Press Trust of India, April 12th article, original title: Chinese Professor says Sanskrit popular in China 2000 years on.
Chinese Professor Wang Bangwei, a leading Sanskrit scholar, Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies and Director of the Center for Indian Studies at Peking University, is cited in the article as having said that Sanskrit is the root of Indian culture, but contrary to the decline of its study in modern India, the language has been passed down in China.
Wang said that Peking University was one of the first universities in China to introduce Sanskrit studies, and this year marks 100 years of Sanskrit teaching at the prestigious university. Wang attributed the spread of Sanskrit in China to the 4th century A.D. Indian scholar, Kumarajiva. During his time in China, he was instrumental in the translation of Buddhist scriptures (from Sanskrit) into Chinese and was hailed as a national teacher. He was one of the first scholars to lay the foundation for civilizational exchange between India and China.
Wang said Sanskrit was the most important language for the Chinese to understand Hinduism, Buddhism, ancient Indian medicine, astronomy and mathematics. “Although Buddhism declined in India, it became very prevalent in China and has become a part of Chinese culture”.
When Sanskrit became prevalent in China, he said, the need for people to travel to India to study it began to diminish, and “China gradually became the center of Buddhism in Asia. Buddhism declined in India, but grew in China”. Thanks to the many (Chinese) scholars who traveled to India over the centuries to study, China has some of the precious Sanskrit scriptures brought back by them, but these ancient texts may be hard to find in India.
Ye Shaoyong, an Associate Professor in the Department of South Asian Studies at Peking University’s School of Foreign Languages, says Sanskrit studies in China are flourishing. Today his department has 10 scholars specializing in the language, and more than 200 others are taking the language as part of their graduate courses. In China, he said, the job prospects for students studying Sanskrit are good, and most of them are engaged in Buddhist studies, especially academic research on the history of Buddhism.