Maharashtra State BoardHSC Arts 11th
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India and China

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India and China:

The route that links Asia and Europe was referred for the first time as the ‘Silk Route’ by Ferdinand von Richthofen, the German geographer. The silk route runs more than 6000 kilometers. One may have the impression that the silk route is an unbroken highway. However, in reality, this route is an intricate web of major and minor lines bifurcating and crossing each other. One of the major lines of this route linked China and India and then extended It was in the 1st century C.E. that Buddhism began to spread from India to China. The ‘Han’ dynasty that arose in China in this period had expanded its empire up to Central Asia. They dominated the silk route. Keeping in with the tradition ‘ he route that links Asia and Europe was referred for the first time as the ‘Silk Route’ by Ferdinand von Richthofen, the German geographer. The silk route runs more than 6000 kilometers. One may have the impression that the silk route is an unbroken highway. However, in reality, this route is an intricate web of major and minor lines bifurcating and crossing each other. One of the major lines of this route linked China and India and then ex Ming-ti’ the second king of the Han dynasty had sent his representatives to India. They returned to China accompanied by two Buddhist monks, ‘Kashyapa Matang’ and ‘Dharmaraksha’ in 67 C.E. They carried many Buddhist texts with them. The texts were loaded on white horses. After reaching China the monks translated the texts in the Chinese language. The Chinese emperor built a temple in their honour, which is known as ‘White Horse Temple’. This is the first Buddhist temple built in China. In the 3rd century C.E. the rule of the Han dynasty ended and the period of disintegration and unrest began with it, pushing common people to a state of desperation. This period lasted till the 6th century C.E. People got attracted to Buddhism in this period in large numbers. Many Chinese pilgrims began to visit Buddhist centers in Central Asia and India. In the 4th century C.E., Kumarjeeva the famous and highly learned monk translated many Buddhist texts in the Chinese language. In the 6th century, the popularity of Buddhism reached its peak in China. By this time both sects of Buddhism, Theravada (Hinayana) and Mahayana, and their sub-sects were well established in China. In the 7th century C.E. Islam and Christianity were gradually introduced. Kubalai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan had a great interest in Buddhism. The spread of Buddhism in China in the 1st century C.E. also introduced a new trend in Chinese art. Many of the Mahayana Buddhist monks who arrived in China, hailed from Central Asia. Their presence in China inspired the making of images of Gautama Buddha and Bodhisattvas. This art style that originated in the Xinjiang province is known as ‘Serendian Art Style’ (Seres meaning China + India). Serendian Art Style was influenced by Gandhara art. It presents a combination of Greek, Persian, and Chinese art forms. During the exploratory survey conducted by Sir Aurel Stein many terracotta sculptures of Serendian style were brought to light. In the 4th- 6th century C.E. many Buddhist temples and viharas were built in China.

However, stupas built in this period were very few. Instead of a stupa, every temple had a pagoda of Chinese style. These pagoda being wooden, hardly any of them exists today. These pagodas used to have multiple floors. The upper floors of the pagodas successively reduced in size. The uppermost floor held a metal staff (yashti), which was fixed with metal rings that became successively smaller in size. The arrangement of staff and the rings seems to be the only reminder of the Umbrella in the Indian stupa architecture. Later, pagodas were built by using bricks and stones. The influence of Buddhist art tradition from India still exists in the form of rock-cut caves. Three of them have received the status of World Cultural Heritage. Among them, the caves of ‘Dunhuang’ are located on the ancient silk route. These caves are known as ‘Mogao Caves’. The creation of these caves continued till the 13th-14th century C.E. The merchants coming from the interior regions of China used to gather at Dunhuang. It was an important meeting point for the Chinese merchants and those coming from other countries. Nearly 500 caves of Dunhuang are enriched with numerous sculptures and murals. Thousands of manuscripts were discovered from these caves.

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Some more Information:

Some Chinese texts mention Kashmir by the name of ‘Ki- Pin’. Some texts have mentioned the ancient city of Kapisha (Begram) in Afghanistan by the same name. Chinese literature mentions India variously as ‘Shen-tu’, ‘Tien-chu’, ‘Tien-tu’, ‘Xien-tu’, ‘Yuan-tu’, ‘Xuantu’, etc. Among all these names the name Yin-tu has prevailed in China till today. In China, the kings of ‘Han’ dynasty were ruling when Kanishka ruled in India. Sir Aurel Stein, the British archaeologist was the first to conduct an archaeological survey on the silk route traversing through India, China, and Central Asia.

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