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

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Foreword 

 

“My heart sings at the wonder of my place

in this world of light and life;

at the feel in my pulse of the rhythm

of creation

cadenced by the swing of the endless time.

 

I feel the tenderness of the grass im my

forest walk,

the wayside flowers startle me:

that the gifts of the infinite are strewn

in the dust

wakens my song in wonder.”

 

(Quoted from Sisirkumar Ghose ed. Tagore for

you, Calcutta: Visva-Bharati, 1984, p. 145.)

These words of Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Wonder” forever reverberate in our hearts. No matter how “the infinite are strewn in the dust” we, as the gardeners of the cultural treasures of “this world of light and life” always feel that we are treading on “the tenderness of the grass” when we take our daily “forest walk”in the city of Delhi which may soon become and another real concreat jungle.

                Tagore wrote to Mahatma Gandhi on Februray 19, 1940 that Visva-Bharati was both national and international: “national in its immediate aspect”, and “international in its spirit”. He wanted Gandhiji to note that he had offered at Santiniketan “India’s hospitality of culture to the rest of the world”.The same thing, probably, could be said about the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). Although sometimes we share the poet’s feeling of the Infinite being “strewn in the dust”, our hearts still sing at the wonder of our little places, in our humble voices.

                The international aspect of Gurudeva and Santiniketan had attracted a unique family of Prof. Tan Yun-shan to settled down there for more than half a century, from the 1930s to the 1980s to the Conversely, Tan Yun-shan and his family had enriched the international aspect of Santiniketan. In the same manner IGNCA has  Prof. Tan Chung - a member of our family -- and Tan Chung is no other person than Prof. Tan Yun-shan’s eldest son. Both father and son of the Tan family have had only one agenda in their life,i.e. promoting friendship and understanding between India and China -- the  two nations and states having the largest  populations and  longest continuous civilizational experiences.

                We bring out this commemorative volume for Tan Yun-shan’s birth centenary  in centenary with the Tagorean spirit, with what we are doing in awakening universal consciousness for the cultural heritage of both India and the world.Tan Yun-shan, as described by the former Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, had “identified himself with Santiniketan and contributed immensely  to  a better understanding between the civilisations of India and China”. He was initially invited by Tagore ( in 1927) to Visva-Bharati to help Gurudeva to revive “Great Pilgimage” of ancient Indians going to China, and Chinese coming to India weave into a golden tapestry of a Sino-Indian Cultural interface and synergy. Tan made a great contribution in the establishment of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society ( established in Nanjing, China, in 1933, and in India, 1934) and the Cheena-Bhavana ( in 1937). In doing so, Tan Yun-shan himself has become a part of the modern phase of this “Great Pilgrimage” between India and China will develop further from strength to strength.

                It is gratifying that Tan Yun-shan’s centenary is being celebrated in Beijing on October 27, and a Santiniketan on November 7, this year. We are most grateful that the President of India, Honourable Mr. K. R. Narayanan, has not only written a long and warm “Message” for this volume, but is also going to release this book at Santiniketan, when he inaugurates the Tan Yun-shan centenary celebration. The President has taken a lead in reiterating the messages of India’s savants, particularly, Gurudeva Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Panditji Nehru, etc. that India regards it vitally important to cultivate cordial understanding and co-operative relationship with her close neighbour China.

                I am grateful to Chinese and Indian scholars, as well as scholars from other countries in making their contributions to this volume, and wish to thank them on behalf of IGNCA. I hope this volume will further wider and deeper understanding between India and China.

October 15, 1998                                                                                                  

Kapila Vatsyayan

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