Buddhabradra taught Buddhism in several places in China. He earned great fame among the scholars and made many followers and disciples. By that time, Fa Xian returned from South Asia in 412 with bulk of Buddhist scriptures written in Sanskrit. Buddhabhadra became the senior translator at the Tao Chang Su Monastery and translated Buddhists scriptures from Sanskrit in to Chinese. 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, MahasanghikaVinaya 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 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.
(Note: A life-size bronze statue of Buddhabhadra is erected in the premises of Zhanshan Temple of Qingdao in 2011.)
Nepal and China’s cultural and spiritual connections and friendly contacts were not only linked by the religious attachments but also by explorations, matrimonial ties and cultural exchanges. Xuan Zhang, a famous Chinese traveler, visited Lumbini and Kathmandu in the 7th century. 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.
In 639, a Nepalese Princess Bhrikuti (khridzun), daughter of King Udayadev (somewhere Amshuvarma is also mentioned) of Nepal was given in marriage to Tibetan King Songtsan Gampo. It is said that she significantly contributed to introducing Buddhism in Tibet from Nepal. 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. Songtsan Gampo had also married Chinese Princess Wencheng who is considered to be another incarnation of Tara (White) in Tibet. Both Queens are said to have lived amicably and worked together with Songtsan Gampo to spread Buddhism in the region. Potala Palace and Jokang temple, which bear the images of Bhrikuti, speaks of the greatness of our cultural and spiritual ties. Among many, the contribution of Aniko, an architect from Nepal, is also remarkable in the annals of Nepal China relationship. He came to China in the thirteenth century at an age of 16 upon the invitation of then emperor of China Kublai Khan to make Nepalese-style Buddhist temples. His renowned works include the “Swarna Bihar” or the Golden Temple, built in 1260, which is located in Tibet. He constructed a 50.9 meter White Pagoda (Bai Ta Si) and several other temples in Beijing. In 1301, he constructed two Buddha Stupas named Ashoka and Sharira here in the sacred soil of Wu Tai Shan. Today, being on this holy place amongst such learned personalities, I cannot express in words the depth of my feelings.
Our shared cultural connections extend beyond these undying physical structures to embrace deep rooted arts, architectures and scripts having commonalities. The styles of the temples, old buildings, their windows and wooden beams — to name a few — speak of the strong influence of each other’s cultures for centuries. One of the most striking evidences is the continuity of the Ranjana script used to inscribe sacred chants in the prayer wheelsaround Buddhist temples. The scrip, since the time of its introduction from Nepal to the Tibet Autonomous Region, has been spread not only in Tibet but also throughout the monasteries of Chinese mainland and Mongolia.
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 from Nepal with untiring efforts of 3 years. It is so glorifying to note that the world’s tallest wooden statue, also recorded in the Guinness book, came to China from Nepal to remain a monument of our historical closeness.
Great Chinese travelers and monks other than mentioned above had visited Nepal on pilgrimage in different period of time. Zhimong (404), Daoking (451), Yuanzhan (629), Xuanzhao (637-649), Matisenna (649), Xuanhui (649), I-tsing (671-695), Daofang (698), Huien (702-719) Wukong (764), Jiye (964), Xinqing (966), Zhigun (1384), Yansubao (1413), Dengchieng (1427) and Houxiang (1427) are to name some who have cemented our cultural ties. Several Nepalese monks after Buddhabhadra reciprocated these Chinese pilgrimages. To name a few who made scholarly significant contributions, Shaila Maju (698) Shantiraksita (c700s) Shanti Bhadra and Ananta Shree (1040) and Laxmi Shree (c1300s) are prominent figures of their contemporary age.
The contribution of luminaries of both the countries in those ancient times is immense in our cultural ties. Acknowledging their great deeds, former Chinese President late Li Xian Nian, speaking in Kathmandu in 1984, called Fa Xian, Xuan Zhang, Buddhabhadra and Arniko, as the forerunners of Nepal China relations who began a friendly history. In recent time too, the friendship is still illuminating. After Nepal and China established diplomatic relations in 1955, the exchanges of delegations have taken place from time to time. In 1956, Nepal’s Dharmodaya Sabha organized the 4th Conference of World Fellowship of Busshist in Kathmandu. A 15 member delegation from China led by Rev. Shrab Gyantso participated in the Fellowship. A delegation from the Dharmodaya Sabha visited China in 1959 at the invitation of the Buddhist Association of China. Another delegation led by Rev. Amritananda also visited China in 1984. In 1986, Vice President of the National People’s Congress and Honorary President of the Buddhist Associatoin Panchen Erdini Quigyi Panchen Lama visited Nepal to attend the 15th World Buddhist Conference.