Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai?

Kajal Gupta
White Horse Temple- the first Buddhist temple in China built in 68 A.D. to house the first two Indian monks Kashyapa Matanga and Dharmaratna who brought Buddhist scriptures to China on a white horse (hence the name)
White Horse Temple- the first Buddhist temple in China built in 68 A.D. It housed the first two Indian monks Kashyapa Matanga and Dharmaratna who brought Buddhist scriptures to China on a white horse (hence the name). Windmemories / CC BY-SA

India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border,

said Hu Shih of China, a philosopher, diplomat & an essayist.

While both India & China have been among the most ancient civilizations to ever exist, India is undoubtedly the oldest out of the two and, has had more influence in Chinese culture than vice-versa. Modern-day China, officially the People’s Republic of China -proclaimed by Mao Zedong in 1949, is since governed by the Communist Party formed in 1921. The present alliance (from 1950) between both the nations, albeit marred by the never-ending border disputes & deadlocks, has had an otherwise peaceful past. Before the Communist party took over & their expansionist policies (a key aspect of communism) played out, India and China had shared cordial cultural & economic relations dating back to 2nd century BCE. 

Given below is a short account of Indo-China relations, cultural differences & similarities, & China before communism (in glimpses).

*click on the highlighted text 👆🏼 to jump to a specific section*

Friendship & War Conflicts

A timeline of the earliest recorded contacts-

2nd century BCE

India traded in cotton, jewels, metals, spices, ivory, sugar, rice, sandalwood & clothing dyes for Chinese silk and porcelain via The Silk Road (ancient trade routes connecting Asia, Africa & Europe).

1st-6th century CE

Buddhist monks travelled to China through the same route introducing the dragon state to the teachings of Buddha.

An illustration of the legendary Indian prince Bodhidharma who is credited with the transmission of Zen Buddhism in China
An illustration of the legendary Indian prince Bodhidharma. He is credited with the transmission of Zen Buddhism in China. Yoshitoshi / Public domain

In the next centuries, they were assisted by other monks from India in translating Buddhist texts from Sanskrit to Chinese. To name a few, Kashyapa Matanga, Dharmaratna, Batuo, Lokaksema, Bodhidharma & Kumarajiva were the noted sages. 

5th-7th century CE

During this period, three Chinese monks – Xuan Zang, Yijing & Faxian- among others, visited India. While the first two were students at Nalanda University, Bihar, the latter came to collect copies of Buddhist writings. All of them maintained travelogues of their respective journeys to the Indian subcontinent.

⭐ Also, note that there have been multiple references to Chinese people in ancient Indian literature written way before the 2nd century BCE, such as Mahabharata, Ramayana, etc. You could read more about it here.

Major Post Independence border feuds-

1962 Sino-Indian War

China’s construction of a road through Aksai Chin, and Dalai Lama taking shelter in India after the failed uprising in Tibet, were among the most prominent factors which flared Indo China clashes at the border. Communication between both countries reached an impasse as neither was ready to withdraw claims over Aksai Chin.

Jawaharlal Nehru with Mao Zedong during his visit to China in 1954
Jawaharlal Nehru with Mao Zedong. Nehru visited China in 1954, accompanied by Indira Gandhi. Unknown author / Public domain

Despite multiple warnings from army, Sardar Patel, General Kariappa, Himmat Singh committee, Ram Manohar Lohia, M.S. Golwalkar & many more, of prospective attack, the then PM Nehru remained negligent of China’s designs. Moreover, modernization of the military was stopped, they were denied close air support, woollen clothes or even higher number of troops. The war broke out, lasting from Oct. 20 to Nov. 21, claiming 1,383 lives of our unprepared jawans. 

1967 Sino-Indian War II

On 7 September 1967 in Sikkim, vexed by Indian army’s attempt at fencing the Nathu La-Sebu La stretch with iron pickets & barbed wires, Chinese troops (People’s Liberation Army) got into a physical brawl with them. Though China warned the Indian government against further “intrusions”, the work resumed on September 11. Lt Col Rai Singh tried to talk to the Chinese but they opened machine-gun fire at him. Indian soldiers responded in kind with artillery fire and destroyed all nearby enemy posts. Having suffered much more casualties than Indians, PLA threatened to bring in fighter jets; However, by then the government of China had got the lesson & the situation remained peaceful afterwards. After few days, a scuffle broke out on October 1, between the two troops at Cho La, a few kilometres north from Nathu La. Chinese, true to their form, crossed over to the Sikkim side of the border & blamed India of trespassing. Nonetheless, the plan was laid to waste when they were pushed back up to three kilometres from the border.

⭐ In 2017, a standoff took place between Indian army & PLA over China’s construction of a road in Doklam. Howbeit, tensions were de-escalated without any loss of lives.

2020 Ongoing Galwan Valley Standoff

Triggered by India’s construction of a strategic bridge over Galwan river, PLA has deployed a massive number of troops (in 1000’s) & military equipment in Ladakh’s Galwan valley. On the night of 15/16 June, Col Santosh Babu of ’16 Bihar Regiment’ with a delegation of soldiers, departed to hold talks with PLA patrols since they didn’t move back to their territory as decided. The Chinese responded with nail-studded sticks, stones, iron poles & clubs covered with barbed wire, a pre-meditated attempt to hinder the bridge project. The hand to hand combat lasted for 6 hours, killing 20 Indian & over 40 Chinese troops.

PM modi interacting with the forces in nimu, ladakh on the 3rd of july, 2020
PM Modi made an unannounced visit to Nimu, Ladakh on the 3rd of July. Interacting with the forces, he drove home the resolve to retaliate, shall any provocations be made further by China.

Earlier in May, Indian and Chinese patrols came face to face in Nathu La, Sikkim when the latter was confronted on the Indian side of LAC. Also, satellite images showed transgression activities by China on the north bank of Pangong Tso lake.

Latest– Both the countries are working to de-escalate the conflict & pullback the troops from the disengagements points agreed upon.

History & Cultural norms

A comparative look at aboriginal Chinese & Indian civilizations below-

Similarities

Both the eastern civilizations

  • underwent foreign occupations by Mongols, British, etc
  • prioritise family & society over individual interests
  • are sincere, spiritual & tolerant of varying beliefs
  • have comparably more traditional, orthodox older generations than the younger ones
  • place a strong emphasis on education & that students invest their time seriously
  • gives much importance to good conduct & morality
  • match in their hospitality towards guests & visitors
  • have dumplings & sweet rice cakes as part of their cuisines such as momos, vattayappam, etc in India & wontons, bai tang gao, etc in China
  • comprise of physical health disciplines like yoga, qigong, taiji, used for spiritual awakening or to connect with primordial forces
  • advanced in medical sciences like Ayurveda, Acupuncture, etc from ancient times
  • revere to a pantheon of deities, along with animistic perspective
  • follow lunar & lunisolar calendars having 60 years in every “century”
  • deal with astrological sciences like Jyotisha & Sheng Xiao
  • are home to several languages and dialects than just Hindi & Mandarin
  • never went on a rampage invading & proselytising other lands & cultures, like Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Europeans & many more
  • treasure cultural heritage & traditions even in modern times

Differences

IndiaParameterChina
1.
hindu gods shiva parvati kartikeya
Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism
Indigenous Faiths1.
chinese folk religion gods in the temple of the five lords
Chinese folk religion, Taoism, Confucianism, Zen buddhism
Laid back, thoughtful, friendly, self-confident, analytical thinkers, elaborative & argumentative in communicationGeneral
Traits
Workaholics, disciplined, reserved, holistic thinkers, ambiguous & indirect in communication
2.
north indian food thali with curries, saag, rice, roti
Main ingredients lose their original form after being cooked or curried. Food is served in individual servings, is eaten with the right hand, and dietary restrictions due to religion are present.
Dietary Habits2.
chinese dishes on the dining table for chinese family dinner
Main ingredients retain their original form even after being cooked. Food is shared by the people at the table, is eaten with chopsticks, & basically everything can be consumed.
Parents instil sanskara in their children, let them learn about the world around in childhood, & accept each child as a unique individual who has predetermined characteristics, individual interests, differences, needs, desires & emotional expressions.Parenting StyleParents nurture their children by providing them with the “right” type of environment comprising of strict discipline & training, discouraging public display of feelings, and push them towards fixed goals.
1. Image by photosforyou from Pixabay
2. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay
Image Credits1. Rolfmueller / CC BY-SA
2. Image by Yinan Chen from Pixabay

China before Communism

Before the Communist Party, China was ruled by the Chinese Nationalist party for a brief period, preceded by the Qing dynasty. Attached below are some glimpses of China before Communism-

Do You Know?

A Chinese national Hong Xiuquan -after getting influenced by the works of American missionary Edwin Stevens- began viewing Chinese culture as work of Evil and set off to convert the people to Christianity. He later led Taiping Rebellion against Qing dynasty which caused the loss of at least 20 million lives.

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