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 Tan Yun-Shan Lives in our Hearts Forever 


 Wang Hongwei 


I heard about the feat of Tan Yun-shan more than half a century ago. After I joined the Department of Eastern Studies of Beijing University to learn Hindi in 1951 I developed more interest in India and in Sino-Indian cultural  exchange, hence there was an additional concern on my part for the activities of my academic senior, Prof. Tan Yun-shan. Whatever he had achieved was noticed by me with hearty admiration and inspiration.

                Prof. Tan was an outstanding scholar, having dedicated his entire life to the inquiries about the religions, philosophies and literature of India, leaving behind abundant writings which are treasures for posterity.

                Prof. Tan was also a diligent disseminatior of Chinese culture, undertaking research in Visva-Bharati on the one hand, teaching  Chinese and lecturing  on Chinese culture on the other -- his indefatigable dedication  nursed a permanent base for rearing up those who had shown an inclination to study China, and for their mutual exchanges. The Chinese People’s Political consultative conference [China’s equivalent of the Rajya Sabha of Indian Parliament] elected Prof. Tan as a Specially Invited Member in 1957 in recognition to his contributions. In 1979, he was confered Deshikottam -- The highest academic honour by Visva-Bharti.

                Furthermore, Prof. Tan was a messenger of amity and friendship between the two nations -- India and China. Long since 1930s he had been Shuttling between China and India, meeting  various leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong, Lia Shaoqi, and Zhou Enlai etc., making real input input to Sino-Indian friendly relationship.

                During my student career I was all admiration  for Prof. Tan, and longed for a visit to India, to Visva-Bharati in order to pay my respect to Prof. Tan, and to benefit  from his teaching. However, uncertainty dominated the intermational Scene. Soon after I started working after graduation the singing of “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai” which had one time made me intoxicated suddenly stopped. In 1959, tension appeared on the Sino-Indian border which was followed by a brief war in 1962. It all seemed that the hope I had  cherished in my student days would fall into a vacuum. I felt endlessly frustrated.

                While I was studying I pondered upon things. On Sino-Indian relations  Prof. Tan observed in his Yindu zhouyouji (A Tour Around India) that it was “specially important among the specially important”. He added, “I firmly believe that whether we talk of world peace or world revolution, whether human civilization  or human amity, we won’t achieve out goal if the two nations, China and India, do not really unite and struggle with joint endeavours.”How confident, how correct are these words. I wonder, Since Sino-Indian relations are of such great importance, would the little episode of the 1962 war create a permanent  obstacle in the way for our two great nations to join our hands towards the great goal of world place and joint development? of course not. Sino-Indian relations are bound to improve.

                Indeed, history develops according to its own rhythm. In 1976, the two countries restored their diplomatic relations to the ambassadorial level. In the 1980s bilateral relations greatly improved. In the beginning of February 1988, I realized  my dream  and landed on the soil of India -- the land of my longing. I, then, visited the Visva-Bharati Campus which was ever green, But , I lost the opportunity of meeting  Prof. Tan and receiving  his teachings. Yet, when I sauntered on the clean, spacious university complex of Santiniketan I felt it reverberating with the genteel smile of Prof. Tan. From the lofty teaching block of Cheena-Bhavana emitted out laud conversations in Chinese language which all the more made me feel deeply that Prof. Tan was still alive in our midst.

                It is gratifying that since the China visit by Mr. Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, Since-Indian relations  have grown substantially. The border dispute is frozen, no longer affecting the overall improvement of bilateral relations. Exchanges in various fields are increasing.  Trade volumes double every few years. President Jiang Zemin visited India in November, 1996, resulting in a Sino-Indian agreement to build up a constructive co-operative partnershop toward the 21st  century. If Prof. Tan hears all this in his Heavenly abode, he would definitely feel happy.

                Facing  with such a happy development of Sino-Indian relations what should we do? Once again, I remember the words of Prof. Tan. He said, “If we want the two nations (of China and India) to really unite, we must have them to understand each other. If we want the two nations to understand each other, we must study each other’s national culture.” This is enlightening. In order to have a closer coorperate between the two nations in the next century so as to create new splendours for humankind, the academia of China and India must leave no stone unturned to strengthen “Studies of each other’s national culture” in order to achieve “mutual understanding between the two nations”.

                During the birth centenary  of Prof. Tan Yun-shan this would be the best course of action  for us to remember our outstanding senior and pay our great respects to him. 

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