Very different mindsets

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.

Related article: http://chindia-alert.org/2012/04/03/does-a-countrys-mindset-mimics-its-national-games/

4 Responses to “Very different mindsets”

  1. Thank you for writing this blog; it is really a very refreshing read. As an Indian in love with China, I agree with the differences and similarities. Personally, I tend to see the Chinese spirit as one that looks within and seeks without, and the Indian spirit always looks without but seeks within. China and India are the yin and yang of the East; they complement and balance each other to form a potent force.

    Your unique writing style would lend itself beautifully to a feature on how the two cultures/peoples view each other today and in the past (like in the times of the Wei dynasty). It is very discouraging for me to see that the modern Chinese don’t have a very positive attitude towards India or Indians.

    Unlike the other ancient civilized nations of the world, our respective cultures have survived and thrived. I sincerely hope and wish to see two of the world’s most ancient civilizations resume and reinforce their relationship of old.

    Like

    • Shivangi – thank you for your constructive and perceptive comments. I’m afraid if you detect a lack of empathy from my fellow Chinese, it will be due to a) ignorance and b) bias against fellow Asians. Somewhere in our past, Chinese people seem to have acquired a grudging respect for Westerners, but not for Asians or Africans.

      Good luck.

      Like

  2. Thank you for writing this blog; it is really a very refreshing read. As an Indian in love with China, I agree with the differences and similarities. Personally, I tend to see the Chinese spirit as one that looks within and seeks without, and the Indian spirit always looks without but seeks within. China and India are the yin and yang of the East; they complement and balance each other to form a potent force.

    Your unique writing style would lend itself beautifully to a feature on how the two cultures/peoples view each other today and in the past (like in the times of the Wei dynasty). It was very discouraging for me to see that the modern Chinese don’t have a very positive attitude towards India or Indians.

    Unlike the other ancient civilized nations of the world, our respective cultures have survived and thrived. I sincerely hope and wish to see two of the world’s most ancient civilizations resume and reinforce their relationship of old.

    Like

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