QUESTION: WHAT WAS THE NATURE OF THE CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS INTERFACE BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA AND WHAT ARE THE FRUITS OF IT IN MODERN TIME?
India and China are said to be the most rapidly growing economies in Asia and so pose a significant threat to the Western communities. But despite this, it is uncommon knowledge that these two countries have a bad history and are almost at complete disagreement. According to history, there was even a war between them concerning the border they both share. And the most amazing fact is that they are similar in most ways.
RELIGION IN INDIA
The dawn of religion in India can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization which existed between 3200 BC and 1600 BC. Following the excavation of the first Indus Valley city – Harappa – figurines were discovered suggesting that the people that existed there worshipped a Mother Goddess that symbolized fertility. There were also seals that were found that had the swastika symbol on them, which is a predominant symbol of the religions that were later on established, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism (Jayaram, 2017).
After the Indus Valley Civilization, came the Vedic Age that lasted from 1500 BC to 500 BC. The religion then was called Vedism and according to the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, “It was one of the major traditions that shaped Hinduism”, which is a predominant religion in India today. The modern Hinduism practices reveal much about Vedism, This polytheistic religion was characterized by making sacrifices accompanied with songs of praise, which were of two types – the domestic, which was performed by regular men in their houses with the aid of one priest, and the public, which was performed by kings in an open space with the aid of may priests. It is important to note that these priests were from the Brahman social class, one of the classes in the caste system which is a characteristic of the Hinduism religion (Britannica, 2018).
“If the Indus Valley Civilization (3rd–2nd millennium BCE) was the earliest source of these traditions, as some scholars hold, then Hinduism is the oldest living religion on Earth” (Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 1998). This religion is said to have been called the Vedic religion or Vedism, which explains why there is such a strong connection between both religions. Although 11th century Hinduism was strictly conservative of the caste system that emphasized hierarchy of society (Brahmans as priests, Kshatriyas as warriors, Vaishyas as the commoners, and the Shudras as the servants), practice of this has waned.
Another Indian religion is Buddhism, which emerged as an offshoot of Hinduism during the Vedic age (Reynolds, et al., 2018). This religion came about as an opposition to the belief of the Hindus in reincarnation, emphasizing the importance of selflessness and suffering. According to the Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Scholars of religion generally hold that Jainism originated in the 7th–5th century BCE in the Ganges basin of eastern India.” This religion could also be considered to be a way of life as it stresses practices that lead to spiritual purity through nonviolence to all men and living things and an austere lifestyle (Dundas, Shah, & Strohl, 2017).
Culture is defined as a people’s way of life. It is how they dress, speak, the type of food they eat, their art and many others. Therefore, Indian culture is the Indian’s way of life. Due to the population diversity, there is a huge variety in Indian culture. It is one of the oldest cultures in the world. India is a land of unity in diversity. People of different castes, sects and religion cooperate with each other to live in a single society.
Traditional cultural values
• The young show respect to the elders by touching their feet after waking up and especially on festive occasions.
• People greet each other by saying “Namaste” while joining their hands together which means hello.
• Fasting is a custom in which many Hindus follow during religious occasions.
• Indians believe in the concept of “Atithi Devo Bhava” meaning “The guest is considered equal to God”. Therefore, they greet their guests with respect and treat them with utmost care.
India is home to many languages. “Sanskrit” is a language in India and one of the oldest in the world. Due to the fact that India is a land of diversity, different languages are spoken in different areas. Apart from English, other famous languages spoken in India are Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Gujarati, Hindi, Telugu and many more (Chamaria, 2013).
Different people celebrate different festivals according to their religions caste and culture. They celebrate religious festivals such as Diwali, Holi, Guru Nanak, Christmas and many more. They also celebrate national festivals like Gandhi Jayanti.
Art and Architecture
Art, literature and architecture have flourished in India for centuries till date. The oldest known famous works of literature is the Ramayana. Indian arts include pottery, woven silk, Rangoli, paintings among many others. Paintings have been a part of Indian arts since ancient times. Examples are the paintings of Ajantha cave, paintings of Ellora cave, etc. Rangoli is an art of colours and is generally made by the female members of the family. Architecture is one of India’s great achievements. Examples are the Rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram, temples of Thanjavur, Kanchipuram and many more.
There is a difference in style of clothing in the various regions and states in India. Indians wear both traditional and western clothes. When a child is born, loincloths and langotas are the only clothing materials used to cover the child’s whole body. Indians have their ethnic wear such as kurta, dhoti, salwar kameez, turban, sari, sherwani and many others. The dhoti is a piece of cloth in which men drape and tie around their waist.
Music and Dance
Music existed from the beginning of Indian culture. It is an important element of Indian culture and human life. Singing is common during festivities and celebrations. Musical instruments such as drums and cymbals were played. In early stages, Kalidas, Surdas, Kabir, etc. were popular for their songs and music. The various forms of music are ghazals, shayari, folk music etc.
The main Indian dances are the folk and classical. The six most famous classical dance forms are Kathak from Northern India, Manipuri from Manipur, Kathakali from Kerala, Kuchipudi from South-eastern India, Odissi from Orissa and Bharatnatyam from Tamil Nadu. Folk dances are performed mainly in occasions such as child birth, festivals and weddings. They include Rouff dance, Bihu dance, Garba dance, Kalbelia dance and many more (Walk Through India, 2017).
China is an extremely large country. It is first in population and fifth in area in the world, according to the CIA. The customs and traditions of its people vary by geography and ethnicity. It is estimated by the World Bank that about 1.4 billion people reside in China, with 56 ethnic minority groups and 900 million people in the largest group – Han Chinese. The Chinese culture is over 5000 years old. The Chinese culture is well diversified and has variety. The Chinese civilization was rich in literature, visual arts, music and dance and theatre.
There are seven major groups of dialects of the Chinese language, which each have their own variations, according to Mount Holyoke College. Mandarin dialects are spoken by 71.5 percent of the population, followed by Wu (8.5 percent), Yue (also called Cantonese with 5 percent), Xiang (4.8 percent), Min (4.1 percent), Hakka (3.7 percent) and Gan (2.4 percent). Mandarin is the official national language of China. Many Chinese also speak fluent English (Christian, 2013).
Like other aspects of Chinese life, cuisine is heavily influenced by geography and ethnic diversity. Among the main styles of Chinese cooking are Cantonese, which features stir-fried dishes, and Szechuan, which relies heavily on the use of peanuts, sesame paste, and ginger and is known for its spiciness.
Rice is not only a major food source in China; it is also a major element that helped grow their society, according to “Pathways to Asian Civilizations: Tracing the Origins and Spread of Rice and Rice Cultures,” a 2011 article in the journal Rice by Dorian Q. Fuller. The Chinese word for rice is fan, which also means “meal,” and it is a staple of their diet, as are bean sprouts, cabbage, and scallions (Fuller, 2012).
Chinese art is greatly influenced by the country’s rich spiritual and mystical history. Many sculptures and paintings depict spiritual figures of Buddhism, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Many musical instruments are integral to Chinese culture, including the flute-like xun and the guqin, which is in the zither family.
Customs and Celebrations
The largest festival — also called the Spring Festival — marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year. It falls between mid-January and mid-February and is a time to honor ancestors. During the 15-day celebration, the Chinese do something every day to welcome the New Year, such as eating rice congee and mustard greens to cleanse the body, according to the University of Victoria. The holiday is marked with fireworks and parades featuring dancers dressed as dragons.
Many people make pilgrimages to Confucius’ birthplace in Shandong Province on his birthday, Sept. 28. The birthday of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, is observed by visiting Taoist temples. It falls between late March and late April. The Moon Festival is celebrated in September or October with fireworks, paper lanterns and moon gazing.
In China, citizens are allowed to exercise their right of freedom to practice whatever religion they choose to and as such various religions are practiced. Religions like Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and much more are practiced by the people of China and have been passed down through generations. Most of these religions paved way for Civilization in China today. Some of which are explained below:
Taoism religion has existed in China for over 2000 years. Taoism promotes the unity of opposites, spiritual virtue and self-development. It is surprising to know that the religion wasn’t founded by anyone. Taoism is a religion that has to do with people being united and living in harmony among themselves. The people of China adopted this religion and have been practicing it for a really long time. Taoism is also known as Daoism. People who engage in this religion perform practices like meditation (BBC, 2009).
Buddhism was introduced in China many years ago by Buddhist Monks from India and has been practiced for a very long time. This religion is said to be China’s oldest foreign religion (the oldest religion to be adopted) and has had a great influence on the Chinese people. It was effectively practiced under the Han Dynasty. Buddhism is concerned about knowing the nature of the mind. As a result of the historical predominance of Buddhism in China, many people have adopted the religion as it has been passed and practiced through different generations. The influence the religion has on the People of China is what makes the religion relevant in modern society (Kelly, 2017).
To begin with, Confucianism is not really regarded as a religion but as a set of moral values that guide people. Confucianism is the bedrock of the Chinese religion. It began during the Zhou Dynasty and was promulgated by Confucius who was a great Philosopher. (5th–6th century BCE). It deals with the set of principles that bring order to the behavior of people and it has greatly influenced the way of life in China. Confucianism has also been the bedrock of the positive values and morals passed down from parents to children through different generations. It is particular about treating people in the society with love and kind-heartedness in accordance with good moral values to live in peace and harmony (Weiming, 2018).
INTERFACE BETWEEN CHINESE AND INDIAN RELIGION AND CULTURE
The interface between India and China with one another on many occasions. Over ten centuries ago, the religion, Buddhism, brought these two nations together with the belief that humans were made to suffer due to their selfish behavior. It was introduced in China in 3rd century BCE (Zimmermann, 2017).
After sharing borders and religions with one another for so long, their cultures are similar as well. Some similarities include intense and strict social classes, the high value and importance placed on festivities and holidays, diversity of languages (Commisceo Global Consultancy Ltd., n.d.).
Both countries are surrounded by rivers which contribute to the growth of its economy, China along the Yellow River and India along the Indus River. Both nations are agricultural based (Study Moose, 2016).
EFFECTS OF THE INTERFACE ON MODERN TIME
Is the cultural renaissance possible? Can this two civilizations achieve a perfect mutualism relation? Given this, can we say this can spearhead an advancement in both civilizations?
I believe so, from the improvement of the health care in India and the Beijing Olympics in China, this is very evident as it can be traced back to the cultural interface that both share.
An industry like Bollywood and the emergence of actors like Jackie Chan prove the effect that the Indian-Chinese interface have on the film making and production industry (Sangani, 2014).
Reports suggested that by 2016, the second largest economy would be China and India will follow down the ladder by 2026. There is evidence that the former has come to reality while the latter has great potential to still come to pass. Since the economic downturn in the United States in 2007, the Asian economy has prospered the global economy adequately. The rate at which China has grown in terms of size and organization has propelled India to catch as quickly as possible, inventing new developmental strategies. It might only be a matter of time (Kaplinsky, 2007).
Beijing-New Delhi Competition
From New York to London, Beijing has become a new world trading center. From having one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, this city has become one of the world’s most developed cities. This interface has forced various multi-nationals like Dominoes Pizza and others driven to New Delhi to get majority of the Asian market share. Accounting to more than thirty-seven percent of the world’s population the interaction between this two cities would definitely have either a positive or adverse toll on world affairs.
Nuclear and Missile Technology
For a civilization popularly identified with the caste system, India along with China have broken new grounds.
When Pakistan received assistance in this field by China, India was propelled to join the industry. Plans were made and institutions created to soothe this purpose. If this does not prove the effect of this cultural and religious interface, I don’t know what does? Surprisingly, the rancor between Pakistan and India would propel the race for nuclear and missile technology on the continent.
However, a major adverse effect would be highlighted: The Sino-Indian War of 1962, due to the competition and bond between this two civilizations an argument or two is to be expected. This war between this nations still tends to strain the mutualism between both of them (Malik, 2017). During this time development as a whole excluding military, was slowed down considerably (Malone ; Mukherjee, 2010).
To be concise, we see both nations and civilizations as they might be pushing each other to greater heights. I am confident that there has been no sister-like group of people ever recorded in civilization like this two nations.
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