Section 15 – The Kingdom of Tianzhu 天竺 (Northwestern India)

1. These names for India: Tianzhu 天竺 [T’ien-chü] – a transcription of the Iranian, ‘Hinduka.’ [T’ien-chu] and Juandu 身毒 [Chüan-tu] – a transcription of Sanskrit, ‘Sindhu,’ seem to be merely different forms of the same name and are practically interchangeable. The name Juandu is sometimes (less correctly) rendered Shendu. They are both ultimately derived (perhaps via Iranian Hinduka) from Sanskrit Síndhu – a river or stream – especially the Indus. A form of this name was also used from very early times in Indian literature to refer to the country around the lower Indus – ‘the Sindh.’
          Juandu seems to be used here in a more general sense than Tianzhu, which is specifically stated to be beside a ‘great river,’ i.e. the Indus. However, Tianzhu is also frequently used in a much broader sense – sometimes referring to the whole of northern India, including the Ganges valley and sometimes, even, to the whole sub-continent. For a detailed discussion of the derivation of these names see Bailey (1985), pp. 22-24. Also see: Pulleyblank (1963), pp. 108, 117.
          Mukherjee (1988), pp. 297-303) argues quite convincingly that the name Juandu referred only to the region of the lower Indus at the time of Zhang Qian’s report included in the Shiji (completed c. 100
BCE). Later, as Chinese knowledge of the subcontinent expanded, Juandu, and by association, Tianzhu, came to include lands further and further east until, by the time of Kang Dai’s mission to Funan (c. 245-250 CE), Tianzhu referred to the whole of northern India and even included the kingdom of Danmei (Tāmralipti) at the mouth of the Ganges on the Bay of Bengal. By the time of Xuan Zang’s visit in the 7th century it included “roughly the whole of the subcontinent.” See also: CICA, p. 97, note 154 and the discussions in Leslie and Gardiner (1996), pp. 257-258 and Pulleyblank (1963), p. 117.

2. Chavannes (1907), p. 192, mistakenly inserts Xiongnu here and in the next line instead of Yuezhi. For a discussion of the Yuezhi see note 13.1 above.

3. The ‘Western Sea,’ sometimes referred to as the ‘Da Hai’ or ‘Great Sea,’ included all of the Indian Ocean including the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea – in much the same sense that the Romans and Greeks referred to the same body of water as the ‘Erythraean (or ‘Red’) Sea.’ The ancients of both cultures, quite sensibly, considered the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean as the one body of water, unlike modern geographic practice.

4. Panqi [Pan-chi] = Vanga in Bengal or Vanga near the mouth of the Indus? I disagree with those who equate the Panqi of the Hou Hanshu with the Panyue [P’an-yüeh] in the Weilue. See, for example, Colless (1980), pp. 171-173. I identify Panyue with the Pandya kingdom at the southern tip of India and will discuss this identification in detail when I publish my translation of the Weilue.
          Mukherjee (1988), pp. 300-301, also points out that the Panqi of the Hou Hanshu should not be mistaken with the Panyue of the Weilue, which he equates with the kingdom of Vanga at the mouth of the Ganges river. He believes that the Panqi of the Hou Hanshu refers to another Vanga mentioned in the Mah
ābhārata (c. 400 BCECE 400), ‘near the sea and in the direction of the Indus.’
          There was certainly a Vanga situated in the eastern part of Bengal. This is the Vanga mentioned in the Mahavamsa story about a prince of Vanga who moved to Sri Lanka and set up a new kingdom there. In the Milindapañho there is a reference of sailors going to Vanga. An inscription on the famous iron pillar in Delhi records victorious campaigns by Samandragupta “when warring in the Vanga countries” in the late 4th century
CE. See also: Law (1932), p. 68; Smith (1908), p. 275; and the discussion in Pelliot (1906), p. 371, n. 2.

5. xibu [hsi-pu] = fine cotton cloths. This term can be used to refer to either delicate linen or cotton cloths. India was then, as now, a great exporter of cotton cloth, and not particularly noted for its linens. I have, therefore, translated the term as ‘fine cotton cloths.’

6. hao tadeng 好毾_ [hao t’a-teng] = excellent closely-woven carpets: “Carpet (manufactured in India, of fine workmanship and closely woven; rug.” – translated from GR No. 10241. See also Chavannes (1907), p. 193, n. 3; Couvreur, pp. 499, 500. [Unfortunately, I don’t have the last character, tēng (Radical: 82-12)  in my computer character sets so I have indicated it here with a “ _ ” , but it may be found in any of the references mentioned].

“I have translated these characters _  [as “wool rugs”] according to the explanation given by Zhang Yi  張揖 in the Picang 埤蒼 dictionary published about the middle of the third century of our era….” Translated and adapted from Chavannes (1907), p. 193, n. 3.  


7. shimi 石蜜 [shih-mi] = literally: ‘stone-honey,’ ‘rock-sweet’ = sugar loaves.

“One form in which sugar was prepared for everyday consumption was as little cakes or loaves which passed under the name of “stone honey.” These were made in Tongking as early as the third century from sugar produced by drying the juice of the cane in the sun. Sometimes these were shaped into little men, tigers, elephants, and the like. The “lion sugars” of the Later Han are an example of these sweet figurines, but it is not certain that the sugar in them came from the Southern cane..” Schafer (1963), p. 153.

8. heiyan 黑鹽 [hei-yen] = literally: “black salt.” “Black salt,” or vida, is still used in Indian cooking today. It is first mentioned in the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata where it was prohibited from being used in ceremonies for the ancestors. Charaka, who is said to have been the personal physician of the Kushan Emperor Kanishka, and is famous as the “father of Indian medicine,” included it in his list of five types of salt – Achaya (1994), pp. 37, 86.
          Black salt is produced by fusing rock salt with Indian Gooseberry, the astringent fruit of an Indian tree Phyllanthus emblica, which is also used for tanning and making inks. It is employed in Indian medicine as a tonic, aperient or laxative. Monier-Williams (1899), p. 962.
          Also of interest is the information kindly sent to me as a personal communication by John Moffett, Librarian, East Asian History of Science Library, Needham Research Institute, on 7th September 1999:

“I have not been able to find hei yan in modern Chinese herbals, but here is what I have got. As usual, Laufer’s Sino-Iranica is the most informative (Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, Publication 201, 1919), p. 511:

“The Pei hu lu distinguishes red, purple, black, blue, and yellow salts.... Black salt (hei yen) was a product of the country Ts’ao (Jaguda) north of the Ts’un lin [Sui shu, ch. 83 p.8]. It is likewise attributed to Southern India [Tang Shu, Cj. 221 A, p. 10b]. These coloured salts may have been impure salt of minerals of a different origin.”

The Han yu da ci dian, vol. 11 p. 1341 merely says it is a “salt used in medicine,” and quotes the Li Xiaobo zhuan in the Bei Shi, “... black salt treats abdominal distention and fullness of qi....” It does not look as if anyone has otherwise identified it as a specific mineral...”

And, finally, the inclusion of “black salt” as a tribute item:

“Black Salt” came as tribute in the joint mission of Turgäch, Chāch, Kish, Māimargh, and Kapiśa in 746 (along with “red salt”), and in 751 and 753 also came from Khwārizm, south of the Oxus .... The identity of this substance is not known.” Schafer (1963), p. 217.

9. For the transcriptions of Futu 浮圖 [Fu-t’u] and Fo [Fo] for Buddha in the Hou Hanshu and Weilue see Pulleyblank (1963), p. 213. The text’s reference that the Buddha was sixteen chi tall (3.7 metres or 12 feet 1 inch), double the usual height for a man, is obviously taken from early Buddhist accounts where this was given as the normal height of the Buddha:

“This is the traditional value for the height of the Buddha who  is credited as having been twice the size of the men of his time (cf BEFEO, bk. III, p. 392, n. 5).” Translated from Chavannes (1907), p. 194, n. 2. See also: Zürcher (1972), p. 383, n. 166.

10. The “golden colour” of the Buddha is one of his 32 characteristics (lakṣana). Zürcher (1972), p. 383, n. 168. Note that the text here specifies that his colour was that of huangjin ‘real’ or ‘actual’ gold – see Dubs (1938), pp. 111, n. 2 and 175, n. 2.

11. shidao 是道 [shih-tao] = literally, ‘true dao,’ ‘correct doctrine.’

12. Laozi = literally, ‘Old Master’. Also known as Li Er, the traditional founder of Taoism. He is said by Sima Qian, the great Han historian, to have been born in Chu in the early 6th century BCE. The famous Book of Daoist Virtue or the Daodejing is traditionally ascribed to him.