References to China in Sanskrit lit

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at UMICH.EDU
Sat Nov 2 15:21:27 UTC 2002

Thanks, Patrick.  This would be certainly useful to my colleague.


> ----------
> From:         Patrick Olivelle
> Reply To:     Indology
> Sent:         Saturday, November 2, 2002 9:39 AM
> To:   INDOLOGY at
> Subject:           Re: References to China in Sanskrit lit
> Madhav:
> I have had to deal with this in connection to the date of Manu. I
> append some comments of mine in my intro to Manu.
> The reference to the Chinese with the work c> "> na is problematic. The
> term is not used by Pata§jali or the DharmasÂtras. The word was
> probably derived from a central Asian language and is related to the
> Qin (Chin) dynasty (221-206 B.C.E.), which, although short lived, was
> the first to unify China. The term itself, however, may have been
> older, because the Qin was a state in Northwest China prior to that
> time with strong trade connection with Central Asia. The term
> ZÝChina?, like ZÝIndia? itself, is not a term of self-identification by
> the Chinese. The term came back to China probably from India via
> Buddhist monks and texts.  When a people known as"c> "> na came to be
> known in India is difficult to estimate. The term?s absence in the
> earlier literature, however, makes it likely that it could not have
> been know before the 1st century B.C.E. It was during this time or a
> little earlier under the Han dynasty that Chinese trade with the west
> began to flourish.
> We do have, however, the mention o- > -> aka in the compoun- > -> akayavana
> by Pata§jali (on Py´zÝini 2.4.10). So, the word yavana must have been
> in circulation by the middle of the 2nd century B.C.E. Interestingly,
> we have the progression from yavana in Py´zÝini, to yavan- and > -> aka in
> Pata§jali, to ya-ana, > -> aka,"and c> "> na in the MDh and the Mahy´bhy´rata.
> I doubt whether the term ciina could have come to India until the
> expansion of foreign trade under the Han dynasty. An upper limit of
> 1st cent BCE appears to me reasonable, unless there is strong
> evidence to the contrary.
> Patrick
> >A colleague of mine in Chinese studies was wondering how old
> >references to China are in Sanskrit sources.  As far as I can tell,
> >there are references to ciina in Manu, Mahabharata, Ramayana,
> >Milindapanha etc.  My question is what would be a reasonable date
> >for these references.  For example, if the Mahabharata covers a span
> >from 400 B.C. to 400 A.D., where would we reasonably locate the
> >references to ciina?  The same question about Manu and Milinda.
> >Evidently there is a debate about the names of China in ancient
> >times among historians of China, and the dates of the earliest
> >references in Sanskrit may have a bearing on some arguments.  Any
> >suggestions are welcome.
> >
> >
> >Madhav Deshpande

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