Japan's Jesuit Peril

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by LurkerBaba, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    Historical overview of how Japan dealt with the challenge posed by Christianity. It's pretty long, so I'll be posting small extracts.

    The second half of the sixteenth century is the most interesting period in Japanese history - for three reasons. First, because it witnessed the apparition of those mighty captains, Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Iyeyasu, - types of men that a race seems to evolve for supreme emergencies only, - types requiring for their production not merely the highest aptitudes of numberless generations, but likewise an extraordinary combination of circumstances

    ---
    And lastly, the period is of special interest because the incident of the first attempt to christianize Japan - the story of the rise and fall of the Jesuit power - properly belongs to it.

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    The sociological significance of this episode is instructive. Excepting, perhaps, the division of the imperial house against itself in the twelfth century, the greatest danger that ever threatened Japanese national integrity was the introduction of Christianity by the Portuguese Jesuits. The nation saved itself only by ruthless measures, at the cost of incalculable suffering and of myriads of lives.
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    It was during the period of great disorder preceding Nobunaga's effort to centralize authority, that this unfamiliar disturbing factor was introduced by Xavier and his followers. Xavier landed at Kagoshima in 1549; and by 1581 the Jesuits had upwards of two hundred churches in the country. This fact alone sufficiently indicates the rapidity with which the new religion spread; and it seemed destined to extend over the entire empire. In 1585 a Japanese religious embassy was received at Rome; and by that date no less than eleven daimyo, - or "kings," as the Jesuits not inaptly termed them - had become converted. Among these were several very powerful lords. The new creed had made rapid way among the common people also: it was becoming "popular," in the strict meaning of the word.
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    Mr. Gubbins, in his "Review of the Introduction of Christianity into China and Japan," quotes from a Japanese work, called Ibuki Mogusa, an interesting extract on the subject: -

    "Nobunaga now began to regret his previous policy in permitting the introduction of Christianity. He accordingly assembled his retainers, and said to them: - 'The conduct of these missionaries in persuading people to join them by giving money, does not please me. How would it be, think you, if we were to demolish Nambanji [The "Temple of the Southern Savages" - so the Portuguese church was called]?' To this Mayeda Tokuzenin replied. 'It is now too late to demolish the Temple of the Namban. To endeavour to arrest the power of this religion now is like trying to arrest the current of the ocean. Nobles, both great and small, have become adherents of it. If you would exterminate this religion now, there is fear that disturbance should be created among your own retainers. I am therefore of opinion that you should abandon your intention of destroying Nambanji.' Nobunaga in consequence regretted exceedingly his previous action in regard to the Christian religion, and set about thinking how he could root it out."

    explorion.net • Travel & Exploration • Japan - An Attempt at Interpretation • THE JESUIT PERIL
    @civfanatic @Razor @Iamanidiot @panduranghari @parijataka @chase
     
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  3. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    We read in the histories of the missions about converted daimyo burning thousands of Buddhist temples, destroying countless works of art, and slaughtering Buddhist priests; - and we find the Jesuit writers praising these crusades as evidence of holy zeal. At first the foreign faith had been only persuasive; afterwards, gathering power under Nobunaga's encouragement, it became coercive and ferocious.
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    In 1587 Hideyoshi destroyed the mission churches in Kyoto, Osaka, and Sakai, and drove the Jesuits from the capital; and in the following year he ordered them to assemble at the port of Hirado, and prepare to leave the country. They felt themselves strong enough to disobey: instead of leaving Japan, they scattered through the country, placing themselves under the protection of various Christian daimyo.
    --

    But Hideyoshi's death in 1598 enabled the Jesuits to hope for better fortune. His successor, the cold and cautious Iyeyasu, allowed them to hope, and even to reestablish themselves in Kyoto, Osaka, and elsewhere.--
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    In 1606, after having solidly established his power, Iyeyasu for the first time showed himself decidedly opposed to Christianity by issuing an edict forbidding further mission work, and proclaiming that those who had adopted the foreign religion must abandon it

    Nevertheless the propaganda went on - conducted no longer by Jesuits only, but also by Dominicans and Franciscans. The number of Christians then in the empire is said, with gross exaggeration, to have been nearly two millions. But Iyeyasu neither took, nor caused to be taken, any severe measures of repression until 1614, - from which date the great persecution may be said to have begun. Previously there had been local persecutions only, conducted by independent daimyo, - not by the central government.
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    The local persecutions in Kyushu, for example, would seem to have been natural consequences of the intolerance of the Jesuits in the days of their power, when converted daimyo burned Buddhist temples and massacred Buddhist priests; and these persecutions were most pitiless in those very districts such as Bungo, Omura, and Higo - where the native religion had been most fiercely persecuted at Jesuit instigation. But from 1614 - at which date there remained only eight, out of the total sixty-four provinces of Japan, into which Christianity had not been introduced - the suppression of the foreign creed became a government matter; and the persecution was conducted systematically and uninterruptedly until every outward trace of Christianity had disappeared.
     
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  4. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    The fact that the severe measures which he and his successors enforced against Christianity - measures steadily maintained for upwards of two hundred years - failed to completely eradicate the creed, proves how deeply the roots had struck. Superficially, all trace of Christianity vanished to Japanese eyes; but in 1865 there were discovered near Nagasaki some communities which had secretly preserved among themselves traditions of the Roman forms of worship, and still made use of Portuguese and Latin words relating to religious matters.
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    To rightly estimate the decision of Iyeyasu - one of the shrewdest, and also one of the most humane statesmen that ever lived, - it is necessary to consider, from a Japanese point of view, the nature of the evidence upon which he was impelled to act. Of Jesuit intrigues in Japan he must have had ample knowledge - several of them having been directed against himself; - but he would have been more likely to consider the ultimate object and probable result of such intrigues, than the mere fact of their occurrence. Religious intrigues were common among the Buddhists, and would scarcely attract the notice of the military government except when they interfered with state policy or public order. But religious intrigues having for their object the overthrow of government, and a sectarian domination of the country, would be gravely considered. Nobunaga had taught Buddhism a severe lesson about the danger of such intriguing.
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    Iyeyasu decided that the Jesuit intrigues had a political object of the most ambitious kind; but he was more patient than Nobunaga. By 1603 he, had every district of Japan under his yoke; but he did not issue his final edict until eleven years later. It plainly declared that the foreign priests were plotting to get control of the government, and to obtain possession of the country: -

    "The Kirishitan band have come to Japan, not only sending their merchant-vessels to exchange commodities, but also longing to disseminate an evil law, to overthrow right doctrine, so that they may change the government of the country, and obtain possession of the land. This is the germ of great disaster, and must be crushed.....

    "Japan is the country of the gods and of the Buddha: it honours the gods, and reveres the Buddha.... The faction of the Bateren* disbelieve in the Way of the Gods, and blaspheme the true Law, - violate right-doing, and injure the good.... They truly are the enemies of the gods and of the Buddha.... If this be not speedily prohibited, the safety of the state will, assuredly hereafter be imperilled; and if those who are charged with ordering its affairs do not put a stop to the evil, they will expose themselves to Heaven's rebuke.


    [*Bateren, a corruption of the Portuguese padre, is still the term used for Roman Catholic priests, of any denomination.


    "These [missionaries] must be instantly swept out, so that not an inch of soil remains to them in Japan on which to plant their feet; and if they refuse to obey this command, they shall suffer the penalty.... Let Heaven and the Four Seas hear this. Obey!"*
     
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  5. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    It will be observed that there are two distinct charges made against the Bateren in this document, - that of political conspiracy under the guise of religion, with a view to getting possession of the government; and that of intolerance, towards both the Shinto and the Buddhist forms of native worship. The intolerance is sufficiently proved by the writings of the Jesuits themselves.

    The charge of conspiracy was less easy to prove; but who could reasonably have doubted that, were opportunity offered, the Roman Catholic orders would attempt to control the general government precisely as they had been able to control local government already in the lordships of converted daimyo. Besides, we may be sure that by the time at which the edict was issued, Iyeyasu must have heard of many matters likely to give him a most evil opinion of Roman Catholicism: - the story of the Spanish conquests in America, and the extermination of the West Indian races; the story of the persecutions in the Netherlands, and of the work of the Inquisition elsewhere; the story of the attempt of Philip II to conquer England, and of the loss of the two great Armadas.

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    The Japanese State was an aggregate of religious communities, with a God-King at its head; - the customs of all these communities had the force of religious laws, and ethics were identified with obedience to custom; filial piety was the basis of social order, and loyalty itself was derived from filial piety. But this Western creed, which taught that a husband should leave his parents and cleave to his wife, held filial piety to be at best an inferior virtue. It proclaimed that duty to parents, lords, and rulers remained duty only when obedience involved no action opposed to Roman teaching, and that the supreme duty of obedience was not to the Heavenly Sovereign at Kyoto, but to the Pope at Rome. Had not the Gods and the Buddhas been called devils by these missionaries from Portugal and Spain? Assuredly such doctrines were subversive, no matter how astutely they might be interpreted by their apologists.

    Besides, the worth of a creed as a social force might be judged from its fruits. This creed in Europe had been a ceaseless cause of disorders, wars, persecutions, atrocious cruelties. This creed, in Japan, had fomented great disturbances, had instigated political intrigues, had wrought almost immeasurable mischief. In the event of future political trouble, it would justify the disobedience of children to parents, of wives to husbands, of subjects to lords, of lords to shogun.

    The paramount duty of government was now to compel social order, and to maintain those conditions of peace and security without which the nation could never recover from the exhaustion of a thousand years of strife. But so long as this foreign religion was suffered to attack and to sap the foundations of order, there never could be peace.... Convictions like these must have been well established in the mind of Iyeyasu when he issued his famous edict. The only wonder is that he should have waited so long.
    ---

    Very possibly Iyeyasu, who never did anything by halves, was waiting until Christianity should find itself without one Japanese leader of ability. In 1611 he had information of a Christian conspiracy in the island of Sado (a convict mining-district) whose governor, Okubo, had been induced to adopt Christianity, and was to be made ruler of the country if the plot proved successful. But still Iyeyasu waited.

    By 1614 Christianity had scarcely even an Okubo to lead the forlorn hope. The daimyo converted in the sixteenth century were dead or dispossessed or in banishment; the great Christian generals had been executed; the few remaining converts of importance had been placed under surveillance, and were practically helpless.
     
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  6. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    The Shimabara Revolt

    In 1636 a host of peasants, driven to desperation by the tyranny of their lords - the daimyo of Arima and the daimyo of Karatsu (convert-districts) - rose in arms, burnt all the Japanese temples in their vicinity, and proclaimed religious war. Their banner bore a cross; their leaders were converted samurai.

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    They were soon joined by Christian refugees from every part of the country, until their numbers swelled to thirty or forty thousand. On the coast of the Shimabara peninsula they seized an abandoned castle, at a place called Hara, and there fortified themselves. The local authorities could not cope with the uprising; and the rebels more than held their own until government forces, aggregating over 160,000 men, were despatched against them. After a brave defence of one hundred and two days, the castle was stormed in 1638, and its defenders, together with their women and children, put to the sword.

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    Japanese historians state that the rising was first planned and led by Christians, who designed to seize Nagasaki, subdue Kyushu, invite foreign military help, and compel a change of government; - the Jesuit writers would have us believe there was no plot. One thing certain is that a revolutionary appeal was made to the Christian element, and was largely responded to with alarming consequences. A strong castle on the Kyushu coast, held by thirty or forty thousand Christians, constituted a serious danger, - a point of vantage from which a Spanish invasion of the country might have been attempted with some chance of success. The government seems to have recognized this danger, and to have despatched in consequence an overwhelming force to Shimabara.

    --
     
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  7. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    With the massacre of Shimabara ends the real history of the Portuguese and Spanish missions. After that event, Christianity was slowly, steadily, implacably stamped out of visible existence. It had been tolerated, or half-tolerated, for only sixty-five years: the entire history of its propagation and destruction occupies a period of scarcely ninety years.

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    People of nearly every rank, from prince to pauper, suffered for it; thousands endured tortures for its sake - tortures so frightful that even three of those Jesuits who sent multitudes to useless martyrdom were forced to deny their faith under the infliction;* and tender women, sentenced to, the stake, carried their little ones with them into the fire, rather than utter the words that would have saved both mother and child. Yet this religion, for which thousands vainly died, had brought to Japan nothing but evil disorders, persecutions, revolts, political troubles, and war.

    Even those virtues of the people which had been evolved at unutterable cost for the protection and conservation of society, - their self-denial, their faith, their loyalty, their constancy and courage, - were by this black creed distorted, diverted, and transformed into forces directed to the destruction of that society. Could that destruction have been accomplished, and a new Roman Catholic empire have been founded upon the ruins, the forces of that empire would have been used for the further extension of priestly tyranny, the spread of the Inquisition, the perpetual Jesuit warfare against freedom of conscience and human progress.

    Well may we pity the victims of this pitiless faith, and justly admire their useless courage: yet who can regret that their cause was lost? ... Viewed from another standpoint than that of religious bias, and simply judged by its results, the Jesuit effort to Christianize Japan must be regarded as a crime against humanity, a labour of devastation, a calamity comparable only, - by reason of the misery and destruction which it wrought, - to an earthquake, a tidal-wave, a volcanic eruption.
     
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  8. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    The great success at first achieved by the Portuguese missions remains to be considered. In our present comparative ignorance of Japanese social history, it is not easy to understand the whole of the Christian episode. There are plenty of Jesuit-missionary records; but the Japanese contemporary chronicles yield us scanty information about the missions - probably for the reason that an edict was issued in the seventeenth century interdicting, not only all books on the subject of Christianity, but any book containing the words Christian or Foreign.

    What the Jesuit books do not explain, and what we should rather have expected Japanese historians to explain, had they been allowed, is how a society founded on ancestor-worship, and apparently possessing immense capacity for resistance to outward assault, could have been so quickly penetrated and partly dissolved by Jesuit energy.


    --

    In China, the Jesuits were quick to perceive that the power of resistance to proselytism lay in ancestor-worship; and they shrewdly endeavoured to tolerate it, somewhat as Buddhism before them had been obliged to do. Had the Papacy supported their policy, the Jesuits might have changed the history of China; but other religious orders fiercely opposed the compromise, and the chance was lost. How far the ancestor-cult was tolerated by the Portuguese missionaries in Japan is a matter of much sociological interest for investigation.

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    Anyhow, whatever methods were followed, the early success of the missions was astonishing. Their work, owing to the particular character of the social organization, necessarily began from the top: the subject could change his creed only by permission of his lord. From the outset this permission was freely granted. In some cases the people were officially notified that they were at liberty to adopt the new religion; in other cases, converted lords ordered them to do so. It would seem that the foreign faith was at first mistaken for a new kind of Buddhism; and in the extant official grant of land at Yamaguchi to the Portuguese mission, in 1552, the Japanese text plainly states that the grant (which appears to have included a temple called Daidoji) was made to the strangers that they might preach the Law of Buddha " - Buppo shoryo no tame. The original document is thus translated by Sir Ernest Satow, who reproduced it in facsimile: -

    "With respect to Daidoji in Yamaguchi Agata, Yoshiki department, province of Suwo. This deed witnesses that I have given permission to the priests who have come to this country from the Western regions, in accordance with their request and desire, that they may found and erect a monastery and house in order to develope the Law of Buddha.


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    If this error [or deception?] could have occurred at Yamaguchi, it is reasonable to suppose that it also occurred in other places.

    Exteriorly the Roman rites resembled those of popular Buddhism: the people would have observed but little that was unfamiliar to them in the forms of the service, the vestments, the beads, the prostrations, the images, the bells, and the incense. The virgins and the saints would have been found to resemble the aureoled Boddhisattvas and Buddhas; the angels and the demons would have been at once identified with the Tennin and the Oni. All that pleased popular imagination in the Buddhist ceremonial could be witnessed, under slightly different form, in those temples which had been handed over to the Jesuits, and consecrated by them as churches or chapels.

    The fathomless abyss really separating the two faiths could not have been perceived by the common mind; but the outward resemblances were immediately observable. There were furthermore some attractive novelties. It appears, for example, that the Jesuits used to have miracle-plays performed in their churches for the purpose of attracting popular attention.... But outward attractions of whatever sort, or outward resemblances to Buddhism, could only assist the spread of the new religion; they could not explain the rapid progress of the propaganda.
     
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  9. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    Neither the artist nor the sociologist, at least, can regret the failure of the missions. Their extirpation, which enabled Japanese society to evolve to its type-limit, preserved for modern eyes the marvellous world of Japanese art, and the yet more marvellous world of its traditions, beliefs, and customs. Roman Catholicism, triumphant, would have swept all this out of existence. The natural antagonism of the artist to the missionary may be found in the fact that the latter is always, and must be, an unsparing destroyer. Everywhere the developments of art are associated in some sort with religion; and by so much as the art of a people reflects their beliefs, that art will be hateful to the enemies of those beliefs.

    Japanese art, of Buddhist origin, is especially an art of religious suggestion, - not merely as regards painting and sculpture, but likewise as regards decoration, and almost every product of aesthetic taste. There is something of religious feeling associated even with the Japanese delight in trees and flowers, the charm of gardens, the love of nature and of nature's voices, - with all the poetry of existence, in short. Most assuredly the Jesuits and their allies would have ended all this, every detail of it, without the slightest qualm.

    Even could they have understood and felt the meaning of that world of strange beauty, - result of a race-experience never to be repeated or replaced, - they would not have hesitated a moment in the work of obliteration and effacement. To-day, indeed, that wonderful art-world is being surely and irretrievably destroyed by Western industrialism. But industrial influence, though pitiless, is not fanatic; and the destruction is not being carried on with such ferocious rapidity but that the fading story of beauty can be recorded for the future benefit of human civilization.
     
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  10. chase

    chase Tihar Jail Banned

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    Nice compilation.
    It is worthwhile to understand that how japanese preserved their distinguished identity and this provided them with the required base for their stability and economic growth. A defined identity is a precursor for a defined public policy.When the former lacks it effects the latter as in India.
    I have started a thread "We the Nation(s) of India" writtent by Rajiv Malhotra , it analyzes the confusion of Indian identity and our need to define it.
     
  11. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    @Iamanidiot

    Converting some powerful warlords and superficial similarity to native traditions seems similar to something no ?
     
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  12. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    Hello LB,

    Serendipity would have been envious, but I was reading very much about this last night.

    A few points to add; Isabelle of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragorn (husband -wife rulers of iberia - thus Spain and Portugal) were at war with Protestant England. The holy Roman emperor who was the brother of Isabella hated Britain. And Britain did help the Japanese to fight against Jesuits from Portugal in Japan. Japan eventually closed itself with anyone leaving the shores - was leaving under the pain of death.

    A few good things happened for Japan - the culture remained intact - and its intact even today. Outside influence is restricted to metropolis and even today foreigners are eyed with immense suspicion. Brown and blacks more than whites.

    The Japanese still regard India as their spiritual home and call India as Tenjiku literally meaning centre of heaven.
     
  13. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Not anymore, they don't. This was an old view that died with Japan's industrialization and modernization.
     
  14. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    We Indians can learn so much from the Japanese who modernized so early but retained their distinct identity. As R.Malhotra wrote, Indians are stuck between being unreasonably traditional to being digested by White/Christian culture.

    In fact, I think the so called Indian elite secularists have been Christianized.
     
  15. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    There's not much that we can learn from them. India and Japan are two very different entities. The whole Japan is just a little larger than Rajasthan, and is much more homogeneous than India. India is totally unique from all other nations of the world, which means that we will have to develop a unique path for ourselves.

    btw the Japanese adopted a LOT from the West, they just blended it with their own culture and ethos.
     
  16. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    Christianity has failed to spread in Japan because it is seen as too foreign and has not adapted itself to their culture, such as songs, books and other media. The culture has never been serious about religion as most of those who do go to church are only doing it for the cultural experience. The culture is a secular one, maybe the most in the world. If India is going to repeat this they would culturally have to stop being serious about all religions and just pay them lip service. That is something I don't see happening... ever.
     
  17. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    So now they mainly look down on us like the Chinese I presume?
     
  18. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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    I disagree.
     
  19. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Can you show me any evidence to prove otherwise?

    The Japanese don't even use the name "Tenjiku" to refer to India anymore. They call it Indo (インド), just like Chinese call India as Yindu (印度).
     
  20. afako

    afako Regular Member

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    Even Chinese look India through the Western Prism.

    Mao called all India as Yindus and associated all the adjectives used by the Western Thoughts to refer to India.
     
  21. LurkerBaba

    LurkerBaba Staff Administrator

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    India looks at China through a western prism too.
     

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