the gods must be similar!
March 28, 2007 12:54 AM   Subscribe

What are the similarities between Hindu and Chinese mythology?

I could only find references to Yama, the Lord of Death. Both mythologies share this idea, though in Chinese mythology, he's also known by other names (correct me if I'm wrong).

However, I'm sure there are a couple of more similarities. Hanuman and Sun Wu Kong, for example. Apparently, Sun Wu Kong is partly based on Hanuman but Wikipedia wasn't of any more help than that.

I'd be grateful for any insights. Thanks!
posted by mordecai to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Well, there are the "Four Heavenly Kings" or the "Guardians of the Directions". 天王 in Chinese, देवराज in Sanskrit. Of course, I'm just getting all this shit from Wikipedia.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:28 AM on March 28, 2007

I would say that most of the similarities you see are due to the importation of Buddhism from India (sometimes via circuitous routes along the Silk Road). Wu Cheng'en was in part consciously writing a Buddhist parable of the journey of the 'monkey-mind' in Journey to the West as I've been led to believe. As for Hanuman being the model for Sun Wukong, this article (in Chinese) reckons that is likely the case, but also points to elements drawn from autochthonous Chinese monkey spirits.
posted by Abiezer at 2:44 AM on March 28, 2007

Response by poster: I would say that most of the similarities you see are due to the importation of Buddhism from India

Abiezer: yes, but I was hoping you could point out the similarities?

mr_roboto: thanks for that! I missed that one.
posted by mordecai at 3:02 AM on March 28, 2007

Well, similar in so far as as Buddhist cosmology came in quite wholesale. You get syncretic elements in popular belief, but it's quite hard to pick it all apart. Stephan Feuchtwang is an authority, and at a quick skim this seminar might have some pointers.
Perhaps you'd find one of the differences interesting? Avalokiteśvara famously changes gender in China, where he's best known as a female bodhisattva Guanyin (PDF). She gets a revised origin as Miaoshan, shares similarities with Ma Zu and iconography with the Virgin Mary (apparently via Portugese sailors).
posted by Abiezer at 3:32 AM on March 28, 2007

Would hindu not be a lot more similar to the old persian religons, considering that most indians are originally from persia?
posted by markovich at 3:33 AM on March 28, 2007

As Abiezer point out, there are a ton of these. Here's a wikipedia search that pulls out a bunch of things; just look at all the Buddhist deities, demons, spirits, etc. that have names in Chinese, Sanskrit, and Pali.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:50 PM on March 28, 2007

Here's something you might want to look into: Hariti/Kariteimo. That right there is a nice example of cultural transmission of a myth, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how/if she's worshiped in Chinese Buddhism. But if she's in India and Japan, she must have spent some time in China, right?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:58 PM on March 28, 2007

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