ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ancient Indian Medicine and Its Spread to China

Science and technology display the phenomenon of universalisation in their development through the ages. It is achieved through intentional or unintentional transmission of ideas and techniques from one culture area to another. In ancient times it usually was spread over a longer period of time, even a few centuries, unlike present times. One such interesting transmission occurred between India and China during medieval period when Sino-Indian Buddhist contacts were followed by scientific/medical contacts as well. The origin of this transmission is traced to the Buddhist canonical literature in Chinese which sprang up with the introduction of Buddhism into China in the late Han period (AD 25-220). Chinese historical, popular literature as well as medical works then reflected the influence of Indian medicine for over a millennium. Two Chinese works on ophthalmology, which appeared between the 8th and the 12th century AD, were attributed to Nagarjuna indicating inclusion of Indian ophthalmological material into Chinese medicine. These writings exhibit an integration of the two medical systems. The silk route which linked China to India, Arabia and further west was thus a bridge between the eastern and western civilisations, as well as promoting scientific exchanges and mutual cooperation along with exchange of goods.

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