The Honorable Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi had just concluded a 3-day landmark official visit to China, his first as the country’s Head of Government. Western media often like to portray India and China as political rivals, or even natural enemies. However, these two ancient civilizations had been peacefully connected for more than 2,000 years – and a strong element that bound them together was Buddhism.
Chinese President Mr. Xi Jinping met Mr. Modi on Thursday at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔) in Xi’an, a perfectly-chosen location meant to convey the two Asian giants’ shared history. The pagoda was built in 652CE in honour of the famed 7th Century Chinese pilgrim – Venerable Master Xuan Zang (玄奘大师) – who traveled to Nalanda, India to study Buddhism and brought back to China numerous volumes of Buddhist scriptures.
Before his visit, Mr. Modi had repeatedly emphasised the Buddhist link between China and India.
“Everyone acknowledges that the 21st Century is the Asian century. Asia is the land of Buddha, we have the duty to ensure that we avoid war in this century,” he said on the eve of his trip.
With a positive image of India among Chinese and vice versa, as well as enhanced people-to-people contact between citizens of the two nations, India may see a great influx of Buddhist pilgrims from China in years to come. And that augurs well for the development of Buddhism in both countries, as well as for the rest of Asia.