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India sent missionaries, China sending back pilgrims. It is a striking fact that in all relations between the two civilizations, the Chinese were always the recipient and the Indian the donor. Indian influence prevailed over the Chinese, and for evident reasons: an undoubted cultural superiority owing to much greater philosophic and religious insight, and also to a far more flexible script.|
India conquered and dominated China culturally for two thousand years without ever having to send a single soldier across her border. India never imposed her ideas or culture on any nation by military force, not even on the small countries in her neighborhood, and in the case of China, it would have been virtually impossible to do so since China has been the more powerful of the two. So the expansion of Indian culture into China is a monument to human understanding and cultural co-operation - the outcome of a voluntary quest for learning. While China almost completely suppressed other foreign religions, such as Zoranstrianism, Nestorian Christianity, and to some extent Manichaeanism, she could not uproot Buddhism. At times, Buddhism was persecuted, but for two thousand years it continued to Indianize Chinese life even after it had ceased to be a vital force in the homeland and long after it had lost its place as the dominant religion of China. In fact, Indianization became more powerful and effective after it was thought that Buddhism had been killed in China.
The introduction of Buddhism from India is one of the most important events in Chinese history, and since its inception it has been a major factor in Chinese civilization. The Chinese have freely acknowledged their debt to India, often referring to her as the "Teacher of China," and Chinese Buddhists have pictured India as a Western Paradise, Sukhavati. That Chinese philosophy blossomed afresh after the impact of Buddhism indicates both a response to and a borrowing of Indian ideas. The advent of Buddhism meant for many Chinese a new way of life, and for all Chinese, a means of reassessing their traditional beliefs. A new conception of the universe developed, and the entire Chinese way of life was slowly but surely altered. The change was so gradual and so universal that few people realized it was happening.