Unravelling the links Tamils had with China in ancient times could soon be a reality as the Archaeological Survey of India has said it is willing to lend its expertise to that country if a request is made through appropriate government channels.
"We would love to research the link of Tamils with China.
However, we can do this only if a request comes through appropriate authorities like the External Affairs Ministry," ASI Additional Director General B R Mani told PTI.
There have been reports of Hindu temples in China and its links with South India and Tamil traders dating to the 13th century.
Historians believe the Chedian shrine may have been a network of more than 12 Hindu temples or shrines, including two grand big temples built in Quanzhou and surrounding villages by Tamil traders who lived here during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties.
Quanzhou Maritime Museum vice curator Wang Liming had said China would welcome any help from Indian scholars "as this is something we need to study together."
While stating that ASI would like to research links of Tamils with China, Mani said expeditions of Indians to far away places had always been a subject of interest and pointed out that Sindhi traders had built the Baku Fire Temple in Azerbaijan centuries ago.
"Not only in Azerbaijan, but in several other countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Jawa, many structures have been built by various Indians in different times," he noted.
Asked to shed more light on the Tamil link to ancient China, noted archaeologist and historian S Ramachandran said the Tamils shared a very long history with the dragon nation.
"The Thirukaneeswaram inscriptions belonging to the 14th century speaks of a Shiva temple near the Canton port area in China," he said, adding the inscription was documented by T N Subramaniam in the South Indian Temple Inscriptions series published by Government Oriental Manuscripts Library in 1957.
Interestingly, the temple in China was named after a Mongolian king of the period as 'Kaneeswaram.' An inscription found in the Shiva temple in Avinashi in Coimbatore District (Circa 13th Century) has reference to 'Cheena Kudai' or Chinese umbrellas.
Another inscription found in the Courtallam temple speaks of 'Cheenan' denoting the Chinese. The word Cheenan was used while referring to 'Manuurusattai,' a type of dress in a particular shape hinting at a probable link between "the cloth, the Chinese and Tamil Nadu."
"There is even a view that Sangam age [2000 years ago] king Athiyaman's ancestors introduced sugarcane from China.The Tamil word Cheeni meaning sugar may also have a Chinese connection," Ramachandran said.
Citing the 'Kattabomman Kathai Padal' folk verses on legendary ruler Kattabomman who fought the British, the archaeologist said it has several references to Chinese explosives and lenses. "The evidence on ancient Tamil-Chinese link continues till early 19th Century."
Terming the Quanzhou link as 'very interesting,' Ramachandran said it would be exciting to research the inscriptions and statues in China.
"We may be able to break new ground and could get new archaeological evidences on the link between Tamils and the Chinese," he said.
Ramachandran is also associated with Reach Foundation, a Chennai based NGO, renowned for its conservation efforts.