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India And China Civilization Essay

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Amber Richey October 15, 2012
World History

Ancient India and Ancient China Different but the Same
Ancient India and Ancient China have as many similarities as they do differences. Over many decades of being so close they have had very little run-ins with one another. They have thrived living by the basic principles of a peaceful co-existence society. They have accepted each other’s differences and come to realize just how many similarities they have. Today it is almost impossible the see where the lines of separation between these two great dominating countries lies. With a combined population of 2.3 billion people, both China and India are the most populous countries in the world. They account for two-fifths of humanity.…show more content…

Not only was the family dynamics in society very comparable between these two countries, but the classes with in the society were as well. In Ancient India as in Ancient China there were very distinctive classes amongst the people within the society. In Ancient India they were considered to be the Brahmins: the priests, teacher and judges, Kshatriyas: the warriors, Vaisyas: the farmers and merchants, Sudras: the craft workers and laborers, and last the Harijans: the untouchables. This was considered to be the cast system to which Ancient India was run by. In Ancient China they were considered to be the Rulers: the Kings or other kinds of leaders, Nobles: the highest ranking class after the ruling family, Craftspeople: the bronze, jade, potters and stone workers, Farmers: largest class of workers taking care of the land, and lastly the Slaves: worked for the higher class citizens. This was considered to be the Shang dynasty separation of classes. In Ancient India and Ancient China though the classes throughout the society were named differently most of them were same in definition. The differences however were really seen by how these two systems operated. In Ancient India a person was born into their social class and that never changed. They also were not permitted to mix with anyone of a different class form the cast system. They must only socialize with, work with and marry someone of their same social label. In Ancient China the social

Speech by Mr. Mao Siwei, Consul General of China At Rotary Club of Calcutta Midwest

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good Evening!

It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with Indian friends of Rotary Club. The organizer of the meeting asked me to deliver a "non-political" speech, and I totally agree with that. There are endless topics regarding China and India, and today the theme of my speech is "China and India: Related yet Different Civilizations". I am going to elaborate on three points. First, there are many similarities between Chinese civilization and Indian civilization. Second, Buddhism, which originated from India, has greatly enriched Chinese culture. Third, the civilizations of the two nations are quite different.

Speaking about similarities between China and India, what first comes to our mind is population. Both China and India are the most populous countries in the world. Their combined population is as many as 2.3 billion, accounting for two-fifths of humanity.

Coincidently, the development of ancient philosophical thinking in both China and India was thriving in the 6th century B.C. Almost at the same time, Confucius founded Confucianism in China and Siddhartha Gautama established Buddhism in India.

It is again a historical coincidence that around the 3rd century B.C., after years of wars, the first united dynasty was established in China by Shihuangdi, the First Emperor of China, as was in the sub-continent, by Mauryan Emperors.

China and India are great civilizations and historically both were the centers of the related civilization circles in Asia. In Northeast Asia and some Southeast Asian countries, the historical influence of Chinese culture could be easily detected. Similarly, Indian culture could be traced in many South and Southeast Asian countries, even as far as in Indonesia. Such cultural influences reveal the great contribution made by China and India to the world.

In their long history, both China and India were frequently invaded by alien tribes, but despite repeated foreign cultural onslaught, the backbone of the two ancient cultures, namely Confucianism in China and Hinduism in India, vigorously sustained. The vitality and continuity of both Chinese and Indian civilizations are exceptional in the world.

In modern times, both countries lagged behind the West in economic and social development and suffered tremendously from the invasion of Western powers.

Coincidently, once again almost at the same time, China and India were reborn. In 1949, after the liberation war, new China was established, while in 1947, India won its independence. Afterwards, although different in political system, China and India took similar paths of planned economy and both failed to achieve their goals.

Today, the similarities between China and India have become even more striking. Both countries have been pursuing policies of reform and opening-up, and both are now the fastest growing economies in the world, drawing great universal attention. Indeed, development of China and India over the next decades will have great impact on the whole world.

Between China and India there lie the greatest mountain ranges of the world, insurmountable obstructions in ancient times. Inspired by Buddhism, dedicated monks of the two countries overcame all conceivable perils and hardships and succeeded in linking the two civilizations for one thousand years since the time of Christ.

After its introduction in China, Buddhism was embraced and localized, becoming an integrated part of Chinese civilization. The great value of Buddhism in Chinese civilization can never be overemphasized.

Before the introduction of Buddhism, Chinese civilization was isolated by geographical location, with no communication with other major civilizations. The introduction of Buddhism marks the first step of Chinese civilization's interaction with the outside world. From then on, Chinese civilization developed a new world vision and became much more broad-minded.

Before Buddhism spread in China, there were indigenous Confucianism and Taoism in that land. However, Confucianism could not be regarded as a religion in its true sense, and the influence of Taoism was rather limited. The introduction of Buddhism enabled common people in China with a new religious faith and the ideas of Karma and Reincarnation enriched Chinese people's spiritual life.

Buddhism ushered in a profound and pervasive revolution in Chinese culture. A series of new philosophical concepts for understanding of the universe and individual soul were brought into China by Buddhism. Today few Chinese people are aware of the fact that actually many words in our vocabulary originated from the translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese more than one thousand years ago.

In ancient times, the Chinese had no knowledge of phonology. It was through the translation of Buddhist scriptures and under the influence of ancient Sanskrit phonology, that the Chinese phonetic notation and Chinese phonology were created. This, in turn, pushed forward the development of Lvshi, one form of Chinese poetry which has a strict tonal pattern and rhyme scheme.

China's early literature was restricted to realism. It is because of Buddhism that the power of imagination of Chinese literature became invigorated. Since Tang Dynasty, from the 7th century A.D., romanticism became more popular in Chinese literature. Journey to the West, a novel well-known to every household in China, is a good example. It is about the pilgrimage of Xuanzang, a learned monk in Tang Dynasty, who travelled from China to India to study Buddhism. The most popular figure in the novel, Monkey King, is believed to be based on Hanuman, the revered figure of Indian mythology.

In ancient China, the art of stone-carving was underdeveloped. The spring-up religious caves and stone sculptures in China were a direct result of the spread of Buddhist culture. Additionally, Buddhism has exerted a profound influence on Chinese painting, music and dance.

Apart from that, the development of ancient printing in China is also closely related to the spread of Buddhism, which was driven by the increasing demand for Buddhist figures and scriptures.

During the mutual exchanges between the two civilizations in the past, although certain Chinese technologies and inventions contributed to Indian civilization, in general, especially in spiritual terms, it was mainly China that learned from India. In one thousand years or so, India was China's teacher. Chinese people will never forget that.

Today, the Chinese people's admiration of Indian culture remains undiminished as it was in the past. In the year 2000, to commemorate the 140th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, The Complete Works of Tagore was published in 24 volumes in China. As far as I know, Chinese is the language which has done the most for Tagore's publications, second only to Indian languages and English.

Ladies and gentlemen, of course, cultural exchanges between ancient China and India did not benefit China alone. Because of religious thinking, ancient Indians believed that history was a cycle, repeating itself timelessly, so that they did not record the real history. On the other hand, the Chinese have a very strong sense of history and began to record history as early as three thousand years ago. Since then China has maintained a continuous chronicle of all the dynasties, which is unique in the world. In those one thousand years, Chinese monks studying in India continued with this tradition by taking down in detail what they had seen and experienced in India. Today, those monks' recordings have become the most precious documents about ancient India, without which, and without those of other foreign travelers, any serious research of the history of ancient India would have been impossible. Furthermore, thanks to relentless efforts of both Indian and Chinese monks in the past, Mahayana Buddhist scriptures are now mostly preserved in Chinese. Therefore, without referring to those Chinese sutras, it is almost impossible for any Buddhist scholar in the world to have a real comprehension of ancient Mahayana Buddhism.

On the other hand, and as importantly, the dissimilarity in the thought process of the peoples of China and India implies the fundamental difference between the two civilizations. Whilst Chinese civilization mainly concerns practical life, Indian civilization emphasizes more on the spiritual world. This basic difference has resulted in a series of different features of the two countries' culture and history.

You can easily find the difference, for example, in historical monuments in the two countries. In India most of the grandiose ancient structures were temples, in which priests were the masters managing the affairs between God and humanity; while in China most of the magnificent ancient structures were palaces, in which emperors and kings were the masters managing the affairs between states and their citizens.

Long before Buddhism was widely accepted in China, Confucianism had been the dominant ideology. Unlike religions, Confucianism was not concerned with issues regarding relationship between man and God, but restricted to the relationship between man and man, namely, relationship between king and subjects, between rulers and ruled, between father and son, between husband and wife, between teacher and student, between friends and so on. It did not teach people how to attain spiritual liberation, but how to adjust with reality and properly deal with various kinds of relationships with other people so as to enjoy a harmonious society. However, since the 7th century A.D. i.e. Sui and Tang Dynasties, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism became three pillars of ancient Chinese culture, forming a coexisting and complementary structure, within which each of the three influenced and integrated with each other. Some Chinese scholars consider the three played different roles in ancient China: Confucianism for the health of the state, Taoism for the health of human body, and Buddhism for the health of human spirit.

In this sense, Chinese people hold quite a different attitude towards religion from that of most Indians. Many Chinese people, to whom I refer as ethnic Han people, urban intellectuals in particular, are atheists, having no religious belief at all. This is not an effect of dominant Communist ideology in the past decades, but a result of the deeper influence of Confucianism in the last 2,500 years. While all religions concern death and future life, Confucianism is focused on present life, showing no interest in post-death matters. According to classic works of Confucianism, "Confucius did not talk about strange events, supernatural power, chaos, or spiritual beings". Confucius said, "Work on what is right for the people, respect the spirits and gods but keep a distance. Such behavior can be considered wisdom". He also said, "If we do not know about life, how can we know about death?" Indeed, quite a lot of people in rural China are Buddhists, but a popular saying might characterize their religious attitude as such: "You do not pray unless you are in trouble."

Like other ancient civilizations, big rivers are also the cradles of Chinese and Indian civilizations. Both Chinese and Indian people show their emotional feelings by calling the rivers "Mother Yellow River" and "Mother Ganga" respectively. However, the similarity stops here. In India, the Ganga River is considered as an incarnation of Goddess Ganga and worshipped by Hindus all over the country. Thousands of people make a pilgrimage to the sacred source of the River, millions of people take a bath in the River to purify themselves; some believe water from the River can cure all diseases, some even choose to breathe their last nearby the River to achieve Paradise. The Chinese can hardly imagine such religious enthusiasm. It may be difficult for the Chinese people to understand why Indians spend so much time, energy and money on religious activities, and in the same way, Indian people may consider atheists and those who fail to fully devote themselves to their faith as uncommon.

Relevantly, Indian mythologies are so rich and developed that they have been absorbed by many other countries and are vibrant in Indian people's lives even today, especially in their festival celebrations. On the contrary, Chinese mythologies are not so developed, much less relevant to today's life and few Chinese festivals are religion related.

Talking about ancient mythologies, there is an interesting fact. In Hindu mythology, most Gods have Goddesses as their wives, while in Chinese mythology, most Gods or Goddesses appear single. Maybe this reflects the higher social position women once enjoyed in the ancient Indian society.

Comparatively speaking, having lacked religious assertion, Chinese culture is more ready to accept foreign influences. In the last one hundred years, Western performing arts have gained much popularity in China and China now has its own ballet troupe and many symphony orchestras of high standards. There are even performances of ballet based on modern Chinese life and traditional Chinese operas accompanied by symphonic music. This might be unimaginable in India. Although China is famous for its cuisine and Chinese food has become synonymous with Chinese culture, Chinese people like Western food, too. Twenty years ago, there was no KFC or McDonald's in China, but now their outlets are all over China, in big and small cities alike, totaling about 1,000 and 800 respectively.

From a historical perspective, the relationship between State and Civilization in ancient China and India is different. More than one thousand years ago, China was "one civilization within one state", while India was "many kingdoms within one civilization". In China, the state was the main force for unification, while in India, the sense of "unity" mainly came from the widely shared religious faith and passionate cross-region pilgrimages. Such historical difference is evident now in the names of Provinces/States of the two countries. Most Chinese provinces' names are related to their geographical location. For example, the names of Shandong and Shanxi Provinces literally mean "East of the Mountain" and "West of the Mountain". We also have the names of provinces like "South of the River" and "North of the Lake", etc. Many Indian states, on the other hand, are named after the majority people and their languages of the states, like Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, etc.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my speech is quite long and needs to end now. Lastly, as a Consul General of China, I would like to emphasize that, in my opinion, Chinese culture is essentially an open culture. In ancient times, it is just because of its openness that Chinese ancestors learned the cultural essentials from "the Western Heaven", a respected term used by Chinese people when referring to India in the past. Historically, such openness played a decisive role in making China in Tang Dynasty one of the most developed countries in the world then. Today, under a new context, China is open to the whole world. In exactly one month's time, World Expo 2010 will be inaugurated in Shanghai, China. This is a significant step to invite the essence of all civilizations to China, with far-reaching historical significance for China's future development. Of course, World Expo belongs to the whole world, including India. I sincerely hope Indian friends would seize this opportunity, spare some of your time, and see the whole world in a city which is not far away from you.

Thank you!