Mythology, momos and pagodas: The cultural dimension of Nepal-China relationship
Editor's note: This is a letter from Sushant Shrestha, a student from Nepal studying at Nanjing Medical University, sharing his thoughts about the connection between Nepali and Chinese culture.
There are marvelous fireworks, amazing lamps, as well as delicious and vivid food choices. As a Nepali student in China, it feels so amazing to be a part of Chinese festivities. But it gets more interesting when you realize that you can connect to the food, mythology and architecture around.
Let's start first with the mythology. Manjushree, also known in China as Wenshu shares a deep bond with Mount Wutai in Shanxi, one of the four sacred mountains in China. There is a Manjushree hall in Mount Wutai's Foguang Temple and in Chinese Tibetan Buddhism, Yama, the god of death, is considered to be one of the manifestations of Manjushree. The same Manjushree is believed to have made Kathmandu valley habitable, and shares a deep bond with Swayambhunath, the world heritage site revered by Hindus and Buddhists of Kathmandu. Like in Shanxi, Manjushree holds a special place in Kathmandu, with many even considering him a manifestation of Bodhisattva and Mahadeva.
The second is momos. Considered to be a staple food and favorite lunch in Nepal, momos share a deep resemblance with jiaozi in China. These dumpling known as momos and jiaozi have interesting similarities and be it a Nepali student in China or a Chinese tourist in Nepal, each bite reminds you of home. Momos and jiaozi both come in many varieties ranging from boiled to steamed to pan-fried to soup ones. The filling can range from anything from pork, chicken to vegetarian stuff like tofu and paneer. Sometimes nothing connects you better than great food!
Pagodas are another interesting and important cultural link that binds Kathmandu and Beijing together. Araniko, one of the key figures of arts in Nepal crafted the famous White Stupa at the Miaoying Temple in Beijing and historical evidence suggests that Nepali Newari craftsmen played a crucial role in constructing the artistic Potala Palace in the Chinese Autonomous Region of Tibet.
This historical link captured a new life when Chinese and Nepali sculptors joined hands to renovate the pagoda-styled Durbar Square damaged by the 2015 earthquake. Centuries ago, Araniko embarked on his journey on a narrow trail by repairing a bronze idol, and today in the 21st century, restructuring, relief and friendship made its way through the Araniko highway and Pokhara International Airport.
China today is the largest source of Nepal's foreign direct investment helping the nation become more self-sufficient in sectors such as cement and hydropower. But the economic partnership is underpinned by a strong people-to-people relationship that dates back to ages and transcends beyond Sagarmatha and Qomolangma.
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