Dec 06 (China.Org) Patrick Mendis, a professor at the Harvard University, told an international audience of scholars that his birthplace of Polonnaruwa had enjoyed a long history of Buddhist, diplomatic and commercial relations between the Sri Lankan kingdoms and successive Chinese Dynasties from Xi'an to Nanjing and beyond.
Speaking of Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its influence on Sri Lanka, Professor Mendis said, "The rising Colombo Lotus Tower in the Beira Lake is the modern manifestation of the earliest and continued Sino-Lanka dialogue between the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism of the Abayagiri and Mahavihara traditions in the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa Kingdoms and visiting Chinese Buddhist pilgrims during the Jin, Song, Tang, Ming, and Qing dynasties of China." The BRI has combined the legacy of the ancient Silk Road of China in the Tang Dynasty and the advancement of maritime technology in the Ming Dynasty illustrated by Chinese diplomat Zheng He, who visited Sri Lanka while voyaging.
Ten centuries before the Ming envoy, the famous Chinese pilgrim, the eminent Chinese monk Faxian arrived in Sri Lanka in the 5th Century to learn more about the Pali Tripitaka and Buddhist discourses, Professor Mendis explained. The Chinese emperors and frequent travelers since the Han Dynasty maintained cordial and friendly relations with what Faxian called the "Buddhist Kingdom of the Lion," he added.
Even in the centuries before the Han Dynasty, ancient Chinese knew the reputation of the island as the most important sanctuary and center of Buddhist learning, what Faxian later described as "Dharmadeepa", a splendid island of Buddhist teachings.
While the Buddhist Kingdom has long been associated with the symbol of the lion from the Kingdom of Vijaya, ancient China was widely known as the "land of the dragon" before the Han Dynasty. Buddhism was the bonding of the millennia-old association between the "lion" and the "dragon", making them inseparable partners in spiritual development, said Professor Mendis.
The evolving Sino-Lanka history is critically important for a deeper understanding of the Colombo Lotus Tower, the professor explained. Above all, the most significant is the threefold Lotus Sutra. It consists of the Samanthabhadra Meditation Sutra, translated into Chinese by the eminent monk Dharmaraksa of Dunhuang, an early translator of Mahayana sutras into Chinese, during the Western Jin Dynasty. The Lotus Sutra and the Vimuttimagga Sutra in the Mahayana traditions played a transformative role in the development of Chinese Buddhism.
The sacred Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) mountain in Sri Lanka and the holy mountain of Emei in China (Sichuan Province) have been sharing the God Saman as patron in reverence of the Samanthabadra Sutra for Universal Virtues, explained Professor Mendis. He then concluded that the Colombo Lotus Tower is associated with the threefold Lotus Sutra to signify the heritage of Sino-Lanka Buddhist discourse.