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IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF XUANZANG: TAN YUN-SHAN AND INDIA

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Message

From the President of India: Honourable K. R. Narayanan

 

It is with happiness that I associate myself with this literary project commemorating the late Professor Tan Yun-shan on the occasion of his centenary    

Tan 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.

It was this firm-rootedness of our relationship that inspired our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to write to Professor Tan Yun-shan some sixty yeas ago

"China 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 past.

 

I 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 temporary advantage."

As 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.

It 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.

But, 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.

Cheena-Bhavana 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.

Learning, 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.

A 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.

I 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.

New Delhi

April 22, 1998

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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.