In addition to the curiosity, we humans have an economics gene in us. Way back, when humans figured out that we do not have to live the way other animals do, and that we can divvy up the workload and then trade for goods and services, that gene started playing an increasingly important role.
Today's evidence on such a commerce-led globalization comes from India.
No, from China.
Ok, from both these countries.
By now, are you thinking what I am thinking? Where the hell is Quanzhou?
The Chedian shrine is just one of what historians believe may have been a network of more than a dozen Hindu temples or shrines, including two grand big temples, built in Quanzhou and surrounding villages by a community of Tamil traders who lived here during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties.
Caption at the source:
A panel of inscriptions of the God Narasimha adorns the entrance to the main shrine of the temple,
believed to have been installed by Tamil traders who lived in Quanzhou in the 13th century.At the time, this port city was among the busiest in the world and was a thriving centre of regional maritime commerce.
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Across the waters from Taiwan!
And these traders from Tamil Nadu got to Quanzhou a thousand years ago? Cool!
Wait a second; there's more:
Ms. Wang says the earliest record of an Indian residing in Quanzhou dates back to the 6th century. An inscription found on the Yanfu temple from the Song Dynasty describes how the monk Gunaratna, known in China as Liang Putong, translated sutras from Sanskrit. Trade particularly flourished in the 13th century Yuan Dynasty. In 1271, a visiting Italian merchant recorded that the Indian traders “were recognised easily.”Sixth century?
The distance between South India and Quanzhou 1,400 years ago might have felt like the distance between Earth and Mars now!
The most striking legacy of this period of history is still on public display in a hidden corner of the 7th century Kaiyuan Buddhist Temple, which is today Quanzhou’s biggest temple and is located in the centre of the old town. A popular attraction for Chinese Buddhists, the temple receives a few thousand visitors every day. In a corner behind the temple, there are at least half a dozen pillars displaying an extraordinary variety of inscriptions from Hindu mythology. A panel of inscriptions depicting the god Narasimha also adorns the steps leading up to the main shrine, which houses a Buddha statue. ...Something new every day.
A few kilometres from the Kaiyuan temple stands a striking several metre-high Shiva lingam in the centre of the popular Bamboo Stone Park. To the city’s residents, however, the lingam is merely known as a rather unusually shaped “bamboo stone,” another symbol of history that still stays hidden in plain sight.
I wonder if my fellow-explorer of all things under the sun, Ramesh, who spent a few years in China, has been to these places. Or Indu, with her China experience, who seems to occasionally swing by this blog.
If even "cockles" can get my curiosity, then it is not difficult to imagine me getting all excited about this topic, right? Google directed me to this, where the author notes:
A Chinese source states that in 720 the Pallava king Narasimhavarman II "constructed a temple [in Tamil Nadu] on account of the empire [i.e. China]", and another text cites the existence of three Hindu temples in southern China where "Brahmans" resided during the eight century.Pallava King. Ah, yes, my mind rewound my clock to my sabbatical year, when I was able to travel around a lot more in India than I normally would have been able to. I spent an entire day at a few temples in Kanchipuram--the capital city of the Pallava Empire. At one of those temples, the guide directed my attention to a 1,300-year old stone-carved panel depicting a Chinese guy:
Was this that temple that Narasimhavarman II built? Curiosity means the exploration never ends and, dammit, all the stories are so inter-connected too!
I suppose between this Chinese guy and a South Indian in Quanzhou, we somehow ended up with the சீனா சட்டி ("cheena chatti"--a wok); ah, recalling the taste of dosai made in that chatti makes me drool!
I wonder if the Quanzhou connection was also how came to enjoy the dish of சேவை (sevai)? Hmmm ... More drool!