Updated 31 August 2011
In addition to the influence of history and geography, Chinese and Indians are intrinsically very different. One observer feels they represent humanity’s opposite poles. But they also share many common cultural and behavioural traits.
Three key differences in mindset
Sun Shuyun’s book Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud, is a beautifully written account of her journey retracing the steps of one of the most popular figures in Chinese history, the seventh century monk Xuanzang He crossed over a hundred kingdoms including today’s Afghanistan in eighteen years to reach India via the Khyber Pass searching for true Buddhism. He was deeply concerned that the Buddhism practised in China, which reached it in the second century BCE in the time of Asoka, had been misinterpreted and corrupted. On his return he brought true Buddhism to China, from whence it reached Japan and gave rise to Zen Buddhism.
Shuyun recounts a discussion she had with an Indian archaeologist, Dr Agrawal of the Archaeological Society of India. He felt that people talk about differences between East and West, but in his view “China and India seem to be humanity’s polar opposites”. In his view there were three differences between Chinese and Indians.
|Chinese are:||Indians, by contrast, are:|
|· Practical, with a “can do” attitude||· Philosophical, the need to find ‘meaning’|
|· Materialistic||· Spiritual|
|· Down to earth – “both feet on the ground”.||· Transcendental – “head in the clouds, feet on the ground|
|For Chinese, the world we live in is all there is.||For Indians, religion dominates daily life; and this life is but one of many incarnations.|