Hinduism In China – A forgotten history

Hinduism in China

Chedian Village, Quanzhou brings back the forgotten history of its native Hinduism in China. During the 13th century, the port city of Chedian was among the busiest in the world and was a thriving centre of regional maritime commerce.

Historians believe that the Chedian shrine can be considered as a grid of numerous Hinduism places of worship in china, including one built in Quanzhou by a community of Tamil traders who existed during the Song and Yuan era. This is probably the only temple in China that worship a Hindu God.

Hinduism in China - Quanzhou Map

Quanzhou and its nearby region endure with numerous Hindu shrines and temples.

Hinduism in China

Guanyin Temple of Quanzhou

The Temple of Quanzhou was worshiped by the Hindu community, that prevailed during the late 13th century, mostly concentrated in the southeast China. The earliest evidence of Hinduism in China points back to the 6th century. Yanfu temple provides an example of an ancient inscription from the Song Dynasty, which explains about a monk named Gunaratna, (known as Liang Putong in China), who translated sutras from Sanskrit. Trade particularly flourished during the 13th century Yuan Dynasty. However, at present, there are no Hindus in Quanzhou.

The deity that the residents pray every morning sits cross-legged, carrying four-arms, smiling kindly, surrounded by two assistants, with seemingly trounced demon at her feet. Many of the residents believe she is Guanyin, the women Bodhisattva who is revered by most of the Hinduism in China. But she is definitely not a Chinese goddess.

Hinduism in China - Shrine of GuanyinThe Shrine of Guanyin

The residents worship the Goddess by lighting incense sticks and chanting prayers, just like any other deity revered in China.

Unsure about the identity of Hinduism in China

The local intellectuals are still uncertain about her originality, but they definitely believe that shrine’s unique roots belong to south India. The deity was either brought by Tamil traders, or perhaps more likely, designed by the local sculptors.

Hinduism in China
Hindu Relief in Quanzhou Museum

The temple collapsed during the 16th century, but however, villagers excavated it through the ruins, preserved the deity and reconstructed the temple, as they believe that the goddess is present to bless their good fortune which many adhere to till date.

The antiquity Tamil links to these temples was largely regretted until the 1930s when several stones sculpted with beautifully carved designs of the god Narasimha — the incarnation of Vishnu — were found. Elephant statues and mythological related pictures of Shiva and Vishnu, bearing the style and pattern are almost identical to images found in temples of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu of the present times.

Quanzhou Maritime Museum

The actual findings gathered little significance at the time of the initial discovery as the nation was slightly evolving from the turbulence of the Japanese invasion, along with the attack of II nd  World War and the civil war. Most of the designs are from the Yuan Dynasty of the 13th century, who regulated close trade links with the kingdoms of southern India and played a major role in the spread of Hinduism in China. The sculptures are believed to be brought by the traders, but the work was probably accomplished by Chinese workers.

Exhibits in Quanzhou Museum

Exhibits in Quanzhou Maritime Museum

It took more than a decade for all the sculptures to exhibit in the present day Quanzhou Maritime museum. Today, many of the figurines displayed in the museum showcase the amazing spread of the discoveries of Hinduism in China. The sites extend to a much more extent in the county. The most recent invasions were made in the 1980s, and many believe that there are many old sites yet to be discovered.

The Chinese still want to explore the significance of the period and seek for any help from the Indian scholars, as they believe everything will be resolved if both China and India study together.

The Maritime Museum now exhibits many of the Quanzhou’s south Indian Hinduism in China links all due to the efforts of “financial backing” from the local government to showcase the “1000-year-old history with South India,” which is largely forgotten by both China and India.

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