References to Nepal in Classical Chinese Sources

"References to Nepal in Classical Chinese Sources" ( .pdf )
Medieval Investigations 2015 – May 27-28, 2015 – Kathmandu, Nepal.

Jeffrey Kotyk
Leiden University

Abstract: This survey translates the major references and descriptions of Nepal in Classical Chinese sources, both secular sources and Buddhist texts. The Chinese often provides eyewitness accounts of medieval Nepal. The Indian literature preserved in Chinese likewise provides Indian perceptions of Nepal that are otherwise not found in extant Sanskrit works.

This paper is a survey of references and descriptions of Nepal in Classical Chinese sources, which extend from the seventh to fifteenth centuries. Classical Chinese was the written lingua franca for all of China and East Asia (the Sinosphere) until at least the sixteenth century. It was also the language in which canonical Buddhist works were translated into. The secular histories and Buddhist texts available to us today are immense and fortunately preserve descriptions of medieval Nepal that are otherwise unavailable in other languages. These are useful to any historian of Nepal.

Here I will provide those references in full translation. The citations are not exhaustive, though they constitute the significant references to Nepal available in the extant literature, both secular and Buddhist. The dynastic histories cited below drew on various court records and smaller histories which are noted where relevant and not reproduced due to space limitations. Moreover, the major histories provide most of the same content and much more than the lesser records.

Perhaps the most famous account of medieval Nepal by a contemporary Chinese monk is that of Xuanzang 玄奘 (602–664), who left China around 629 and returned in 645. He provides numerous details about Nepal from his travelogue the Great Tang Report of the Western Region (Chn. Datang Xiyu ji 大唐西域記; Taishō 2087). It is unclear if he actually visited Nepal himself, in which case the details he is providing were presumably gained from hearsay.

尼波羅國,周四千餘里,在雪山中。國大都城周二十餘里。山川連屬,宜穀稼,多花菓,出赤銅、犛牛、命命鳥。貨用赤銅錢。氣序寒烈,風俗險詖,人性剛獷,信義輕薄。無學藝,有工巧。形貌醜弊,邪正兼信。伽藍、天祠接堵連隅。僧徒二千餘人,大小二乘,兼功綜習。外道異學,其數不詳。王,剎帝利栗呫婆種也。志學清高,純信佛法。近代有王,號鴦輸伐摩(唐言光胄)。碩學聰叡,自製《聲明論》,重學敬德,遐邇著聞。都城東南有小水池,以人火投之,水即焰起,更投餘物,亦變為火。

The country of Nepal has a circumference of over 4000 li1 and is located in snowy mountains. The country's capital city has a circumference of over 20 li. Mountains and rivers are continuous and are good for grains and many fruits. It produces red copper, yaks and jīvajīvaka birds. For currency they use red copper coins. The climate is cold and frigid. The local customs are rugged and base. The temperament of the people is tough and uncouth. Their trustworthiness is lacking. They are unlearned in arts, but possess exquisite crafting skills. Their appearance is haggard. They believe in both the wicked and good. Buddhist monasteries and Brahmanical temples stand side by side. There are over 2000 Buddhist monks. Both the Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna are practiced together. I am unsure about the numbers of the heterodox. The kings are kṣatriya-s and of the Licchavi. They are learned, virtuous, and sincere in their faith in the Buddhadharma. In recent times there was a king named Aṃśuvarman (in Chinese meaning armor of light) who was erudite and ingenious. He himself composed a treatise entitled the Śabdavidyā Śāstra. He valued learning and respected virtue. His reputation spread far and wide. Southeast of the capital there is a small pond. When people throw fire on it the water erupts into flames. It also changes to fire when other items are thrown into it.2

This flammable pond is mentioned in several other sources (see below) and was clearly a notable feature of Nepal for Chinese visitors. Xuanzang does not mention it, but we are told in later sources that it is associated with Maitreya Buddha.

A historical account of Buddhism, the Fozu tongji 佛祖統紀 (fasc. 32), by Song dynasty monk Zhipan 志磐 (1220-1275) provides a map of the regions west of India based on Xuanzang's account. The map notes it is only approximate. It provides us with one medieval Chinese perspective on where Nepal is located. Note that the Himalayas are on the right, the top represents Central Asia and the bottom right is SE Asia. The sea is the Indian Ocean.



The Vinaya master Daoxuan 道宣 (596-667) in his biographies of eminent monks (Chn. Xu gaoseng zhuan 續高僧傳; Taishō 2060) provides details as to the geographical location of Nepal and its customs, which seems to be extracted partially from Xuanzang's account.

順河東下減於千里達吠舍釐。即毘舍離也。... 自斯東北二千餘里。入大雪山至尼波羅國。純信於佛。僧有二千。大小兼學。城東有池。中有天金光浮水上。古老傳云彌勒下生。用為首飾。或有利其寶者。夜往盜之。但見火聚騰焰。都不可近。今則沈深叵窮其底。水又極熱難得措足。唐國使者試火投之焰便踊起。因用煮米便得成飯。其境北界。即東女國與吐蕃接境。

Following the river east downward less than 1000 li one reaches Vaiśālī. … more than 2000 li northeast from here one enters the great snowy mountains before arriving in the country of Nepal. They have pure faith in the Buddha, with a sangha of 2000 that studies both the Mahāyāna and Hināyāna. To the east of the city is a pond where celestial gold luminously floats on top. The ancient legend states it is where Maitreya will be born. It is used for jewelry [gilding?]. Some would snatch3 the treasures and at night go to steal them, but seeing the erupting flames, none of them could approach it. It is deep with no bottom. The water is also extremely hot and it is difficult to stand in it. The envoy of the Tang tested the fire. He threw something in it and the flames burst up. He subsequently used it to boil rice which was shortly fully cooked. Their northern boundary borders the eastern country of ladies4 and Tibet.5

The flammable pond is also mentioned in fragments of Wang Xuance's travelogue. The title of the original work was Record of Travel to Middle Indian Countries (Chn. Zhong Tianzhu guo xing ji 中天竺國行記), though it is no longer extant. However, the Fayuan zhulin 法苑珠林 (Taishō 2122), a Buddhist encyclopedic work by Daoshi 道世 (d. 683) completed in 668, preserves a number of passages from the travelogue including the following concerning Nepal:

王玄策西國行傳云。唐顯慶二年。勅使王玄策等往西國。送佛袈裟。至泥婆羅國西南至頗羅度來。村東坎下有一水火池。若將家火照之。其水上即有火焰於水中出。欲滅以水沃之。其焰轉熾。漢使等曾於中架一釜煮飯熟。使問彼國王。國王答使人云。曾經以杖刺著一金匱。令人挽出。一挽一深。相傳云。此是彌勒佛當來成道天冠金。火龍防守之。此池火乃是火龍火也。

Wang Xuance's travelogue of the western countries states, “In year 2 of reign era Xianqing [657] in the Tang, the imperial envoy led by Wang Xuance was to go to the western countries and send the buddha's kaṣāya. They arrived in the southwest of the country of Nepal. East of a village6 at the bottom of a pit is a pond of water and fire. If you illuminated it with a household torch, the top of the water would erupt in flames coming out from the water. They wanted to extinguish it and threw water on it, and the flame turned into a blaze. The Chinese envoy set up a cauldron to boil rice which was then cooked. The envoy asked the king about it. The king replied to them saying, 'Once a rod pierced into a golden cabinet. A man was made to pull it out. The more he pulled, the deeper it sank. Legend says this is the gold of the celestial crown for Maitreya Buddha's future enlightenment. A fire Nāga guards it. The fire of this pond is the fire of the fire Nāga.'”7

An additional account of Nepal is provided in the Fayuan zhulin, which seems to cite the Shijia fang zhi 釋迦方志 (Taishō 2088) by Daoxuan written in 650. It provides another contemporary perspective on Nepal and its curious flaming pond:

又隔一國西北行一千五百里入山谷至尼波羅國。屬北印度。都城東南不遠有水火林。東一里許有阿耆波濔水。周二十步。旱澇湛然不流常沸。家火投之遍池火起。煙焰數尺。以水灑火。火更增熾。碎土以投亦即然盡。無問投者。並成灰燼。架釜水上煮食立熟。賢德傳云。此水中先有金匱。前有國王將人取之。匱已出泥人象挽之不動。夜神告曰。此是慈氏佛冠在中。後彌勒下生擬著不可得也。火龍所護。城南十餘里孤山特秀寺居重疊。狀若雲霞。松竹魚龍隨人馴附就人取食。犯者滅門。比者國命並從此國而往還矣。即東女國與吐蕃接界。唐梵相去可一萬餘里。

Further beyond the one country [Vaiśālī] to the northwest going 1500 li one enters into mountain valleys before arriving in the country of Nepal, which belongs to northern India. Southeast of the city not far there is a forest8 of water and fire. To the east about 1 li there is the *Ajīva pond, which is about 20 steps in circumference. Drought or flood, it remains full without overflowing while constantly boiling. If you throw a household torch in it the whole pond erupts in fire with smokey flames several feet high. If you splash water on the fire, the blaze of the fire increases. If fragments of earth are thrown into it they also are immediately consumed. No matter what is thrown in, it all turns to ashes. Suspending a cauldron above the water to cook food, it is immediately done. The chronicle of Xiande9 states, “In this water before there was a golden cabinet. Earlier the king had sent a man to retrieve it. Out of the cabinet emerged an earthen image of a man. They pulled it but it did not move. At night a spirit spoke to them and said, 'Maitreya Buddha's crown is inside. Later Maitreya will be born, intending to wear it. It cannot be taken. It is guarded by a fire Nāga.'” More than 10 li to the south of the city is a lone mountain with exquisite temples one on top of the other, an appearance like cloudy mists. The creatures in the woods follow people and are tame. Anyone taking and eating them has their whole family put to death. Recently the regime [was deposed] from this country but has returned.10 It borders the eastern country of ladies and Tibet. The distance between China and India is perhaps more than 10,000 li.11

There are other short references to Nepal in biographies and travelogues. Several are found in the Great Tang Biographies of Eminent Monks Seeking Dharma in the Western Regions (Chn. Da Tang Xiyu qiufa gaoseng zhuan 大唐西域求法高僧傳; Taishō no. 2066), which was compiled in 691 by Yijing 義淨 (635-713), who had himself traveled and studied in India and SE Asia between 671-695. It mentions a route from China through Tibet and Nepal to India, indicating that at times the diplomatic situation allowed for transit through Tibet from Tang China. One dated example as follows:

玄太法師者。新羅人也。梵名薩婆慎若提婆(唐云一切智天)永徽年內取吐蕃道。經泥波羅到中印度。

Dharma Master Hyeontae was a man from Silla [Korea]. His Sanskrit name was Sarvajñadeva (in Chinese meaning 'omniscient deva'). In the Yonghui era [650-655] he took the route through Tibet. He passed Nepal and arrived in middle India. …12

One curious remark concerns the monk Xuanhui 玄會. It states the following with an appended note (in italics):

到泥波羅國不幸而卒。春秋僅過而立矣 (泥波羅既有毒藥所以到彼多亡也)

He arrived in Nepal and unfortunately died. He has just turned thirty. Nepal has harmful medicines, hence many die who go there.13

As to accounts of diplomatic relations between Nepal and China, there are various sources to draw on. One early mention of diplomatic contact between the two countries is in the Tang yulin 唐語林 [Forest of Tales from the Tang] (fasc. 5), a text compiled by Wang Dang 王讜 (fl. 1101-1110):

太宗朝,泥婆羅獻娑羅樹,一名菩提。葉似紅藍,實如蒺藜。

During the reign of Taizong太宗 [626-649], Nepal offered a śāla tree, another name being bodhi. The leaves are like safflower and the fruit like caltrop.

The Chinese dynastic histories also generally include accounts of foreign countries. There were two main histories of the Tang dynasty (618-907). The first – the Jiu Tang shu 舊唐書 [Former Book of Tang] – compiled in 945 provides the following account in scroll 198 (Xi Rong 西戎). Some of it seems cited directly from the Tongdian 通典 (in section bianfang liu 邊防六), an encyclopedic work compiled by Du You 杜佑 (735-812) in 801.

泥婆羅國,在吐蕃西。其俗翦發與眉齊,穿耳,揎以竹桶牛角,綴至肩者以為姣麗。食用手,無匕箸。其器皆銅。多商賈,少田作。以銅為錢,面文為人,背文為馬牛,不穿孔。衣服以一幅蔽布身,日數盥浴。以板為屋,壁皆雕畫。俗重博戲,好吹蠡擊鼓。頗解推測盈虛,兼通歷術。事五天神,鐫石為像,每日清水浴神,烹羊而祭。其王那陵提婆,身著真珠、玻璃、車渠、珊瑚、琥珀、瓔珞,耳垂金鉤玉榼,佩寶裝伏突,坐獅子床,其堂內散花燃香。大臣及諸左右並坐於地,持兵數百列侍其側。宮中有七層之樓,覆以銅瓦,欄檻楹栿皆飾珠寶。樓之四角,各懸銅槽,下有金龍,激水上樓,註於槽中,從龍口而出,狀若飛泉。那陵提婆之父,為其叔父所篡,那陵提婆逃難於外,吐蕃因而納焉,克復其位,遂羈屬吐蕃。貞觀中,衛尉丞李義表往使天竺,塗經其國,那陵提婆見之,大喜,與義表同出觀阿耆婆沴池。周回二十余步,水恆沸,雖流潦暴集,爍石焦金,未嘗增減。以物投之,即生煙焰,懸釜而炊,須臾而熟。其後王玄策為天竺所掠,泥婆羅發騎與吐蕃共破天竺有功。永徽二年,其王屍利那連陀羅又遣使朝貢。

Nepal is west of Tibet. It is their custom to cut their hair in line with their eyebrows. They pierce their ears and stretch them with bamboo tubes and cow horns. Those that link them to their shoulders are considered most beautiful. They eat using their hands and have no spoons or chopsticks. Their vessels are all copper. There is a lot of traders and little agriculture. They use copper for money. On the obverse is a man and on the reverse horses and cows. They do not pierce holes through them. For clothing they use one stretch of cloth to cover the body. Several times a day they bathe. They use planks of wood for buildings, the walls all carved and painted. Their culture values games and they enjoy blowing conch shells and striking drums. Many understand the calculations for lunar cycles and are proficient in calendrical sciences. They serve five deities and carve into stone their images. Everyday with pure water they wash the deities and cook mutton as an offering. Their king Narendradeva14 wore on his body pearl, crystal, carnelians, coral, amber and necklaces. From his ears would hang golden hooks with jade caps. On his girdle were gem adornments and a dagger. He sat on a lion throne. The inside of his hall was scattered with flowers and burning incense. The great ministers and retainers all sat on the floor. He kept hundreds of soldiers, who were arranged at his side serving him. In the palace there is a tower seven stories high and covered with copper tiles. The railings, handrails, pillars and beams are all decorated with pearls and gems. On each of the four corners of the tower there are copper tanks, beneath which there are golden dragons spitting water on the tower which collects in the tanks. The water is ejected from the mouths of the dragons, the shape resembling a fountain. Narendradeva's father was deposed by his uncle and Narendradeva fled abroad. Tibet thus took him in and restored his position. Subsequently they were subordinate to Tibet. In the Zhenguan era [627-649] Commandant15 Li Yibiao 李義表 went as an envoy to India, passing through the country. Narendradeva met him and was quite delighted. He went with Yibiao to go see the *Ajīva pond. It was more than 20 steps in circumference. The water boiled and while it spewed out and turned the shiny stones a golden color, the [water level] never increased or decreased. If something was tossed into it, it would erupt into flames. One could suspend a cauldron to cook and in a short while it would be done. Later Wang Xuance 王玄策 was assaulted in India. Nepal dispatched cavalry and together with Tibet successfully destroyed the Indians. In year 2 [651] of the Yonghui era [650-655],16 their king *Śrī Narendra17 again dispatched an envoy to pay tribute [at the Chinese court].18

The history provides a few details about Nepal in the section on Tibet (fasc. 196). The dates are not specific, but we can discern from the chronology provided that the following event occurred between 703-705:

時吐蕃南境屬國泥婆羅門等皆叛,贊普自往討之,卒於軍中。諸子爭立,久之,國人立器弩悉弄之子棄隸蹜贊為贊普,時年七歲。

At that time on Tibet's southern border the vassal states such as Nepal all rebelled. The Tsanpo personally went on expedition against them and died on campaign. The sons competed for the throne. After a long while, the people of the country established Khri-lde-gtsug-btsan, son of Khri-'dus-srong-btsan, as Tsanpo. At the time he was seven years old.19

Nepal's disloyalty to Tibet is also mentioned in fasc. 97.

其國中諸豪及泥婆羅門等屬國自有攜貳。故贊普躬往南征,身殞寇庭,國中大亂,嫡庶競立,將相爭權,自相屠滅。

… The country's leading men and vassal states such as Nepal were disloyal, thus when the Tsanpo personally went south on campaign and died in enemy territory, there was great chaos in the country. His wives and concubines struggled to establish [their sons as heir] while the military commanders and political ministers fought over power, killing one another.20

The revised history of the Tang – the Xin Tang shu 新唐書 [New Book of Tang] – was compiled in 1060 and provides the following in fasc. 221, which is a revised version of the article above:

泥婆羅,直吐蕃之西樂陵川。土多赤銅、犛牛。俗翦發逮眉,穿耳,楦以筒若角,緩至肩者為姣好。無匕箸,攫而食。其器皆用銅,其居版屋畫壁。俗不知牛耕,故少田作,習商賈。一幅布蔽身,日數盥浴。重博戲,通推步歷術。祀天神,鐫石為象,日浴之,烹羊以祭。鑄銅為錢,面文人形,背牛馬形。其君服珠、頗黎、車渠、珊瑚、虎魄垂纓,耳金鉤玉珰,佩寶伏突,禦師子大床,燎香布花於堂,而大臣坐地不藉。左右持兵,數百列侍。宮中有七重樓,覆銅瓦,楹極皆大琲雜寶,四隅置銅槽,下有金龍,口激水仰註槽中。初,王那陵提婆之父為其叔所殺,提婆出奔,吐蕃納之,遂臣吐蕃。貞觀中,遣使者李義表到天竺,道其國,提婆大喜,延使者同觀阿耆婆爾池。池廣數十丈,水常溢沸,共傳旱潦未始耗溢。或抵以物則生煙,釜其上,少選可熟。二十一年,遣使入獻波棱、酢菜、渾提蔥。永徽時,其王屍利那連陀羅又遣使入貢。

Nepal is west of Tibet [beyond] the Yueling River (Yarlung Tsangpo River). The land has much red copper and yaks. It is their custom to cut their hair to the eyebrows. They pierce their ears and stretch them with tubes or horns. Those who get them down to the shoulders are considered most beautiful. They have no spoons or chopsticks, and eat by clinging the food. Their vessels are all made of copper. They live in buildings made of wooden planks with painted walls. The commoners do not know of plowing with oxen, thus there is little agriculture and they are accustom to trading. [They use] a stretch of cloth to cover the body. They bathe several times a day. They value games are proficient in astronomical calculations and calendrical science. They offer sacrifices to their gods, carving their likeness in stone and washing it daily while cooking mutton as an offering. They cast copper for coins. On the obverse is a human figure and on the reverse are figures of horses and cows. Their lord wears pearl, crystal, carnelians, coral and amber tassels, with gold hooks and jade earrings on his ears, and gem adornments and a dagger on his girdle. He sits on a lion throne with incense burning and flowers scattered in the hall, though the great ministers sit on the floor without cushions. To his left and right are soldiers numbering in the hundreds arranged to serve him. In the palace is a tower seven stories high covered with copper tiles. The pillars are all covered in great stringed ornaments and various gems. At the four corners [of the outside of the tower] are copper tanks, beneath which are golden dragons. They spray water from the mouth upwards which pours into the tanks. King Narendradeva's father was killed by his uncle.21 Narendradeva fled and Tibet took him in. They subsequently became a vassal state Tibet. In the Zhenguan era [627-649], a dispatched envoy Li Yibiao went to India and passed through the country. Narendradeva was greatly delighted and brought the envoy to see the *Ajīva pond together. The pond is ten zhang22 in width. The water is constantly boiling. Everyone says that during droughts and floods it has never decreased in volume or overflowed. If something is thrown in it it will produce smoke. Things can be cooked in a short time if a cauldron is placed over it. In year 21 [647], they dispatched an envoy to pay tribute [at the Chinese court] with spinach, mustard and white onions. In the time of the Yonghui era [650-655], their king *Śrī Narendra again dispatched an envoy to pay tribute.23

The Tang huiyao 唐会要, compiled in 961 by Wang Pu 王溥 (922-982), has an article on Nepal (fasc. 100) mostly identical to the Xintang shu. It provides some additional descriptions of the above vegetables offered as tribute items. It also states that Nepal provided 7000 cavalrymen to aid Wang Xuance after he was attacked in India.

The history of the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty (1279-1368) in China (Yuanshi 元史; fasc. 203), compiled in 1370, highlights the contributions of Nepalese artists during that period:

阿尼哥,尼波羅國人也,其國人稱之曰八魯布。幼敏悟異凡兒,稍長,誦習佛書,期年能曉其義。... 中統元年,命帝師八合斯巴建黃金塔於吐蕃,尼波羅國選匠百人往成之,得八十人,求部送之人未得。...

Anige [Araniko] was Nepalese. His countrymen called him Balubu. In his youth he was intelligent and different from ordinary children. As he got a bit older, he studied Buddhist texts. In a year he was able to understand their meaning. … In year 1 [1260] of reign era Zhongtong, Imperial Teacher Phags-pa was ordered to build a golden stūpa in Tibet. The country of Nepal was to select a hundred artists to go complete it. They obtained eighty men and sent the section, though they had not yet obtained [enough] men. …24

The Ming dynasty (1368-1644) history (Chn. Mingshi 明史; fasc. 331) also details contacts between Nepal and China, which were significant early on in the dynasty. It is in this history that we perhaps find the first Chinese reference to Svayaṃbhūnāth Stūpa.

尼八剌國,在諸藏之西,去中國絕遠。其王皆僧為之。洪武十七年,太祖命僧智光齎璽書、彩幣往,並使其鄰境地涌塔國。智光精釋典,負才辨,宣揚天子德意。其王馬達納羅摩遣使隨入朝,貢金塔、佛經及名馬方物。二十年達京師。帝喜,賜銀印、玉圖書、誥敕、符驗及幡幢、彩幣。二十三年再貢,加賜玉圖書、紅羅傘。終太祖時,數歲一貢。成祖覆命智光使其國。永樂七年遣使來貢。十一年命楊三保齎璽書、銀幣賜其嗣王沙的新葛及地涌塔王可般。明年遣使來貢。封沙的新葛為尼八剌國王,賜誥及鍍金銀印。十六年遣使來貢,命中官鄧誠齎璽書、錦綺、紗羅往報之。所經罕東、靈藏、必力工瓦、烏斯藏及野藍卜納,皆有賜。宣德二年又遣中官侯顯賜其王絨錦、糹寧絲,地涌塔王如之。自後,貢使不復至。

The country of Nepal (Nibala) is west of Tibet. It is extremely far from China. Their king always employs monks [as envoys]. In year 17 [1384] of reign era Hongwu, Taizu ordered monk Zhiguang [d. 1435]25 to carry an imperial letter and treasure on a mission to their borderland the country of *Diyong-ta.26 Zhiguang was learned in Buddhist scripture possessing both wisdom and elegant speech. He proclaimed the noble intent of the Son of Heaven. Their king *Madanarāma27 dispatched an envoy to follow them back to court. They offered as tribute a golden stūpa, Buddhist sūtras, fine horses and local products. In year 20 [1387] they reached the capital. The emperor was delighted and sent a silver seal, jade books, title edicts, official transit permission papers, banners and treasure. In year 23 [1390] there was another tribute mission. They [the Chinese] additionally bestowed jade books and a parasol of fine red fabric. In the end during the time of Taizu [i.e., the emperor, r.1368-1398], there was one tribute mission every several years. Chengzu [r.1402-1424] again ordered Zhiguang as an envoy to the country. In year 7 [1409] of reign era Yongle they [Nepal] they dispatched an envoy to come pay tribute. In year 11 [1413], Yang Sanbao was ordered to carry an imperial letter and silver money to bestow onto the successor king *Śaktisiṃharāma and *Khopva the king of *Diyong-ta. The following year they sent an envoy to pay tribute at court. *Śaktisiṃharāma was enfiefed as King of Nepal, being granted title and a gilded silver seal. In year 16 [1418] they dispatched an envoy to come pay tribute at court. An eunuch, Deng Cheng, was ordered to go reply to it, carrying an imperial letter and fine brocades and fabrics. He passed through Handong, Lingzang (Tbt. gLing-chang?), Bili-gong-wa (Tbt. 'Bri-gung-pa), Wusi-zang (Tbt. dbus gtsang) and Yelanbuna (Svayaṃbhūnāth?). At all places there were gifts given. In year 2 [1427] of reign era Xuande, again a eunuch – Hou Xian – was dispatched to present their king with gifts of textiles. The king of Diyong-ta did likewise. After this no further tributary envoys arrived [in China].28

There are also references to Nepal in Indian literature preserved in Chinese. One example is in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya Carma Vastu, translated into Chinese by Yijing 義淨 (635-713). It relates a story where Ānanda takes a trip to Nepal without any shoes in order to justify wearing of footwear by the sangha.

惡生太子以迷癡故。殺劫比羅城諸釋種。時城中或有走向西者。或有投泥婆羅。入泥婆羅者。皆是具壽阿難陀眷屬。後室羅筏城商人。持諸貨物。向泥婆羅。釋種見商人已。問曰。我今遭斯困苦逼。阿難陀聖者。豈不來此看我等耶。時諸商人一心憶念。交易既了。還至室羅筏城。具報阿難陀。聖者眷屬在泥婆羅。作如是言。聖者阿難陀。於諸商人。聞是語已。情懷愴然。即往泥婆羅國。國極寒雪。阿難陀手脚劈裂。迴還室羅筏城。諸苾芻見已。問言。阿難陀。汝先手脚柔軟。猶如於舌。因何如是劈裂。答言。泥婆羅國。地近雪山。由風雪故。令我脚手如是。又問。汝之眷屬。於彼云何存活。報言。彼著富羅。又問。汝何故不著。報言。佛未許著。時諸苾芻。以緣白佛。佛言。有寒雪處應著富羅。

Virūḍhaka (Viḍūḍabha) out of ignorance slaughtered the Śākya clan in the city of Kapila. At the time in the city, some ran west and some fled to Nepal. Those who went to Nepal were all kinsmen of the Long Lived Ānanda. Later, merchants of Śrāvastī carried goods to Nepal. The Śākya clan saw the merchants and asked, “We now face this misery. Would not the Noble Ānanda come here and look after us?” The merchants at the time sincerely remembered this. After concluding their trading they returned to Śrāvastī and reported to Ānanda. They said, “Noble one – your kinsmen are in Nepal.” The noble Ānanda having heard these words from the merchants became full of sorrow and immediately went to the country of Nepal. The country was extremely cold and snowy. Ānanda's hands and feet became cracked and split. Upon returning to Śrāvastī the bhikṣus saw him and asked, “Ānanda, your hands and feet are soft like a tongue. Why are they cracked and split?” He replied, “The country of Nepal is close to the snowy mountains. The wind and snow made my feet and hands like this.” They again asked, “How do your kinsmen survive there?” He replied, “They wear pula [short boots].” They again asked, “Why did you not wear them?” He replied, “The Buddha has not permitted them to be worn.” At the time the bhikṣus asked the Buddha about this. The Buddha said, “In cold and snowy places one should wear pula.”29

This suggests the common Indian perception of Nepal was that it was a frigid country deep in the Himalayas. It is unclear whether this is referring to the Kathmandu valley, which has a temperate climate in reality.

In another vinaya story in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya it is mentioned that in Nepal there are two types of cheap commodities (jianhuo 賤貨): wool (yang mao 羊毛) and realgar (xionghuang雄黃), which is an orange-red mineral used in dyes and medicine.30

In conclusion, a few points we can summarize from this survey are as follows:

- Ancient relations between China and Nepal were friendly. Both countries in the Tang period had a common enemy: the Tibetan (Yarlung) Empire. The early Ming saw a resurgence of relations with Nepal, which was part of an overall Chinese plan for widespread diplomatic relations. Around 1413, it seems the Chinese were aware of two kings in Nepal.

- The Chinese were particularly fascinated with the flammable pond which existed in Nepal and was associated with Maitreya Buddha. While it remains unclear precisely where this is, it is probably referring to somewhere in the Kathmandu valley.

- Nepal in the time of Narendradeva hosted both Buddhist and polytheist traditions. They also produced copper and wool in large quantities. Nepalese were generally known as traders, not agriculturalists. Culturally they were similar to peoples in what is now northern India in their attire and manner of eating.

- The perception of Nepal by people on the Gangetic plain – sentiments which are probably reproduced by Xuanzang in his account – was that it was a remote, cold and rugged land to the north. Xuanzang also describes the Nepalese people in disparaging terms, though the secular histories say no such things.

References:

Regmi, D. R. Inscriptions of Ancient Nepal. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1983.

Liao, Yang 廖旸. "Zangwen wenxianzhong de Xitian Gaoseng Shilisha shiji jikao" 藏文文献中的西天高僧室利沙事迹辑考. Zhongguo zangxue 中国藏学 no. 1 (2011): 54-63.

Mingshi 明史. Zhonghua shuju ju Wuying-dian benjiao kan 中華書局據武英殿本校刊.

Pal, Pratapaditya. The Arts of Nepal Volume One: Sculpture. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1974.

Xinjiaoben jiu Tang shu fu suoyin 新校本舊唐書附索引 (Zhongguo xueshu lei bian 中國學術類編). Taipei: Dingwen shuju, 1989.

Xinjiaoben xin Tang shu fu suoyin 新校本新唐書附索引 (Zhongguo xueshu lei bian 中國學術類編). Taipei: Dingwen shuju, 1989.

Xinjiaoben Yuan shi bing fubian er zhong 新校本元史並附編二種 (Zhongguo xueshu lei bian 中國學術類編). Taipei: Dingwen shuju, 1990.

Footnotes:

1 One li is approximately 0.3-0.5km.

2 Taishō no. 2087, 51: 910.b14-24.

3 Here li is probably a scribal error for bo . Reading the line with the latter here.

4 This country – Dong Nü Guo 東女國 – was a matriarchal society somewhere in the Himalayas or Tibetan plateau. The Jiu Tang shu (fasc. 197) states, “The eastern country of ladies are a type of western Qiang peoples. They are called the eastern ladies because in the western sea there is also a country of ladies. It is their practice to have a woman as king.” Xuanzang states, “To the east it borders Tibet, to the north in borders Khotan and to the west it borders Sampaha.” Taishō no. 2087, 51: 892.c10-13.

5 Taishō no. 2060, 50: 450.b26-c10.

6 The name of the village in transliterated Chinese is unclear: Poluodu 頗羅度.

7 Taishō no. 2122, 53: 405.a14-22.

8 In alternate editions, lin is cun (village). This could be a semantic translation of a place name.

9 Unclear who or what this is referring to: Xiande zhuan 賢德傳.

10 Possibly a reference to Narendradeva being restored to power by the Tibetans. Daoxuan's Shijia fangzhi also adds after this line, “Now it is subordinate to Tibet. It also follows Vaiśālī.” (今屬吐蕃又從吠舍) Taishō no. 2088, 51: 961.b1-2.

11 Taishō no. 2122, 53: 501.c22-502.a6.

12 Taishō no. 2066, 51: 2.c2-4.

13 Taishō no. 2066, 51: 3.b11-13.

14 Narendradeva was a key figure in mid-seventh century politics in Asia: “It was during the reign of Narendradeva (ca. 645-685) that the Chinese ambassador, Wang Hsüan-tse, twice visited the Nepali court. The beginning of diplomatic relations with the Chinese emperor not only signifies the increasing authority of Narendradeva, but may have been motivated by his desire to gain official recognition from China and thereby consolidate his position. Equally cogent is the likelihood that both Nepal and China deemed it prudent to seek a political alliance due to the menacing activities of the newly elected Tibetan king Songtsen-gampo, who is said to have defeated both the Chinese and Nepalis and celebrated his victories by accepting a princess from each court. The increasing prestige of the Licchavi dynasty during this period is also attested by matrimonial alliances with powerful royal houses of India.” See Pratapaditya Pal, The Arts of Nepal Volume One: Sculpture (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1974), 6. See also D. R. Regmi, Inscriptions of Ancient Nepal (New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1983), 201-220.

15 In Chinese the rank title weiwei cheng 衛尉丞.

16 The envoy is mentioned in Ce fu yuan gui冊府元龜 (fasc. 936), compiled in 1005-1013.

17 The Chinese transliteration here is different from above. The original court records probably provided a different transliteration.

18 Xinjiaoben jiu Tang shu fu suoyin 新校本舊唐書附索引 (Zhongguo xueshu lei bian 中國學術類), vol. 6 (Taipei: Dingwen shuju, 1989), 5289-5290.

19 Ibid., 5226.

20 Xinjiaoben jiu Tang shu fu suoyin 新校本舊唐書附索引 (Zhongguo xueshu lei bian 中國學術類編), vol. 4 (Taipei: Dingwen shuju, 1989), 3045-3046.

21 In the Chinese there is a chu (early on, beginning) at the beginning of the sentence, which should have a reign era name before it, but nothing is provided. Omitting it from the translation.

22 1 zhang is approximately 3 meters.

23 Xinjiaoben xin Tang shu fu suoyin 新校本唐書附索引 (Zhongguo xueshu lei bian 中國學術類編), vol. 8 (Taipei: Dingwen shuju, 1989), 6213-6214.

24 Xinjiaoben Yuan shi bing fubian er zhong 新校本元史並附編二種 (Zhongguo xueshu lei bian 中國學術類編), vol. 7 (Taipei: Dingwen shuju, 1990), 4545-4546.

25 The Bu xu gaoseng zhuan 補續高僧傳 (X 1524) – a Ming dynasty compilation of biographies of eminent monks by monk Minghe 明河 (1588-1640) – tells us that Zhiguang ordained as a monk at age fifteen before leaving for Kashmir where he studied Indian (Sanskrit) phonetics under an eminent Paṇḍita. It mentions he went to Nepal (Nibala 尼巴辣) and paid his respects at a 'Diyong Baota' 地湧寶塔 (the 'Diyong Stūpa'), which is similar to the place recorded in the Ming history: Diyong-ta 地涌塔. This therefore refers to somewhere in the Kathmandu Valley. For Zhiguang's biography see X. no. 1524, 77: 372.b19-373.a20.

26 Semantically it would mean “stūpa where the earth bubbles up” – possibly the location of the aforementioned hot spring associated with Maitreya Buddha? Liao Yang identifies it as Svayaṃbhūnāth. See Liao Yang 廖旸, "Zangwen wenxianzhong de Xitian Gaoseng Shilisha shiji jikao" 藏文文献中的西天高僧室利沙事迹辑考, Zhongguo zangxue 中国藏学 no. 1 (2011): 57.

27 The Itum Bahal rock inscription from 1382 describes a Madanarāma Varddhana, who was a senior minister of King Jayasthiti Malla.

28 Mingshi 明史, Zhonghua shuju ju Wuying-dian benjiao kan 中華書局據武英殿本校刊, vol. 14, fasc. 331, p. 9.

29 Taishō no. 1447, 23: 1057.a15-b1.


30 Taishō no. 1442, 23: 738.b3-4.

2 comments:

  1. Hi! I love what you have written here and since I am actively looking at texts like this? Would you mind it if we carried this on an online journal to be launched soon and in which we carry articles on art, culture, dharma and interesting history as this.

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