EARLY COMMERCIAL AND CULTURAL EXCHANGES BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA, FIRST-SIXTH CENTURIES A.D. (BUDDHIST PROPAGATION, SINO-INDIAN THEOLOGY, MONASTERIES)

XINRU LIU, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Buddhism was the most active religion in Kushan India, and became the dominant religion in north China after the third century A.D. Its transmission from India to China paralleled the development of commercial contacts between the two countries. In this study I explore commercial links during the first five centuries A.D., and, in addition, ascertain the relationship between the institutional and theological changes in Buddhism and commercial activities. Archaeological reports and historical records were used to determine the extent of the trade as well as its ritual and symbolic significance. Then I use Buddhist documents and votive inscriptions composed in the first few centuries A.D. to explore the nature of the relationship between the developments of Buddhism and commercial activities in north and northwest India. Finally, I use votive inscriptions and historical records from the fourth and fifth centuries in north China to analyze the variations in the Buddhist monasteries' relationships with the state and traders. This study reveals that the trade linking the Mediterranean and East Asia in the early Christian era stimulated important developments in Buddhist theology and institutions in Kushan India. There was an increasing emphasis on rituals of worship, which was crystalized in the concept of the "seven treasures" in Buddhist literature. The seven treasures, including the luxury goods exchanged in the Eurasian trade, became the symbol of the Buddhist ideal of purity and the best gift that a devotee could give to Buddhist deities in order to share their merits. This concept, along with the whole array of Buddhist ideology and institutions that developed in Kushan India, was transported to China through the trade routes. Buddhism thus provided a new market by creating a ritual need for certain luxury goods supplied by the Sino-Indian trade. This study of the model of ancient trade between India and China suggests that the rules of classical economics do not fully account for the patterns of material exchanges in ancient societies. Ritual, religious, and social considerations often outweigh material gains. Economic activities in turn also provided the basis for the evolution of religious concepts and cultural values.

Subject Area

Ancient history|Asian History|South Asian Studies

Recommended Citation

LIU, XINRU, "EARLY COMMERCIAL AND CULTURAL EXCHANGES BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA, FIRST-SIXTH CENTURIES A.D. (BUDDHIST PROPAGATION, SINO-INDIAN THEOLOGY, MONASTERIES)" (1985). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8603669.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8603669

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