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India in the Chinese Imagination

Myth, Religion, and Thought

Edited by John Kieschnick and Meir Shahar

Publication Year: 2013

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 Imagination takes 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.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Encounters with Asia


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. 1-10

Liu Songnian’s (ca. 1155–1218) Arhat is 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, ...

Part I: Indian Mythology and the Chinese Imagination

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Chapter 1. Transformation as Imagination in Medieval Popular Buddhist Literature

Victor H. Mair

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pp. 13-20

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 ...

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Chapter 2. Indian Mythology and the Chinese Imagination: Nezha, Nalakubara, and Krsna

Meir Shahar

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pp. 21-45

“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 ...

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Chapter 3. Indic Influences on Chinese Mythology: King Yama and His Acolytes as Gods of Destiny

Bernard Faure

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pp. 46-60

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...

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Chapter 4. Indian Myth Transformed in a Chinese Apocryphal Text: Two Stories on the Buddha’s Hidden Organ

Nobuyoshi Yamabe

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pp. 61-80

This chapter is a discussion of two fairly peculiar stories found in the Guanfo sanmei hai jing, or the "Sūtra on the ocean-like samādhi of the visualization of the Buddha" (hereafter Ocean 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...

Part II: India in Chinese Imaginings of the Past

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Chapter 5. From Bodily Relic to Dharma Relic Stupa: Chinese Materialization of the Aśoka Legend in the Wuyue Period

Shi Zhiru

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pp. 83-109

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...

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Chapter 6. “Ancestral Transmission” in Chinese Buddhist Monasteries: The Example of the Shaolin Temple

Ye Derong

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pp. 110-124

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 ...

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Chapter 7. The Hagiography of Bodhidharma: Reconstructing the Point of Origin of Chinese Chan Buddhism

John R. McRae

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pp. 125-138

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...

Part III: Chinese Rethinking of Indian Buddhism

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Chapter 8. Is Nirvana the Same as Insentience? Chinese Struggles with an Indian Buddhist Ideal

Robert H. Sharf

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pp. 141-170

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?...

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Chapter 9. Karma and the Bonds of Kinship in Medieval Daoism: Reconciling the Irreconcilable

Christine Mollier

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pp. 171-181

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 ...

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Chapter 10. This Foreign Religion of Ours: Lingbao Views of Buddhist Translation

Stephen R. Bokenkamp

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pp. 182-198

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...


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pp. 199-216


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pp. 217-268


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pp. 269-298

List of Contributors

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pp. 299-300


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pp. 301-305

E-ISBN-13: 9780812208924
E-ISBN-10: 0812208927
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245608
Print-ISBN-10: 0812245601

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 20 illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Encounters with Asia
Series Editor Byline: Victor H. Mair, Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 870969927
MUSE Marc Record: Download for India in the Chinese Imagination