Ching (Book of the Marvelous Jewel). In this text, we can find the influence of Brahmanism and Upanishad (Vedanta) in particular. It has a portrait of Yuan Shih TienTsun (the Highest God of Taoism) based on the portrait of the Maha Brahma of Brahmanism at the numerous kalpas in the unlimited darkness of Chaos. Thus, He transforms himself into thirty-three devas, asuras, Ten directions of the Universe etc.”

Among many other rare insights into Chinese Hinduism Professor Huang Xinchuan stated that the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, is indeed Hanuman. Fujian Province, southeastern China is home to several Vedic/Hindu sites. A striking series of Hindu carvings in bas relief from a pillar of a Hindu temple was later built-into the Kaiyuan Buddhist monastery. Many Vedic deities and carvings are now located at the Quanzhou Maritime Museum. The items are arranged by religion into seven sections—Islam, Christianity, Manicheanism, Hinduism, Budd-hism, Daoism and Folk Religion.

Historical remains of China’s ancient Vedic presence remain and were a part of Quanzhou’s culture for centuries. Much of these artifacts were destroyed during Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’. Some artifacts survived as its deities and carvings were used as the décor of other structures and monuments. Behind the main hall "the Mahavira Hall” of the famous Kaiyuan Buddhist Temple there are some columns decorated by Hindu/Vedic cravings.

In the book ‘The Emporium of the World: Maritime Quanzhou, 1000-1400’ Professor John Guy reveals many details about the presence of Vedic/Hindu culture in China. It clearly indicates the indigenous Chinese participation in the worship of Lord Shiva. John Guy writes about an ancient inscription that was discovered in China. “The inscription consists of six lines in Tamil script, with the last line in Chinese characters." The Tamil letters are poorly formed and often erroneous, indicating that they were executed by a non-Tamil speaker. The religious affiliation is Hindu, the passage opening with is homage to Siva: Obeisance to Hara [Siva], Let there be prosperity!

On the day [having] Chitra the month of Chittirai of the Saka year 1203, the Tavachcha-kkarvattigal alias Sambandhaperumal caused, in accordance with firman of Chekachai Khan, to be graciously installed the God Udaiyar Tirukka-dalisvaram Udaiyanayinar, for the welfare of the illustrious body of the illustrious Chekachai Khan, The dedication implies that the inscription was commissioned for installation in a new temple dedicated to Siva, though it is possible that it was to mark the installation of a new image of Siva in an existing temple. The donor is a Tamilian named Sambandh Perumal and, according to H. Ray, may be linked through the preface to his name, Tavachchak katavarttigal, to the area of Kumbakonam, Thanjavur District, Tamilnadu. A possible link with this important temple city is supported by the subject matter of at least two of the Quanzhou sculptures, as will be illustrated shortly. The dedication asserts that the image of Siva was installed with the imperiaI authority (firman) of Chekachai Khan, possibly Kubilai Khan's son Chimkin.

Unlike the mainstream scholar's view of the Tamils residing in China, they did not act as an enclosed alien community. Thus we see a Shiva temple whose 'donor' was a Tamil was stated to have been rebuilt for the wellbeing of the Chinese emperor and the Shiva deity was installed 'in accordance with the 'firman' (imperial authority) of Chekachai Khan' Genghis Khans descendant who ruled China at the time. In other words the Mongol ruler of China was intimately involved with its dedication. In fact when we look closely at the evidence the Shiva temple connected to the Tamil appears to have been commissioned by the Imperial Chinese government. And as noted by Professor Guy the Shiva Temple may have already been in existence, which is highly likely, and it is only the Deity of Lord Shiva that was new. Scholars have stated that the Shiva temple had originally been built in 685 or 686 AD during the Tang Dynasty but was rebuilt by the Tamil Hindu community in the city in the late 13th century who dedicated it to Lord Shiva.

There is direct evidence of that there were indeed Hindu temples in China as early as the 6th century AD. In the paper “Rethinking Community –The Indic Carvings of Quanzhou, Risha Lee writes, “A Chinese source states that in 720 AD the Pallava King Narasimhavarman II ‘constructed a temple (in Tamil Nadu, India) on account of the empire of China”, and another text cites the existence of three Hindu temples in southern China where ‘Brahmans’ resided during the 8th century.” As noted the Tamil language was so unfamiliar that the Tamil inscription connected to this Shiva temple is such that it is 'poorly formed and often erroneous'. It had to be done by those for whom Tamil was not a native tongue thus it is quite possible and highly likely that the Deity was brought from India but the temple carvings and the temple itself were also crafted by Chinese. So rather than a mere off-shoot of the Tamil Hindu tradition, Chinese Vedic culture was deeply integrated into the socio-political framework of Chinese society and civilization. A brief look into the Cham Vietnamese Hindu sculptures reveals a highly evolved Native expression of Hindu/Vedic art and sculpture. These same non-Indian Vietnamese Hindus are on record as having migrated in masse to China’s Hainan Island as well.

The details regarding the various Vedic carvings of the Chinese Vedic Temples reveal the depth of China’s Vedic culture. Once again referencing Prof John Guy’s ‘The Emporium of the World: Maritime Quanzhou, 1000-1400’. Vaisnavite themes: The two pillars on the Kaiyuan temple are decorated with twenty four roundels, seven of which are devoted to Vishnu, and one to Siva as an ascetic; the remainders are purely decorative. The subjects are standard popular devotional themes and many are concerned with the exploits of Krishna: -Vishnu enthroned with Laksmi and Bhudevi . -Vishnu on Garuda (Garudasana) -Vishnu in his man-lion aspect (Narasimba). -elephants (Gajendramoksa) . -Infant Krishna fells the Arjuna trees . Krishna subduing the serpent Kaliya (Kalia-damana) . -Krishna steals the milkmaids cloths. The presence of carvings depicting Krishna’s activities as a child in Vrindavan is quite remarkable. Despite theories that present the evidence of Chinese Vedic culture as a mere off shoot of the Tamil merchant community, the presence of carvings based on Krishna’s Vrindavan pastimes suggest much more.

The fact is just as Buddhism was adopted and practiced by billions of non-Indians it is highly probable that Vedic culture was just as prevalent. Thus the labeling of China’s Vedic presence as a mere by-product of South Indian Tamil merchants alone does not fit the evidence. Undoubtedly, Tamils were intimately involved with the Hindu/Vedic culture of China yet they were not alone. Indians from other regions, as well as Cambodian, Vietnamese and Indonesian Hindus frequented the East China Seas. These diverse groupings all provided their own unique imprint upon the culture of China.

 At this time in history, much of South East Asia was Vedic/Hindu. No Chinese 'Wall' was ever built to obstruct this Vedic influence and no ancient wave of Mao’s anti-Vedic iconoclasm is recorded. Prof John Guy further writes regarding the presence of Shaivism in ancient China: Saivite themes: Several reliefs depict devotees of the Hindu god Siva venerating the deity, and one relief (now lost) depicts Nataraja, Siva as Lord of the Dance.' This theme emerged in the early Chola period. Clearly Scholars do not attempt to deny the ancient presence of Vedic culture in China. However they do attempt to portray this presence as being foreign to China. While agreeing that there were indeed Hindu / Vedic Temples in China many modern scholars present the culture as being practiced solely by Indian merchants that frequented the region. Using this same reasoning one could also deny that the Chinese ever practiced Buddhism. However since Buddhism itself grew from the Vedic tree it was adopted by the Chinese. The same synchronistic processes that led Indians, Sri Lankans, Cambodians, Laotians, Vietnamese, Thais,Indonesians, Malaysians and others to accept the teachings of Buddha from within the context of Vedic /Hindu culture were present in China as well.

The fact is wherever you find a strong Buddhist presence you will have an earlier Vedic / Hindu presence. As it was in Cham Vietnam or Indonesia, or Philippines it was in China, Mongolia and Japan. They all had a strong native indigenous expression of Hindu art and culture. The Buddhist missionaries from India came not to convert but reveal the latest expression of Dharma. They did not work in a cultural vacuum with a people unfamiliar with Dharma or Sanskriti or culture. Rather Buddhism was recognized as a new wave of the same ocean and thus it spread rapidly.

The numerous examples of native Vedic culture throughout Mongolia and Japan are conclusive. The Vedic based civilizations that spread and flourished throughout these areas north and east of China and in the region of South Asia and South East Asia were just as prevalent in ancient China. We find a distinct native artistic style being expressed in many Chinese examples of Vedic architecture, sculptures, carvings and art. The Vedic Chinese artifacts clearly reveal a uniquely Chinese style regardless of any external influence. We see this phenomenon throughout Asia. A massive Shiva Linga(known as the “Stone Bamboo Shoot” or Shixun) located in Xinmen area of Quanzhou, China has been dismissed as a Shiva Linga merely because it does not exhibit a South Indian Chola artistic style. However by recognizing that China’s Vedic culture predated the arrival of Indian Chola merchants it becomes obvious that the Quanzhou Shiva Linga is a native Chinese expression of devotion to Shiva. Vedic does not necessarily always mean Indian. As long as people see every example of Vedic civilization as a sign of an Indian presence the facts regarding the history of religion will always elude them. While India has long sent out its cultural emissaries to revive humanities ancient sacred traditions it is erroneous to label these traditions as being solely Indian. Vedic culture is a universal phenomenon. Today’s India is still called Bharat but it only represents an extremely truncated Bharat. True Bharat is the entire world and this Vedic culture is the entire humanity's heritage.

As we see in India so many reflections of the same culture, Krsna as Jagannath is the same Rama is the same Tirupathi is the same Nara-simha is the same Chaitanya is the same Buddha is the same Vamana is the same Varaha etc. This same phenomenon once extended globally. Now we have a culture called 'Indian' based upon the Greek name for the Indus River that no longer remains within the boundaries of India. Thus the term ‘Bharatiya’ is used yet according to the Vedic scriptures Bharat was originally global. It is my opinion that the region of modern India was the epicenter and capital but everyone, be they Yavanas, Kiratas, Hunas, Shakas, Chinas etc. were all equal members of Bharat. Thus they fought for the same cause in the Mahabharat war. All this Vedic culture is primal and India preserved the ancient truths as the rest forgot. Just as the whole world was once Bharat, including the Sindh region of Pakistan, yet today we see how Vedic culture has been basically removed from that formerly 'Indian' region. So this same process that we see happening today in Pakistan happened globally as Kali Yuga progressed.

God and the Devas are universal realities. They have authentic markers that trace their presence whenever revealed or experienced. Thus Krsna is Krsna with the same qualities and characteristics wherever he has revealed himself. Though he performed his Lila, along with Buddha in India, he is not an Indian invention and some have stated that he traveled far beyond the borders of modern India as well. The Pandavas surely did before the Rajasuya Yajna. The Rishis have faithfully recorded Krishna's characteristics and thus evidence of his worship and presence can be accurately traced throughout history. Thus by using that template we can trace out evidence of Krsna and Shiva worship throughout the entire world.

There is no minimizing the impact and influence of India's great Saints and culture. But rather than a conversionary force India had a reinforcing influence that repeatedly revived the world's ancient Vedic heritage in all its expressions. This is ongoing even today. During a recent trip to India I personally met with a large group of Chinese Vaishnava pilgrims. They represent just one example of the modern revival of China’s ancient Vedic heritage. We thus have many non-indian Vaishnavas and Yogis in China and elsewhere but still Indian Gurus, books etc. will guide them. However they do not guide them on how to be Indians but on how to revive their original traditions.

These indigenous expressions of the Vedic traditions are the same universal truths that have been carefully preserved and maintained within the Vedic Sampradayas current in India. And now by applying the template and Siddhanta of these Sampradayas, lo and behold, we can find ancient and at times onging examples of Vedic culture globally. This is not because Indians traveled the world promoting and converting people. Its because Vedic culture and Worship was once practiced throughout the entire world. The ancient presence of Vaishnavism and Shaivism (along with related Devi Worship) can be found at at the root of every ancient cultural group on the planet. The Indians that have traveled the world as ambassadors of these traditions represented the lineages that maintained these traditions.

Thus they were able to revive the natural Vedic culture that is inherent in all Bharaters (Brothers) or People of Bharata, this Blessed Planet Earth.The universal appeal of Vedic culture is obvious as millions of people from around the world are now following in the footsteps of their Vedic ancestors. The fact is Vedic culture has never relied upon exclusively one race or nationality. India is fortunate to have retained the essence of ancient Vedic culture and the links to its past have remained strong. Thus today India’s Hindu culture is at the forefront of restoring the ancient world’s Vedic Heritage. While it is only India that is today called Bharat, this entire planet, including China, was once known as Bharat Varsha. Source : Hindu Today

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Fascinating article! I came here after reading a history of Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China. The story of the "Stone Bamboo Shoot" was very intriguing! This is a city I must visit.

Thank you!