||It has been suggested that China in the Mahabharata be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since September 2011.|
The Chinas or Chīnaḥ (Sanskrit चीन:) are a people mentioned in ancient Indian literature from the first millennium BC, such as the Mahabharata, Laws of Manu, as well the Puranic literature. They are believed to have been Chinese.
In the epic of the Mahabharata, the Chinas appear together with the Kiratas among the armies of king Bhagadatta of Pragjyotisa (Assam). In the Sabhaparvan, the same king is said to be surrounded the Kiratas, and the Cinas. Also in the Bhismaparvan, the army of Bhagadatta is said to consist of the Kirtas and the "yellow-colored" Cinas.
Bhishamaparva of Mahabharata also lists the Cinas with the Mlechha tribes of the north like the Yavanas, Kambojas, Kuntalas, Hunas, Parasikas, Darunas, Ramanas, Dasamalikas. These verses date to fifth century AD when the Hunas came into contact with Sassanian dynasty of Persia
Shantiparvan of Mahabharata groups the Cinas with the barbarous tribes of the Uttarapatha viz the Yavanas, Kiratas, Gandharas, Shabras, Barbaras, Shakas, Tusharas, Kanakas, Pahlavas, Andhras, Madrakas, Ramathas, and the Kambojas and states them as living the lives of Dasyus. These verses of epic expect these tribes to perform certain duties which are different from those performed by the Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras.
Vanaparvan of the Mahabharata states that the territory of the Cinas can be reached by a land-route across the country of the Kiratas in the mountain regions of the north.
Kiskindhakanda of Valmiki's Ramayana makes reference to Cinas as well as Parama-Cinas and associates them with the trans-Himalayan tribes of the Daradas, Kambojas, the Yavanas, the Sakas, the Kiratas, the Bahlikas, the Rishikas, and the Tañkanas of the Uttarapatha.
The epic literature asserts that the Cinas, Khasas, Hunas, Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, Kiratas, Sinhalas, Mlechchas etc. were created by sage Vashistha through the divine powers of cow Sabala or Nandini (Kamdhenu).
In the Matsya Purana, the Chinas are said to be unfit for performing shraddhah.
There is yet another reference to China as Cina-maru as referred to in the Vayu Purana and Brahmanda Purana. However, at the same place, Matsya Purana mentions Vira-maru. China-maru or Vira-maru has been identified with the lands of Turkestan situated above And-khui in the north of Afghanistan (Dr K. P. Jayswal, Dr M. R. Singh).
The Cinas also find reference in the Buddhist play, Mudrarakshasa, where they are listed with other contemporary tribes, such as the Shakas, Yavanas, Kiratas, Cambojas, Bhalikas, Parasikas, Khasas, Gandharas, Kalutas, etc.
Buddhist text Milindapanho (see: Sacred Books of the East, xxxvi, 204), associates the Chinas with the Sakas, Yavanas, Kambojas and Vilatas(?) etc., and locates them in the western Tibet/Ladakh, according to Dr Michael Witzel.
Chanakya (c. 350-283 BC), the prime minister of the Maurya Empire and a professor at Takshashila University, refers to Chinese silk as "cinamsuka" (Chinese silk dress) and "cinapatta" (Chinese silk bundle) in his Arthashastra.
The Sanmoha Tantra speaks of the Tantric culture of the foreign countries like the Bahlika (Bactria), Kirata, Bhota (Tibet), Cina, Maha-Cina, Parasika, Airaka, Kambojas, Huna, Yavana, Gandhara and Nepala.
Around the 2nd century BC, the Laws of Manu describes the downfall of the Chinas, as well as many foreign groups in India:
- "43. But in consequence of the omission of the sacred rites, and of their not consulting Brahmanas, the following tribes of Kshatriyas have gradually sunk in this world to the condition of Shudras;
- 44. (Viz.) the Paundrakas, the Chodas, the Dravidas, the Kambojas, the Yavanas, the Shakas, the Paradas, the Pahlavas, the Chinas, the Kiratas, the Daradas and the Khashas." 
Besides China and Parama-China, there is also a reference to Mahachina in the Manasollasa which text mentions the fabrics from Mahachina. It is thus possible that China probably referred to western Tibet or Ladakh, Mahachina to Tibet proper, and Parama-China to Mainland China.
- Geographical Data in Early Puranas, 1972, p172, Dr M. R. Singh
- Wade, Geoff, "The Polity of Yelang and the Origin of the Name 'China'", Sino-Platonic Papers, No. 188, May 2009.
- MBH 6/9/65-66
- MBH 12/65/13-15
- The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India, Volume 4, Kiskindhakanda, p 151, Rosalind Lefeber
- Ramayana (1.52-55) & Mahabharata (1.174.6-48)
- Kalika Purana 20/40
- ":ete desha Udichyastu
- Kambojashchaiva Dardashchaiva Barbarashcha Angaukikah || 47 ||
- Chinashchaiva Tusharashcha Pahlavadhayata narah || 48 ||
- — (Brahma Purana 27.44-53)"
- Vayu I, 58.78-83; Matsya 114.51.58
- Matsya Purana, 16.16
- Early East Iran, And The Atharvaveda, 1980, (Persica-9), p 106, Dr Michael Witzel.
- Tan Chung (1998). A Sino-Indian Perspective for India-China Understanding.
- Manusmritti (Laws of Manu), X.43-44