IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF XUANZANG: TAN YUN-SHAN AND INDIA
From the President of India: Honourable K. R. Narayanan
is with happiness that I associate myself with this literary project
commemorating the late Professor Tan Yun-shan on the occasion of his
Yun-shan personified the deep and abiding ties of the civilizations of
India and China. These ties go back to the great Chinese pilgrim, Xuanzang.
That early visitor not only spent 15 years in India during the seventh
century learning Sanskrit, Buddhism and Indian culture but also played a
key role in establishing Buddhism and it cultural heritage on a firm
footing in China.
was this firm-rootedness of our relationship that inspired our first Prime
Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to write to Professor Tan Yun-shan some sixty
and India have stood for certain ideals in human life for ages past. These
ideals must be adapted to the changing circumstances of the world today.
But they must remain to guide us in the future as they have done in the
trust that it may be given to our two countries to cooperate together in
the cause of world peace and freedom and that neither of us, in good
fortune or ill fortune, will lose our souls in the pursuit of some
founder-director of Cheena-Bhavana, Tan Yun-shan was responsible for
creating what could be termed as a centre of excellence in Chinese
studies. He arranged to bring over 150,000 volumes of Chinese books and
personally supervised every aspect building up the institution. The thirty
of his life and career that Tan Yun-shan dedicated entirely to
Santiniketan and Cheena-Bhavana until his retirement in 1976, also saw him
helping many universities and institutions in different parts of India to
develop courses of Chinese studies and language.
is worth nothing that the Sino-Indian Cultural society centred at
Cheen-Bhavana counted among its ordinary members, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr
S. Radhakrishnan and Dr. Zakir Husain all of whom later became Presidents
of independent India. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was its honorary president
from the early 1940s, long before he became the first Prime Minister of
free India. Tan Yun-shan also had a part in arranging Jawaharlal Nehru's
visit to China in 1938 and the visit of Premier Zhou Enlai to Santiniketan
in 1957. That year marked the twentieth anniversary of Cheena-Bhavana and
in a message to commemorate the event, Nehru wrote.
"Twenty years ago, the Visva-Bharati Cheena-Bhavana was started. It was intended to promote contacts between India and Cheena and to encourage the study of the Chinese language in India. Since then, many changes have taken place both in China and India.
whatever changes have occurred, the friendship of these two great
countries has continued and will, no doubt, continue. The roots of that
friendship go back thousands of years, and it has withstood many storms
and stresses during the past because of those deep roots.
at Visva-Bharati has quietly and unobtrusively continued its work to
increase mutual understanding. It is now entering a third decade. I wish
it success in its work.
the great Tamil savant Tiruvalluvar has aphorized, is a shoreless sea and
the learner's days are few Professor Tan Yun-shan packed into his years in
India a great energy both to teach and to learn. He also passed on this
spirit to his daughter Tan Wan who learnt Bengali whilst at Santiniketan,
standing first in class in Bengali in the M.A. examination. "This is
a remarkable feat", wrote Nehru to Professor Tan Yun-shan, "more
especially as the standard of Bengali at Santiniketan is a high one."
It is equally remarkable that his son, Professor Tan Chung, has carried on
the noble tradition of his great father for several decades now.
lover of both China and India he has contributed to the development of
Chinese Studies in Indian Universities and worked for friendship and
understanding between these two great countries of Asia.
am Glad to learn that a commemorative volume to mark the centenary year of
the birth of late Professor Tan Yun-shan is being published in English and
Chinese by Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts and the Chinese
University of Hongkong respectively. I should like to take this
opportunity to felicitate Professor Tan Chung on this occasion. The Tans
are a unique family representing continuity, commitment and the highest
scholarship and I would like to pay my tribute to them as cultural
ambassadors in the tradition of Xuanzang. By honouring the memory of Tan
Yun-shan, a great scholar, teacher and builder of bridges between the
civilisations of India and China, the publication will inspire more
scholars in the two countries to strengthen existing contacts and enhance
the understanding between the two countries.
April 22, 1998
©1999 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced any manner without written permission of the publisher.
Published in 1999 by
Gyan Publishing House
5, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj,
New Delhi - 110 002.