The Idiosyncratic History of Friendliness and Cultural Proximity in Sino-Nepal Relations

Nepal is a country in South Asia, if not in entire Asia, which has had a unique relation with China that assimilates two countries culturally for over 1500 years.2 Three important historical events justify this assertion. Firstly, Manjushree Bodhisattva visited from China to Nepal and it has been a popular legend among the people of both countries that he worked for the water of Kathmandu as a big lake to go out by cutting the gorge of Chovar, and thus made it feasible for settlement by human beings. This legend connects Nepal and China for at least about 5000 years. The legendary stories are popular both in China and Nepal.3 Secondly, the Nepalese dhyana Buddhism travelled to China as Fa Xian (405), Yuan Chaun (631-632) and Xuan Zang (629-643) visited Nepal and was greatly impressed by it. The Buddhism imported from Nepal had deeper influence among people in China. In between 1368 and 1644, after Ming dynasty, China sent five missions to Nepal, whereas seven missions from Nepal visited China. These missions played a crucial role to establish direct relation between Nepal and China. Today, the Ch'an (Chinese accent of dhyana) Buddhism is recognized as an official Buddhist faith in China.4 This way, Nepal has played crucial role in fashioning the cultural life in China.5 This importance of relation between two countries is not only not emphasized at present, but also disappearing in view of 'greater presence of India' as a so-called representative of the South Asian culture. The visit of Araniko (Anigou) to Beijing to construct 'bai ta' temple (White Pagoda temple) proves that 'the dhyana (ch'an) Buddhism of China has root in Nepalese sect of Buddhism. Thirdly, two stories run parallel: one, the princess Bhrikuti married to King Srongtsan Gyampo, the ruler of Tibet,6 then a suzerainty of the Empire of China, and, another, Nepal assisted China to rescue a group of 22 scholars who, while visiting Magadh, were arrested by Arjuna, who has usurped throne after Harsabardhan's death, and some of them killed and other imprisoned. King Naraendradeva, on request of Chinese Emperor, sent a troop of seven thousand cavalrymen to rescue the detained Chinese scholars and released them to bring back to Nepal along with Arjuna, the culprit.7 This man was then sent to China for punishment. From this time Nepal and China regularly sent emissaries to each other's country. These scholars arrived to Kathmandu from Kerung, and thus in future the route became gateway to China from India and other Asian countries and served as a section of the ancient Silk Road to connect Lhasa, Kathmandu, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iran and finally to Europe. Reportedly, Nepal learned to make paper from China and became first country to produce paper in South Asia.8 Nepal emerged as a prosperous country and also firmly dominant in the region. From this period, Nepal formed a gateway to connect South Asia, including Afghanistan and Iran, to China. The trade between two countries proved to be boon for the thriving economy of Nepal, which transformed Nepal into a culturally rich, educationally vibrant9 and economically a prosperous. Kathmandu city emerged as an amazingly attractive place for journey to learn Buddhism as well as Hinduism.


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