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Tianzhu is the historical East Asian name for India. Originally pronounced as Hin-duk[citation needed][dubious ] 天竺 in Old Chinese , it comes from the Chinese transliteration of the Persian Hindu, which is itself derived from the Sanskrit Sindhu, the native name of the Indus River. Persians travelling in northwest India named the region after the river around the 6th century BC.[1] Tianzhu is just one of several Chinese transliterations of Sindhu. Yuāndú[2] (身毒 OC n̥i[ŋ][d]ˤuk) appears in Sima Qian's Shiji and Tiandu (天篤) is used in the Hou Hanshu (Book of the Later Han).[3] Yintejia (印特伽) comes from the Kuchean Indaka, another transliteration of Hindu.[1] A detailed account of Tianzhu is given in the "Xiyu Zhuan" (Record of the Western Regions) in the Hou Hanshu compiled by Fan Ye (398–445):

Chinese name
Korean name
Japanese name

"The state of Tianzhu: Also, named Yuandu, it lies several thousand li southeast of Yuezhi. Its customs are the same as those of Yuezhi, and it is low, damp, and very hot. It borders a large river. The inhabitants ride on elephants in warfare; they are weaker than the Yuezhi. They practise the way of Futu [the Buddha], [and therefore] it has become a custom [among them] not to kill or attack [others]. From west of the states Yuezhi and Gaofu, and south until the Western Sea, and east until the state of Panqi, all is the territory of Yuandu. Yuandu has several hundred separate towns, with a governor, and separate states which can be numbered in the tens, each with its own king. Although there are small differences among them, they all come under the general name of Yuandu, and at this time all are subject to Yuezhi. Yuezhi have killed their kings and established a general in order to rule over their people. The land produces elephants, rhinoceros, tortoise shell, gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, and tin. It communicates to the west with Da Qin [the Roman Empire], and [so] has the exotica of Da Qin."[4]

Tianzhu was also referred to as Wutianzhu (五天竺, literally "Five Indias"), because there were five geographical regions in India known to the Chinese: Central, Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern India.[5]

In Japan, Tianzhu was pronounced as Tenjiku. It is used in such works as the Japanese translation of Journey to the West.

In Korea, Tianzhu was pronounced as Cheonchuk. It is used in Wang ocheonchukguk jeon, meaning An account of travel to the five Indian kingdom, a travelogue by the 8th century Buddhist monk Hyecho from the Korean Kingdom of Silla.


  1. ^ a b Cheung 2014, p. 181.
  2. ^ "词语"身毒"的解释". 汉典
  3. ^ Yu 2013, p. 73.
  4. ^ Yu 2013, p. 77.
  5. ^ Cheung 2014, p. 179.


  • Cheung, Martha Pui Yiu (2014) [2006]. "Zan Ning (919–1001 CE), To Translate Means to Exchange". An Anthology of Chinese Discourse on Translation: From Earliest Times to the Buddhist Project. Routledge. pp. 177–187. ISBN 978-1-317-63928-2.
  • Yu, Taishan (November 2013). "China and the Ancient Mediterranean World: A Survey of Ancient Chinese Sources". Sino-Platonic Papers (242).