Nepal's Bilateral Relation

Historical Perspective

1. Nepal and China have a long history of political, economic, religious, social and cultural relations. Although recorded history can be traced out only from early 5th century AD we can infer based on the intense cultural affinities of either side whether Shakyamuni Buddha or the Confucius, it can be assumed that the civilizational contacts between Nepal and China  could have been happened in the prehistoric period since. The story of Manjushree, known in China as Wen Shu Pu Sa, is narrated in Nepal as founder of Kathmandu valley who cut the gorge to drain out the water from the lake to make the Kathmandu Valley habitable.

2. Nepali Monk Buddhabhadra who was born in Kapilvastu in 358 in the Shakya family came to China in the 5th century on the request of great Chinese Traveller Pao Yun, who was in a tour of South Asia, to  enhance the learning on Buddhism. Buddhabhadra left for China with the Chinese delegation in 406 and arrived at Qingdao in 409 via Vietnam. Upon his arrival in China, he first went to Ch’ang-an, one of old Chinese capitals at that time. In 410 he went to Lu Shan with some forty disciples. The Emperor later invited to Jian Kang, the modern Nanjing, on the persuasion of Fa Xian, who had then returned from his visit of South Asia. The Emperor of China had accorded him a warm welcome at the imperial palace. He spent rest of his life in Nanjing. Great monk Buddha Bhadra spent his whole life in China serving the Chinese people by translating Buddhist scriptures from Shanskrit into Chinese and preaching Buddhism.  Fifteen of his translated works are said to be still preserved in China. The most noted work which Buddhabhadra translated into Chinese in collaboration with Fa Xian was Maha-Parinirvana-Sutra (discourse on the Great Decease) in six volumes. Others included the Vinayapitaka (the code of monastic discipline) of the Mahasanghika School in thirty-four chapters, Mahasanghika Vinaya in forty volumes, Buddhanusmriti-Samadhi (a discourse on the contemplation of the Buddha), Samadhi Sutra, Vipulya Sutra, Ghava Sutra, Gyan Sutra and Manjushree Sutra of Swear Vow. Buddhabhadra and his contemporary Fa Xian were spiritually tied friends. Fa Xian had traveled to Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha and Buddhabhadra. Knowing that Buddhabhadra has arrived in Nanjing, Fa Xian came back to China in 412 with all his scriptures to work together and translate them into Chinese. They remained together for the rest of their life in promoting Buddhist philosophy in China, which is still acclaimed by historians and scholars. Buddhabhadra earned great fame among the scholars and made many disciples A life-size bronze statue of Buddhabhadra is erected in the premises of Zhanshan Temple of Qingdao in 2011.) His tomb was kept in the famous Tongling Temple in Jiujiang city of Jiangxi Province. He is also known his Chinese name as Jue Xian Fa Shi means absolutely nice abbot/master.

3. Nepal and China’s spiritual connections and friendly contacts were not only linked by the religious attachments but also widened by explorations, matrimonial ties and cultural exchanges in the following the early 5th century Buddha Bhadra- Fa Xian period. Xuan Zhang, a famous Chinese traveler, visited Lumbini and probably to Kathmandu, in the 7th century. His travelogue explains the life and economy of Kathmandu at that time. A magnificent palace mentioned in his travelogue called Kailashkut is still a subject to explore by the archaeologists. His voyage to South Asia during the pre-medieval time greatly helped exchange cultural values and philosophies of each other. Now, the travel writings of Xuan Zang have been a main source of then history of Nepal.

4. A Nepali Princess Bhrikuti (Khridzun) was given in marriage to Tibetan King Songtsan Gampo in 639. It is said that she significantly contributed to introducing Buddhism in Tibet.. She is also remembered for the construction of the first ancient temples in Tibet including Potala Palace and Jhokang temple. She brought artistic images of Arya Tara, Avalokiteshwara and Akshothya Buddha in Tibet from Nepal. Bhrikuti is usually represented as Harit Tara (Green Star) in Tibet. Potala Palace and Jokang temple, which bear the images of Bhrikuti, speaks of the greatness of our cultural and spiritual ties.

5. Our shared cultural connections extend beyond these mighty Himalayas to embrace deep rooted arts, architectures and scripts having commonalities. The styles of the temples, old buildings, their window pans and wooden beams to name few   that speak a volume about the strong influence  cultures in either sides for centuries. One of the most striking evidences is the continuity of the Ranjana script (scripts of Kathmandu based Newar ethnic community) used to inscribe sacred chants in the prayer wheels around Buddhist temples in China indicates the influence of Kathmandu in Chinese Buddhism. The script has been spread not only in Tibet but also throughout the monasteries of Chinese mainland and Mongolia.

6. Inside Lama Temple or Yonghe Gong in Beijing, one of the most revered and famous places in China, a 300 plus year old statue still stand firmly. The giant log on which Buddha’s image has been engraved was brought all the way from Nepal with untiring efforts of 3 years. It is so gratifying to note that the world’s tallest wooden statue, also recorded in the Guinness book, came to China from Nepal remains as a monument of our historical ties.