References to China in Sanskrit lit

Patrick Olivelle jpo at UTS.CC.UTEXAS.EDU
Fri Nov 8 01:44:50 UTC 2002

I am not sure whete "100-200 years upt to I cent AD" came. I am not
sure whether I wrote this. Be that as it may, yes, I do not think the
Artha as we have it goes back further the 1st cent BCE -- if that. My
only point was that "ciina" probably did not enter the Indian
vocabulary earlier than 1st cent BCE -- it of course could have been
much later. AND whether "ciinapatta" refers to China is quite another


>Hello Patrick,
>   100-200 years up to I cent. A.D. It, nevertheless more real date KA.
>   Reflection in shastra a concrete material (and a mention of China
>- the concrete fact)
>   hardly could take place both under laws of a genre, and for other
>reasons (hardly it is possible to assume,
>   that the Chinese merchants for the first time have brought their
>goods in I cent. AD and at once this information
>   has been included in KA). Opinion of K.P. Jayaswal, that ciina =
>Zina, in my opinion is not absolutely correct.
>Monday, November 4, 2002, 12:59:06 AM, you wrote:
>PO> I am not sure what you mean by "100-200 years before"  - before what?
>PO> Clearly the Artha cannot be dated, at least as  we have it, to a time
>PO> long before 1st cent BCE, which would be the upper limit -- I think
>PO> -- for "ciina" in India.
>PO> Patrick
>>>But what about Kautilya Arthashastra (I AD):
>>>02.11.114 ciinapaTTaaZca ciinabhuumijaa ?
>>>China, in my mind, must be known in India 100-200 years before
>>>PO> Madhav:
>>>PO> I have had to deal with this in connection to the date of Manu. I
>>>PO> append some comments of mine in my intro to Manu.
>>>PO> The reference to the Chinese with the work c“na is problematic. The
>>>PO> term is not used by Pata§jali or the DharmasÂtras. The word was
>>>PO> probably derived from a central Asian language and is related to the
>>>PO> Qin (Chin) dynasty (221-206 B.C.E.), which, although short lived, was
>>>PO> the first to unify China. The term itself, however, may have been
>>>PO> older, because the Qin was a state in Northwest China prior to that
>>>PO> time with strong trade connection with Central Asia. The term
>>>PO> ŽChina¤, like ŽIndia¤ itself, is not a term of self-identification by
>>>PO> the Chinese. The term came back to China probably from India via
>>>PO> Buddhist monks and texts.  When a people known as c“na came to be
>>>PO> known in India is difficult to estimate. The terms absence in the
>>>PO> earlier literature, however, makes it likely that it could not have
>>>PO> been know before the 1st century B.C.E. It was during this time or a
>>>PO> little earlier under the Han dynasty that Chinese trade with the west
>>>PO> began to flourish.
>>>PO> We do have, however, the mention of —aka in the compound —akayavana
>>>PO> by Pata§jali (on Pýžini 2.4.10). So, the word yavana must have been
>>>PO> in circulation by the middle of the 2nd century B.C.E. Interestingly,
>>>PO> we have the progression from yavana in Pýžini, to yavana and —aka in
>>>PO> Pata§jali, to yavana, —aka, and c“na in the MDh and the Mahýbhýrata.
>>>PO> I doubt whether the term ciina could have come to India until the
>>>PO> expansion of foreign trade under the Han dynasty. An upper limit of
>>>PO> 1st cent BCE appears to me reasonable, unless there is strong
>>>PO> evidence to the contrary.
>>>PO> 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
>>>Best regards,
>>>   Lielukhine                            mailto:lel at
>Best regards,
>  Lielukhine                            mailto:lel at

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