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Friendship-in-Need Beetween Chinese and Indian People in Modern Times 


 Lin Chengjie

The multe-faceted cultural contacts between China and India centred around the dissemination of Buddhism in ancient times. They were interrupted after the 15th or 16th century because of the drastic changes within the two nations and the gradual eastward expansion of Western colonialism. But, the tree of Sino-Indian friendship had been deep-rooted. In the period of modern history, the two peoples once again closed their ranks in their common struggle against colonialism. The two peoples extended their sympathy towards each other, offered their hands to each other. The old tree of friendship came to life with new blossoms. This friendship was struck in times of need. Although without the magnificence of the ancient cultural interface between two great civilization, this was the friendship of great affection and depth.


                India was subjugated by colonial powers during the 18th and 19th centuries, and China likewise became a semi-colony. The tyrannic rule of the Western imperialist powers cruelly exploited and looted India and China and the two peoples lived in abysmal suffering. When the Indian Mutiny triggered off in 1857, the Chinese people received the news with delight, and it was a great inspiration to them. The Mutiny forced the British authorities to withdraw the troops which were on their way to China. Their earlier schedule of launching the Second Opium War against China was disrupted. During the Taiping Rebellion (in China), many Indian soldiers in the British army were driven by their pure sense of justice to defect to the Taiping army, and turned their rifles back at the imperialists and the Manchu feudalist suppressors. During the Boxer Rebellion, one Indian soldier condemned the atrocities committed by the imperialists and expressed sympathy with the just  cause of the Chinese  people in his diary. These were the first sign of the shared opposition and common hatred against their enemies. However, because of their historical and social limitations, such mutual sympathies were devoid of class consciousness.

                The newly emergent nationlist forces during the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century marked a genuine theoretical realisation of the commonality of destiny between the two peoples, of the necessity to cooperate with each other in the anti-imperialist struggle, as well as putting into practice such cooperation. Such a realisation also got heightened in the process of anti-imperialist struggle by and by.

                After the defeat of his bourgeois reformist movement, Kang Youwei, its leader, took refuge in Darjeeling. He toured many places (in India), met people of all walks of life, and then felt for the miserable sufferings of Indian people under the colonial rule with deep sympathy. He said that the British colonial rule was a system of racial discrimination and exploitation. A handful of colonial bosses trampled the Indians under their feet with tyrannic behaviours, treating Indians like dirt with “extreme cruelty”. “No Indian can get a better place than that of a subject of the sixth class.” Britons had in their possession all the best of wealth and resources while even the richest among Indians could only share some of the left-overs of the spoils. “The vast land of India is like a big prison.”[i] He, then lamented with depression: “How sad is it to belong to a state that is dead!”[ii]

                Another leader of the same Reform Movement, Liang Qichao, had mentioned India in about 100 articles of his writings. He analysed the causes why India had become a colony, and strongly condemned the ruthless and tyrannic rule of British colonialism. While discussing the Indian problesm, both Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao would ponder over how China should not step into the Indian shoes. The common fate of the two peoples under the colonial rule was touched upon by them.

                The early Indian nationalists and reformers were opposed to the opium trade (which Britain had imposed on China). Keshyap Chandra Sen demanded as early as 1870 that  the British government stopped the opium traffic. He pointed out that itwas a “dirty trick” in killing thousands of the pitiable Chinese”[iii]. An editorial of the Amrita Bazar Patrika in 1874 entitled “Chinese and British” listed the instances of how the British Colonialists had fleeced the Chinese, looked upon the British as “devils”[iv]. When the famous poet, Rabindranath  Tagore was only a lad of 20 years old, he already wrote articles condemning opium trade as a trade that manufactured death, as a behaviour of piracy. The famous activists of the Indian National Congress, Romesh Dutta and Gopal Krishna Gokhale also exposed and condemned with righteous indignity the shameful opium trade and the Opium War  launched by Britain (against China).

Around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a nationlist group led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak emerged in the Congress Party, while a bourgeois revolutionary group led by SunYat-sen also appeared in the Chinese scene. The nationalist movements of both the countries entered into the phase of nationalist revolution. From an identical revolutionary stand, the revolutionary groups of the two countries realised the need of mutual support and cooperation in their common struggle. They made great efforts along this direction. Thus the friendly relations between the two peoples entered into a new stage.



                The pioneer of this new stage were Sun Yat-sen, Zhang Taiyan from China, and Borohan, Bose[v] and others from India. Sun Yat-sen referred to India a number of times in his writings and speeches. He was of the opinion that India’s becoming a colony was due to the English East India Company’s taking advantage of the internal split of the Indian feudal  society. He thought that Britons were the most cunning conquerors. He pointed out: “What the colonialists expect the most is to get the colonies supply them raw materials.and making them the markets of their industrial manufactures.”[vi] For this purpose, they made “China and India bear the brunt”.[vii] According to him Britain had adopted economic and supra-economic measures in India to reach this target. She destroyed the traditional Indian textile industry, drained India’s resources by levying heavy land revenues, creating the economy decline, famines occuring in quick succession, people living in destitution, and skeletons bleaching the plains. He said: “Every year, Britain exacted huge quantity of food-grains from India for her own consumption, while in India nineteen million people died from hunger in ten years. It is not as if India is not producing grain, but the Indian produce is looted by Britain, hence India is made to starve.”[viii] He continued: “Though apparently Britain seems to mean no plundering in India, in reality it is a predatory tyrannic rule depriving Indians the means of survival, hence it is a plunder in a large scale.”[ix] Talking about the position of India within the British Empire, he pointed out: “It is India, not Britain itself that has made up the Empire.” “In India lies the economic foundation of Britain, the life-line of Britain.” “Without India the British Empire is but a third rate state.” “Without India the British Empire is bound to disintegrate.” He futher pointed out that since India was the life-line of Britain, the British authorities “would hold to India with no stone un-turned even to the extent of sacrificing everything else.”[x] Therefore, the Indian revolutionary movement would not be a smooth sail. He advised the Indian people to treat unity with the foremost importance and presevere in their struggle.

                In 1905, Sun Yat-sen went to Japan from Europe, he founded Zhongguo Tongmenghui (League of China) in Tokyo, and started Minbao (People’s paper) as its mouth piece. At that time, revolutionaries from many Asian countries, including India, stayed at Tokyo. Sun Yat-sen often gathered together with them and discussed with them the problems of anti-imperialist struggle and national liberation. He was the greatest inspiration for these revolutionaries. These  were the earliest contacts between the revolutionaries of the two countries.

                In 1906, an important thinker and activist of the Chinese bourgeois revolution, Zhang Taiyan, went to Tokyo. He was appointed the editor of Minbao. He had further contacts with the Indian revolutionaries, and started building an intimate relationship of close  cooperation with them. In the same year, the Indian revolutionary, Borohan, went to Tokyo from the U. S. A. and became the leader of the Indian patriots living in Tokyo. The three easily established a  sincere comradeship because of their identical revolutionary aspirations under identical circumstances. Zhang Taiyan wrote: “I was very happy in meeting these two gentlemen [Borohan and Bose]. We were first in high spirit, then all of us sank into a tearful mood. When they narrated about the decline of India and the plans of their revolutionaries, I was overtaken  by a sense of grief and could not come out of it.”[xi] They briefed each other about the situation  in their own country, also talked about the close contacts of the two nations in history,  and expressed their desire for mutual support in their future struggles. Zhang Taiyan  continued: “I think the two countries  have been old bosom friends. We should consider the pros and cons and complement each other.”[xii] Afterwards Zhang became close friends of the two Indians. He said: “Though  we are foreigners to each other there is rapport between us. We are good brothers.”[xiii]

                On April 20, 1907, Zhang Taiyan  attended a function commemorating Shivaji, held in a girls’ college at Toranomon,  Tokyo, under the auspices of the Indian patriots. Zhang knew  that the intention of the function was to propagate the idea of Swaraj. The meeting first went on very smoothly. Then, a Japanese politician named Ogama Shigenoba, who used to advertise himself as a friend of Asian peoples, began to compliment the British rule in India as one of “benevolence and love”. He called upon the Indian people to concentrate their energies  on “social reform”, not to “put  the blame on others, nor resort to violence”. The atmosphere of the meeting was spoiled by his speech. Subsequently,  Zhang Taiyan wrote an article in Minbao criticising the fallacy  of Ogama Shigenoba. He observed: “What  bullshit is  this advice for Indian generosity. He was defending the British rule with an aim to hoodwink the Indians, like offering a lollipop to a crying child. This is too abominable  to be tolerated!”[xiv]

                At that time , the Indian patriots had no newspaper of their own. Zhang had spoken out what they wanted to but had no occasion to say. A minor  sensation was created by Zhang’s condemnation in Tokyo. Later on, Zhang not only wrote articles to introduce and commend the Swadeshi Movement in India, but also made Minbao carry more than ten articles translated from Indian revolutionary  journals and the content of a leaflet put out by the Indian revolutionaries. He  said that by doing so he wished to “make  his Chinese comrades aware of this, and spread the just voice of the Indian nation all over the world.” [xv]His was the only non-Indian paper in Tokyo reproducing such large numbers of Indian writings.

                Out of his brisk contacts with the Indian revolutionaries, Zhang Taiyan became the first person to put forward the idea of unity between China and India. In 1906, he propounded this idea in his articles on “Zhina Yindu lianhe fangfa” (The way of unity between China & India), and “Da Youmin shu” (A reply to You-min). He explained that his specifically  advocating this Sino-Indian unity was because these two nations had had intimate contacts in history. They were “countries of affections” (qinnizhi  guo), and should support each other “in view of the past affection and friendship”.[xvi] Unity would benefit the struggles for independence and liberation in both the countries. China and India were the two great countries in Asia. They should shoulder the responsibility of safeguarding peace in Asia. He wrote: “Among the oriental civilizatins, China and India are the only two greatest. They are endeared to each other as bosom friends. They should  join hands to augment their strength. If they do not embrace each other and support each other, Asia will become protectionless.”[xvii] He  further suggested a two-phased course for achieving unity. First, the two peoples should support increase cultural  exchanges to promote mutual understanding. Then, after the victories of each other in their struggle against imperialism, and should their revolutions the governments of the two nations should strike an alliance to jointly uphold peace in Asia. He said: “After China  and India achieve their independence, they should form a holy alliance, then, Asia will be incident free.”[xviii]

                Both Borohan and Bose supported this idea. In 1907, they joined Zhang in establishing an “Association of Asian Affinity”. The core of this organization was the revolutionaries of China and India, admitting into it were also the revolutionaries of other countries. Its aim was “to oppose imperialism,  to strive for the independence of all the subjugated nations of Asia”. Members of the organization were  under obligation “to render support to the members  of other countries whenever revolution occurred there. The support should stretch to the maximum  extent within the member’s  ability, either directly or indirectly.”[xix] This was  the first organizational attempt on the part of Chinese and Indian revolutionaries. But soon after this association was banned, Min Bao was closed down by the Japanese authorities.

                In the beginning of the 20th century, the leaders of the Indian radicals, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghose, expressed their concerns about the Chinese national struggle. Tilak observed in an article that the boycott of American goods by the Chinese people in 1905 demonstrated that the people of a subjugated country could defeat an arrogant ruler by resorting to unity, with courage and determination. He used the example of Chinese struggle to stimulate the Indian people repeatedly. The boycott of British goods in 1905 by the Indian  people against the British attempt to partition Bengal was, to an extent, the impact of the victory of the Chinese boycott of the American goods. The activities of the Chinese bourgeois reformists and revolutionaries at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century had inspired Aurobindo Ghose and Mahatma Gandhi who was, then, in South Africa. Aurobindo Ghose categorized the spread of nationalism as “the progress of China”[xx], while Gandhi called it “the awakening of China.”[xxi] The 1911 Revolution was a powerful booster of the morale of the Indian patriots. One of the important  members of the Ghadar  Party, Mula Singh said that the Indians must follow the path of China and that of other countries to reach the goal  of Indian revolution.[xxii]

                At the beginning of the World War I, Indian revolutionary organizations inside and outside India which advocated armed  struggle often sent missions to the Far East to purchase  arms. They often sought Sun Yat-sen’s help. For example, Naren Bhattacharyya (later M. N. Roy), who was a member of a secret organization in Bengal, and the special envoy of the Ghadar  Party in U. S. A., Sachindra Sen, Vishnu Ganesh Pingle, had all met Sun Yat-sen in China. Sun did what he could in helping them. When Sun Yat-sen was in Shanghai and Japan, he helped Rash Bihari Bose (who had made an abortive assassination attempt on Governor-General Hardinge in 1912, and had again engineered an armed uprising in Punjab and north  India in February 1915 for which he was abconding) to escape arrest twice. Sun Yat-sen also maintained close contacts and established cooperation with the well-known Indian revolutionary Barkatullah. Indian revolutionaries greatly admired Sun Yat-sen. They also knew that Sun was an advocate for armed struggle. It was but natural that they would seek his help. Rash Bihari  Bose recorded the unforgettable memory of how he had been  helped by Sun in his book entitled The Revolutionary India. He mentioned the names of Mr. Toyama Mitsuru, Dr. Terao, and Mr. Miyazalei Tolenot as those Japanese friends of Sun Yat-sen who had rendered help to him to settle down in Japan without being harmed.[xxiii]

                When Gandhiji launched the non-cooperation movement Sun Yet-sen had assumed power in Guangzhou as the Extraordinary President of the provisional government, ready to launch his Northern Expedition against the war-lords. He hailed  Gandhiji’s movement as the “awakening of India”. In 1921, he said in a speech: “The Indians have long been oppressed by the British. They have now reacted with a change in their revolutionary thinking... There is progress in their revolutionary spirit, they will not be cowed down by Britain.” [xxiv] Sun Yat-sen regarded the high tide of the Indian struggle as an integral part of the wave of national self-rule in the world after the World War I. He observed: “Since the European War, there has been a drastic change in the world situaion.” There emerged a new force. “What is the force? It is the great awakening of the oppressed section of humankind to form a massive resistance against the mighty powers.” “Though India has gone under by the force of Britain, the common people stand opposed to the British.”[xxv] Sun Yat-sen departed from his prepared text to specially commend Gandhiji’s doctrine of non-cooperation while he was speaking and propounding the doctrine of his own Three people’s Principles in 1924. He said: “What is non-cooperation? It is not to supply what the British are wanting. It is not to accept what the British are eager to supply. If the British need workers, no Indian would work for them; if the British bring up a lot of imported goods for the Indian consumption, the Indians should refuse to use them, and only consume their native products. In the beginning the British had taken this idea lightly. Through the passage of time non-cooperation organizations had  mushroomed in India, and this greatly hurt the British economy, hence the British government  throws Gandhi into prison.” “Sun, then, called upon the Chinese people to emulate the Indian example, become united and act, “sever economic  ties” with the imperialists. He continued: “If all Chinese could emulate  the Indian example of non-cooperation.....we will not be cowed down even if the foreign powers resort to the suppression of armed forces, economic measures, and the presence of their people.”[xxvi]

                Apparently it looked strange that a champion of armed revolution like Sun Yat-sen would be favourably disposed for a non-violent and non-cooperation movement. But Sun had a wide vision to look at the strategies and tactics of the national struggle from varous angles. He dwelt upon the active and passive ways in fighting imperialism: active, like awakening the national spirit, seeking the solutions of people’s power and livelihood, and face to face against  foreign aggression: passive, i.e. “non-cooperation, to weaken the role of imperialists, hence safeguarding the national position, avoiding the fate of total extinction.” [xxvii] While he thought that the non-cooperation movement was an effective economic weapon in fighting the foreign rule the people will have to resort to armed struggle to overthrow it.

                Sun Yat-sen also advocated Sino-Indian unification. He wrote in 1923 that “All the oppressed peoples should unify their efforts to fight against the tyranny of foreign aggressors.” “India and China are the backbone of the oppressed peoples in Asia.” [xxviii] In deference to Sun’s wishes, the Guangdong revolutionary government and the Kuomintang Party adopted as one of their foreign policies the unification with all the oppressed peoples, especially with India.



                During  the period of Northern Expedition, the mutual support and cooperation between the nationalists of the two countries in their anti-imperialist struggle reached a climax, unfolding in a wider dimension and demonstrating a refreshing form. I may liken it to the first crop of fruits from the tree of Sino-Indian friendship which the two peoples had nurtured in modern history. After the “May 30” atrocity in 1925, the British government despatched large contingents of troops from India to suppress the Chinese people’s anti-imperialist struggle. The Commissioner of Foreign Affairs in the Guangdong revolutionary government sent a telegram to Gandhiji, leader of the Indian Congress, calling upon him and his Party to use their influence to stop the British imperialists’ using the Indian troops to massacre the Chinese people. Gandhiji immediately published this letter in the journal Young India which was run by him, and condemned the British authorities for sending troops to China. In September 1925, the All India Committee of the Congress discussed the China issue, and passed the unprecedented resolution in the  Congress history on China. The resolution expressed sympathy for the Chinese people in their struggle against foreign domination, and also strongly protested against the Indian government’s despatch of Indian soldiers to suppress the Chinese freedom movement. [xxix] This was followed by meetings held at various places in India, voicing a wide spread demand for the withdrawal of Indian troops from China.

                The Northern Expedition won victories in battle after battle, and the world was shocked. Jawaharlal Nehru, who was in Europe, at that time, actively campaigned for moral support for it among the leading circles of the Congress Party. At the end of January, 1927, the Working Committee of the Congress Party passed a resolution on the “China issue”, expressing fraternity with the struggle of Chinese people. The Indian workers, students and people of all walks of life held meetings to celebrate the victory of the advancing troops of the Expedition. The protest movement against sending Indian troops to China gathered greater momentum. Gandhi wrote another article condemning the British. The nationalist press in China quickly reported the news of Indian people’s support  with expressions of gratitude. On March 2, 1927, Minguo Ribao (Republican Daily) at Guangzhou carried at a prominent space the news of Gandhi’s condemnation with a bold headline reading: “The Indian leader condemning British militarism”. Some of the resolutions passed by the Congress Party and other organizations were translated into Chinese  and published. On April 13, 1927, Minguo Ribao at Hankou published a resolution of the Ghadar Party with the headline: “The great unification of the revolutionary forces of China and India”.

                On February 10, 1927, a world conference of the oppressed nations was held in Brussels, which provided an excellent opportunity for the revolutionary organizations of China and India to establish direct contacts and a relationship of collaboration. The leaders of the Chinese delegation were Liao Huanxing representing Kuomintang, and Xiong Guangxuan representing the Guangdong revolutionary government. Nehru participated in this conference as the representative of the Congress Party. The delegations of two countries fully utilised this opportunity to exchange ideas and experience. They expressed their common desire for direct cooperation between Kuomintang and the Congress Party. Nehru said in his speech: “The noble example of the Chinese nationalists has filled us with hope, and we earnestly want as soon as we can to be able to emulate them and follow in their footsteps (long applause).”[xxx] Both parties decided to take some concrete measures, including establishing a news bureau and having a permanent representative from China in India. Kuomintang invited a Congress delegation to visit China. The All China Trade Union invited its Indian counterpart and the Congress Party to send delegates to participate in the international trade union conference to be held in China. The Indian National Congress invited the  Kuomintang  to sent delegates to its annual conferences. The two delegations also issued a joint declaration on behalf of the two peoples to reiterate the importance of strengthening Sino-Indian cooperation in their common struggle against imperialism. The Declaration and the collaborative measures worked out at the Brussels Conference were later endorsed by the leadership of both the parties.

                In March 1927, Xiong Guangxuan wrote serial articles in the Hankou Minguo Ribao, reporting  about the Conference. Three of these articles introduced the Indian nationalist organizations to enable the Chinese people to further understand the Indin national movement . Nehru, after the conference, reiterated the great significance of the Chinese revolution and its vital interest to India, in his report to the Working Committee.

                Some of the collaborative measures started to move. Kuomintang decided to send a delegation consisting of Madam Soong Ching-ling (I. e. Madam Sun Yat-sen), Wang Jingwei (President of Kuomintang) and Gu Mengyu to visit India. Nehru and other leaders of the Congress Party were elated by the coming visit of Madam Sun Yat-sen. However, the British government refused to issue a visa to her for fear of a powerful impact to be created by her visit. Madam Sun Yat-sen expressed indignation in her letter addressed to the Indian Congress, saying that though the British colonialist authorities could stop her from going to India so ungracefully, they could not prevent her from expressing her sentiments through letters. She assured the Indian people that all the loyal followers of Dr. Sun Yat-sen would continue in paying attention about and expressing sympathy for the Indian independence struggle. She also wrote a letter to the women of India. Nehru told her in his reply that  her two letters were read and warmly welcomed and highly appreciated in the annual convocation of the Congress Party. He continued: “It is humiliating for us that a foreign power should prevent one whom India honours from visiting our country. We trust however that the time is not far distant when you will be able to come to this country as the honoured guest of the nation.”[xxxi]

                Another avenue of cooperation between the nationalists of the two countries, during the period of Northern Expendition, was the cooperation between the Chinese branch of the Ghadar Party and the Chinese nationalists. The Gadar party had their branch in China as early as the World War I. The Party had an expansion during the Northern Expedition. It passed many resolutions in support of the Chinese people’s struggle, and hailed the victory of the Chinese revolutionary army. One resolution maintained that British imperialism was the common enemy of the two peoples. It called the countrymen of India, wherever they were, not to support or participate in the sinful activities of the British in waging war against China. [xxxii] The leader of the Ghadar Party, Munsha Singh, was of the view that the political atmosphere in China was very favourable to the function of the Ghadar party. While pushing forward the revolutionary movement in India at the same time, it could help the Chinese revolution, the two were complementary. Some experienced political workers were sent to China. The main places where Ghadar Party was active were: Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hankou. The party established a publishing house and started their newspaper. Many posters were secretively distributed among the Indian soldiers. One article written by Inder Singh appealed to the Sikhs and all Indians who stayed in China not to serve the British imperialists and not to oppose the Chinese national struggle. The article said that the true sons and daughters of China were fighting for the freedom of their motherland. The freedom of China was closely linked with that of India. If China won her freedom, it would bring about the Indian freedom in the near future. The task of the Indians was to help the Chinese nationalist force.[xxxiii]

                For the sake of mutual coordination and support, the revolutionaries of India Korea, and Vietnam who were in China, along with their Chinese counterparts, formed an organization called “Association of Oppressed Nations” in 1925. The Indians who joined this organization were the members of Ghadar Party. Leaders of that party, Darsandera Singh and Charan Singh, were elected as members of the executive committee of this organization which may be regarded as the extension and development of the “Association of Asia Affinity” founded by Zhang Taiyan, Borohan and others in Tokyo. The new Association immediately plunged into activities, such as secretly  distributing leaflets, instigating the Indian soldiers and Sikh policemen not to be the British tools to enslave other nations, it called upon the expatriates from India and other nations in China to stand by the Chinese people. It even suggested the recruitment of volunteers among Indian expatriates in Hankou to form a military  force to join the Northern Expendition under the commond of the Chinese military authorities. This suggestion did not materialise due to some practical difficulties. At the beginning of 1927, Dasandra Singh went to Shanghai which was under the control of the war-lords to convene secret meetings of the Ghadar Party. Unfortunately he was arrested along with 12 core members of the Ghadar Party. The Association suffered a great setback, yet still survived.



                During the period of Anti-Japanese War (1937-45), collaboration  between the nationalist forces of China and India reached a greater climax. There were many reasons behind it. First, the Indian Congress Party, Indian Communist Party and many other parties of India all condemned the Japanese aggression on China and the Fascist expansion of Germany, Italy and Japan in the world. They sympathised with the Chinese people’s determination to resist aggression. Jawaharlal Nehru, the left wing leader of the Indian Congress, even publicly criticised the non-resistance policy of Chiang Kai-shek; for this he was greatly respected by the Chinese people. Secondly, the Chinese Communist Party which stood for fighting against Japan appealed to all the oppressed nations in the world, including the Indian people and nationalist forces to support China’s anti-Japanese War. After China had begun an all out war against Japan, the Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai-shek also appealed for help from the Indian Congress. After the Pacific war broke out, America and Britain formed an alliance with China and established the relationship of military cooperation. Thirdly, the Chinese people of all walks of life maintained close rapport with the development of Indian national movement. The Chinese people supported the nationalist demands put forward by the Indian National Congress.

                On July 7, 1937, a full scale Anti-Japanese War broke out in China. The Indian masses rose to the occasion by creating  a warmth of enthusiasm in support of the Chinese War. Gandhi, Nehru, and Tagore, in their speeches and writings, pointed out the just cause of Chinese resistance against Japan. They appealed to the Indian people to do their best in aid  of the Chinese struggle for national honour and survival. Nehru, as the President of the Congress that year, solemnly declared on behalf of the Congress: “Our attitude is one of complete opposition to Japanese aggression and of sympathy to China.” [xxxiv] Acting on his suggesion, India held the first “China Day” on September  26, 1937. The Indian masses responded with enthusiasm by holding meetings condemning  the Japanese  aggression. The Congress, following Nehru’s suggestion, appealed to the people to boycott Japanese goods to express solidarity with the Chinese people. A nation-wide boycott  movement was created. Businessmen pledged not to sell Japanese goods. Those who did not, got their shops picketed by volunteers who persuaded customers not, receiving a letter from the commander-in-cheif of the 8th Route Army, General Zhu De, Nehru briefed the press: “have today not to enter them. On December 24, 1937, on received an appeal for help from Chu The [Zhu De], commander-in-cheif, eighth route army, China. Chu The, it will be remembered, was the chief of the famous army which performed the prodigious feat some years ago of marching 8,000 miles in spite of almost insuperable difficulties. The feat is unique in military annals.” [xxxv] Having complimented the firm determination of the 8th Route Army and the Chinese people, he suggested that on January 9, 1938 India would mark another “China Day”, and appealed for donations to help the Chinese soldiers fighting on the anti-Japanese frontier get provisions of medicines and other supplies. The “China Day” proposal was widely supported by various nationalist organizations, groups, and people from all walks of life, including the Indian Communist Party. Tagore took a lead in giving donation. This was followed suit by the broad masses. Even the Indians  abroad extended their hands of help. The famous dancer, Shankar, held a charity performance in London, and donated all the proceeds to the cause of the Chinese people. This aid was like the life-giving wind and rain in spring which nourishes  the hearts of people. Major Chinese newspapers carried timely reports and described the Indian support as “brotherly help” and “friendship in need”.

                In 1938, Subhas Chandra Bose became the President of the Indian Congress. He pushed up the aid-China wave from strength to strength. On June 12 a third “China Day” was observed. The central theme was to stand by the Chinese people when they faced the most difficult times. Meanwhile, the anti-Japanese boycott movement and the donation collection did not slacken, the Japanese trade with India suffered a drastic decline. Yet, the most memorable event was the Congress decline. Yet, the most memorable event was the Congress decision to send a medical team to China, which was initiated by Nehru during his tenure as the Congress President. The Medical Team was composed by five doctors, Atal, Cholkar, Kotnis, Basu and Mukherjee. When they arrived in China they volunteered to go to North China to treat the wounded soldiers behind the enemy lines, braving great hazards and risks. Kotnis and Basu worked in the frontier for some time. Their diligence and valuable service demonstrated before the Chinese people the warmth of the Indian support for China, and won admiration among all who had come across the Indian doctors. Dr. Kotnis died in China because of overwork. He personified the symbol of everlasting magnificence of Sino-Indian friendship. Mao Zedong mourned his death by observing that “The army has lost a helping hand, the nation has lost a friend. Let us always bear in mind his internationalist spirit..” [xxxvi] The story of the Indian Medical Team had become a household word in China. When Dr. Basu was finally leaving China, Mao Zedong, Zhu De, gave a high evalution of the work of the Team, and extended a hearty gratitude for the Indian Congress and Indian People in their letters addressed to the Indian Congress  Party.

                The Chinese people would always remember with gratitude Mahatma Gandhi and Gurudeva Tagore who criticised the Japanese aggression and exposed the real face of a brute in the Japanese militarists in international fora. Gandhi wrote an open letter to the Japanese people, while Tagore denounced the malice of the Japanese poet, Noguchi Yonejiro. They demonstrated their expansive rithteousness, upheld humanism, and showered their friendship for the Chinese people.

                In August 1939, Nehru visited China which pushed the fighting- comradeship between the peoples of China and India to a new high. Nehru was honoured as “the great leader of the Indian people” and “an intimate friend of China”. He was warmly received by Chiang Kai-shek, other high ranking officers of the Kuomintang Party and its government, the representatives of the Communist Party in Chongqing.The telegram read: “I hear that you have reached Chongqing and also people of all walks of life. Earlier, Nehru had written to Mao Zedong, hoping to visit Yan’an. He got Mao’s invitation telegram after he reached Chongqing, which will further close the ranks of the two nations in unity in their struggle for national independence, freedom and liberation. I send you my warm regards on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party and people. I invite you to visit Yan’an, so that I can listen to your admirable views in person.” [xxxvii] Nehru who had earlier been eager to see Yan’an was jubilant that his cherished wish would be realised. But, with the flare up of the World War II, he had to rush back home. He sent a telegram to Mao Zedong before leaving China expressing his gratitude for the invitation, regretting his inability to visit Yan’an, and hoping to fulfil his wish in a future trip. He also hoped that this short visit of his to China would strengthen the contacts between the two countries which would fight together hand in hand in their courses of liberation.[xxxviii]

                When Nehru was in China, he conceived a seven point programme of how to strengthen contacts between China and India. These included the set up of “an efficient and regular service of information”, exchange visits by specialists to study each other’s cottage industries and cooperatives, “cultural contacts between universities”, direct contacts between “the two national movements”, Chinese delegates to the annual sessions of Indian Congress, developing “a common outlook and policy on major international issues”, and the organizations of industrial cooperatives getting “into direct touch with the All India Village Industries Association” etc.[xxxix] The Kuomintang side also put forward identical suggestions. These plans for strengthening cooperation went a step further than what had been proposed during the Brussels Conference. Most of these plans were implemented later.

                China, on her part, did her best to support the Indian struggle for independence. After World War II broke out, the Indian Congress passed a resolution  demanding that Britain, Which flaunted the banner of fighting for freedom, should apply this very principle to India in the first instance, and the Congress would decide their attitude towards the War only according to the British attitude towards India. The mouth-piece of the Chinese Communist Party, Xinhua Ribao (New China Daily), carried this resolution with a headline to the news: “The Indian Congress issued a declaration, stood opposed to the imperialist war, exposed the British duplicity about their fighting for freedom and democracy, adhered to the struggle for national liberation and the realisation of democratic politics”. This was coupled with an editorial specially commenting on the Indian problem. The editorial said: “The Indian people do not wish to join this imperialist war. They do not want to bethe cannon fodder of the of the British imperialism. They do not believe that Britain is genuinely fighting for democracy and freedom. Their stand is correct.”The editorial concludes: “We salute our Indian brothers, and wish them march forward with vigour.”[xl] A little later, all the Chinese newspapers reported the anti-war attitude of the Indian people as well as the non-cooperation movement led by Gandhi, expressing their support for the struggle of the Indian People.

                On October 31, 1941, when the news of the arrest of Nehru was known, the Chinese people of all walks of life expressed their concern. On Novermber 2nd, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Chen Shaoyu, Qing Bangxian, Ye Jianying, sent a joint telegram to Nehru expressing concern.The telegram reads: “The Chinese people have been grateful for your warm kindness in campaigning for support for their cause of war against Japan. We deeply believe that you and the national leaders who have been struggling for the India people’s liberation will soon be released and carry on your struggle now that all the people of India and the progressive personalities of the world are demanding your freedom.” [xli] Xinhua Ribao issued an editorial to support Nehru and condemn the British authorities. It wrote: “What crime had Nehru committed? Perhaps it is that he was against India joining the war, because he was for the independence of India. In other words, probably he is sent to jail  because he is not able to sing: Long live British imperialism”.[xlii]  In Chongqing, the China Defence League also  sent a telegram to Nehru expressing their solidarity. Wang Yunsheng, member of the Standing Committee of the National Association for Foreign Affairs, also sent a similar telegram along with 30 others.

                The British authorities wanted to entice the Indian Congress Party to support the War, but refused to concede to the just demands of the Congress. The issue was deadlocked. After war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union, the Chinese  Communist Party advocated the establishment of a world-wide anti-Fascist united front, but, at the same, reiterated the necessity of the colonial rulers’adopting measures to “materialize independence and equality among all nations.”[xliii] Accordingly, Xinhua Ribao issued an editorial on January 20, 1942, urging the British policy-makers to convert the empty  words of the Joint Declaration of Roosevelt and Churchill into reality. The editorial appealed to the British authorities to give the Indian people “democracy, freedom and the right for arming themselves.” It said: “The time has come that the British government  change their [Indian] policies.”

                After war brode out in the Pacific area, Chiang Kai-shek became the Commander-in -Chief of the Allied Forces in the China theatre. He too wanted to break the deadlock in India. In February 1942, he was invited to India by the British-Indian Viceroy for discussion of matters of military cooperation. Madam Chiang, and more than ten high-ranking military and government officers accompanied him. In this visit, Chiang Kai-shek met Nehru many times. He also met Gandhi, the leader of the Muslim League, Jinnah, and the Indian women leaders, Mrs. Pandit, and Mrs. Naidu and others. He exchanged views with them on the situation of the Indian national movement and how to strengthen the contacts between India and China. Chiang also visited Visva-Bharati, and paid homage to the late lamented poet Tagore. One of the aims of Chiang’s visit was to help bread the Indian political deadlock. Before his departure, Chiang issued an open letter to the Indian people in which he reiterated the necessity for the British authorities to “quickly grant  political power to the Indian people”to enable the Congress Party to fully support the War.[xliv]  The congress party and the Indian people took all this as a powerful support for the India national  movement. Nehru said in a speech later: “Although it is not customary for the head of one state to interfere in the internal affairs of another state, yet Chiang Kai-shek, the head of the Chinese state, who recently toured India, expressed himself in unmistakable terms on the question of India’s freedom.”[xlv] Chiang’s open letter was widely appreciated  in China. Xinhua Ribao said in its editorial:  “Indeed, Britain should put into practice what is said in the Joint Declaration of Roosevelt and Churchill, granting political  power to the Indian people on the basis of allowing the Indian people freedom and liberation.”[xlvi] A tremendous political pressure was built up by Chiang’s open letter. Churchill was visibly annoyed, but had  to put up a gesture  of willing to compromise.

                In reciprocating the “China Day” activities held annually in India in many years since 1938,an “India Day” was observed under the auspices of many cultural groups under the Central Committee of Cultural Movement in Chongqing. The day was observed by holding a photo exhibition, screening movies, delivering lectures, giving radio talks, publishing a special  volume, and other activities to popularise information about the Indian national movement and expressing friendly sentiments and gratitude of the Chinese people for the Indian people.

                In the first half of 1942, Japanese troops occupied South East Asia, and began to bambard the cities in India. In view of the British unwillingness to break the political stalemate, Gandhi launched the “Quit India” movement and the Indian Congress unfolded an uprecedented large scale non-cooperative movement. The British authorities resorted to pre-emptive arrest of Gandhi and almost all the leaders of the Congress Party on August 9th. When this news reached China, a wave of protest was organised by the Chinese political circles and the press. Every major newspaper issued an editorial  condemming the British suppression. Jiefang Ribao (Liberation Daily), the mouth-piece of the Chinese Communist Party commented that the Bombay Resolution to urge Britain to quit India was just and correct, “it should be supported by all the people who are opposed to aggression, and should be accepted by Britain.” It said that the British violent response to a non-violent movement was responsible for the deteriorating situation in India which only “saddens our near and dear, and gladdens our enemies.” [xlvii] Ta Kung Pao, the progressive liberal daily, commented in its editorial: “The aim of the Indian freedom struggle conforms to that of the Allied Nations fighting the Fascists. There is not  a single Chinese who does not support the Indian cause.”[xlviii] When the news of Gandhi’s indefinite fast in jail reached China, thirteen Chinese celebrities, Shen Junru, Zhang Yilu, Zuo Shunsheng, Huang Yanpei, Guo Moruo, Zhang Shenfu, Mao Dun, Tao Xingzhi, Luo Longji, Zhang  Bojun, Liu Qingyang, and Shi Liang sent a joint telegram to the British-Indian vicevoy, urging him to immediately release Gandhi Chiang Kai-sheik also sent telegram after telegram to the US President, Roosevelt, urging him to put pressure on Britain to break the deadlock. Soong Ching-ling, Soong Mai-ling, and Tai Chi-tao (who visited India in 1940) maintained their correspondence with Nehru when he was in prison.

                The Chinese people were not only concerned with the Indian national movement, but also with the sufferings of the Indian people. When famine broke out in Bombay, Bihar and other places in 1943, major Chinese newspapers published articles severely accusing the British authorities  for their indifference towards the people’s sufferings. Donations were collected  form all walks of life in China for relief to their Indian brothers and sisters.

                At the end of World War II and the victory of China’s Anti-Japan War, both Nehru and the President of the Congress Party, Maulana Azad, sent telegrams of congratulations to China. The All Indian Committee of the Congress also passed a resolution to express their heart-felt joy over the victory of the Chinese people.

                After the World War II, the Indian Congress began to build up a nationalist country while China opted for a new democratic revolution. This new development created complexity for Sino-Indian relations. Yet, strengthening the friendship between the two countries remained their common desire. Nehru, leader of the Congress, sincerely hoped that China would be united to reconstruct the nation and play an important role in safeguarding peace in Asia and the world. He adopted a non-intervention policy towards China’s civil war. He also quickly came to terms with reality. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, India was the second country among the non-communist countries to recognize it.

                On September 3, 1946, a provisional Indian government was established. On August 15, 1947, India won independence. The Chinese Kuomintang government maintained diplomatic relations with India. The Kuomintang ambassador participated in the Independence Celebrations. The Chinese press warmly congratulated the Indian independence.

                After the Indian Republic and the People’s Republic of China established diplomatic relation, India actively  advocated on the restoration of China’s UN seat, and increased her cooperation with new China in the struggle against colonialism, and the pursuance of independent foreign policy. The Chinese side continued to strengthen her friendly relations with India, and treasured the friendship which China had built with India during the past anti-colonial struggle. On January 26, 1951, the great leader of the Chinese people, Mao Zedong, attended the celebration of Indian Independence Day in Beijing and said: “Indian nation is a great nation, Indian people are good people. The friendship between the two nations and the two peoples was very good in the past lasting for several thousand years. Today, when we celebrate the national day of India, we hope our two nations, China and India, will continue to be united to work hard for peace.”[xlix]



                Cultural interaction is an important means to promote the mutual understanding ‘to thicken mutual affection between the peoples of India and China, and also the stones and also the macadam to sustain political cooperations between the two countries. The pioneers and leaders of national movements of both China and India have time and again reiterated the importance of cultural interaction. When he moted the idea of Sino-Indian fraternity, Zhang Taiyan said: “About the means of unity the best way is to disseminate culture into each other.” [l] Nehru exhorted in 1937 that both the countries should enhance understanding towards each other, drawing inspirations from the past and present. He regarded understanding each others cultural and ideological background as the foundation of real understanding.[li]

                The resumption of cultural exchange between the two countries began in the beginning of the 20th century. But the real builder of the golden bridge of Sino-Indian cultural interaction was Rabindranath Tagore. His winning the Nobel Literature Prize in 1913 created a great sensation in China -- when the Chinese intellectuals were highly frustrated under the arrogant repression of Western cultural supremacy. That an Asian (and also a non-white), like Tagore, could obtain the highest laurel in world literature. His writings began to be translated into Chinese. In 1924, he responded to The invitation of Jiang xue she (the lecture society) to visit China. Several famous Indian scholars accompanied him. They made wide contacts with personalities of Chinese circles of literature, drama, painting, education, philosophy, religion etc. and started a real meaningful interaction in many realms.

                After Tagore’s visit cultural interactions between the two countries gained substantial developments both in dimension and in depth. Inthe first place, Indian studies in China expanded to philosophy, history, society, language and other fields. A large number of papers and special studies were publised. Universities began to have curricula in such subjects. Secondly, Chinese scholars and students began to visit India, studying and doing research on India. They included Zeng Shengdi, Tan Yun-shan, Xu zhimo, Xu Dishan, Gao Jianfu, Hai Weiliang etc. about whom we have obtained information. Thirdly, the most outstanding fruition was the establishment of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society and Visva-Bharati Cheena-Bhavana.

                October 10, 1998 is going to be the Centenary of Tan Yun-shan. I wish to use this opportunity to higlight his contribution to the friendship-in-need between Chinese and Indians in modern times. Tan Yun-shan was invited in 1927 by Tagore to go to India to teach in Visva-Bharati, The Sino-Indian cultural Society was conceived by Tagore, but it came into being in Nanjing, China, in 1933, and at Santiniketan in India in 1934, after Tan Yun-shan had busily shuttled himself between the two countries. Encouraged by Tagore, Tan Continued to appeal for donations and obtained a sufficient sum to build the Cheena-Bhavana on the campus of Visva-Bharati with a plot allotted by Tagore for The purpose. In April 1937, the Cheena-Bhavana was established,and Tan was appointed as its director. After its establishment many famous Indian scholars came to teach there. Even more Chinese scholars visited and stayed in it who included Tao Xingzhi, Xu Beihong, Xu Fancheng, Chang Renxia,. Wu Xiaoling, Jin Kemu etc. Many more Chinese students and young teachers went there for higher studies. Cheena-Bhavana became the first important base for Sino-Indian cultural interaction with scholars of China and India stayed together and learned from each other, in addition to a journal and many special writings published by it. Tao Xingzhi exchanged experience of educational reform with Tagore and Gandhi. He also obliged Gandhi and wrote an article on “The popular education movement in China” which was published in Harjan. Gandhi wrote an “Introduction” to the article, and pointed out that it had important reference value to the educational reform in India. Xu Beihong exchanged notes with Tagore on painting, and held painting exhibitions at Santiniketan and Calcutta, an idea mooted by Tagore who wrote the “Introduction” for the exhibition.

                1939, two years after the establishment of Cheena-Bhavana, we saw Nehru visiting China on the invitation of the Chinese government. The actual agency which was instrumental to this visit was Sino-Indian cultural society the Chinese chapter of which was now headed by Zhu Jiahua (also speeled as  Chu Chia-hua) who was the chief secretary of the Kuomintang. Tan Yun-shan was the Indian representative of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society and was in close touch with Zhu Jiahua. That Nehru’s visit was arranged by Tan Yun-shan and the Sino-Indian Cultural Society can be proved by the following telegram sent by Tan:

                                “To ChungKing [Chongqing] chief secretary of Kuomintang central office,                        Chu, also addressedto the Party chief, Chiang [Kai-shek], President (of the                 Examination Yuan], Tai [Chi-tao], Education Minister, Chen [Li-fu],also attention                 of President [of the Executive Yuan], Kung [Hsiang-hsi], Minister Yeh.

                                Indian leader Nehru is scheduled to fly to China on the 20th. I have already                 accorded welcome to him on your behalf. Kindly extend hospitality after he arrives.


                               Tan Yun-shan

                                                August 18.”  [lii]

                Nehru’s 1942 visit to China resulted in furthering cultural interactions between the two countries, after his talks with Chinese leaders, Chiang Kai-shek and others. The two countries began to exchange visitng groups for studing each other’s Socio-politico-economic problems, visiting scholars between China and India also increased.

                Tan Yun-shan and the Sino-Indian Cultural  Society were also instrumental to the China visit of famous Indian philosopher, Dr. S. Radha Krishanan in 1944 which was a lecture tour. His lectures in Kunming and Chongqing not only contributed to enhanced Chinese understanding  of Indian tradition, philosophy and culture, but also aroused keen interest among young Chinese intellectuals in Indian studies. Dr. RadhaKrishna was a member of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society and had been a friend of Tan Yun-shan for many decades. After returning to India from his China lectures, he developed an interest in Sino-Indian cultural interaction, and wished to emulate Tagore to develop the Benares Hindu University __ to which he was the Vice-Chancellor -- into a strong base of Sino-Indian cultural interaction like the Visva-Bharati. On September 19, 1946, he wrote to Tan Yun-shan thus:

                                “The University has decided to confer the Degree of Doctor of Letters on his Excellency Dr. Tai Chi-Tao, President of Examination Yuan of the National Government of China, honoris causa, and we will be pleased to hear that His Excellency has Kindly consented to accept the Degree.

                                It is our intention to build up a Chinese Library in this University and to have, if possible, a Professor of Chinese if the National Government of China is so pleased as to endow a Chair in the University for the purpose.”[liii]

To this letter, Tan Yun-shan replied on October 10, 1946 thus:

“I felt indeed very glad that the Benares Hindu University has decided to confer the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on His Excellency Dr. Tai Chi-Tao, President of Examination Yuan of the National Government of China. I have cabled and written to His Excellency advising him to accept the honour which you have so kindly offered to him ... I am sure he will gradly [come over to India and receive the Degree personally... if political development of China will not prevent him from and coming.

I am also very glad to learn that you intend to build up a Chinese Library and to have a Professor of Chinese in your University. Would you please let me know whether you intend to have a separate Chinese building together with Chinese books or simply to have some Chinese books in the University Library? If you intend to have a separate building, together with books, may I suggest that a full Chinese Department  be established in the University for Sino-Indian Studies....[same] as the Cheena-Bhavana in Visva-Bharati at Santiniketan... As the Benares Hindu University  of India,is the first and the biggest National University of India,  and the relaionship between India and China has become... Closer day by day, I think it is very necessary  for the University to have such a Department.  It will not be very difficult for the National Government of China to endow a Chair and some scholarships for this purpose. If you so desire, I shall try my humble  best to help you in materialising the project.”[liv]

                These two letters have reflected the close contacts  between Tan Yun-shan and RadhaKrishnan. However, the Benares Hindu University did not establish a second Cheena-Bhavana in India. Not that there was no possibility to realize such a plan, but Radhakrishnan was himself posted to Paris as the Indian representative of UNESCO. Later, he was India’s Ambassador to the USSR, then, returned to India to become the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University, then was elected as the Vice-President, and , finally, the President of India. The change of leadership  in the Benares Hindu University left no one to implement RadhaKrishnan’s original plans.

                As Tan Yun-shan frequently shuttled between China and India, he become a messenger among the leaders of the two countries. For instance, before his departure for China in 1938, he received a letter from Nehru asking him to convey the Indian people’s support for China’s Anti-Japanese  War efforts. The President of National Congress, Subhas  Chandra Bose, also wrote to him, asking him to convey the support of Indian National Congress for China’s fighting against the Japanese aggression. Tagore gave him a lettler to be presented to Chiang Kai-shek which he handed over to Chiang at Wuchang. In 1939, Tan Yun-shan was leaving China for India, the Vice-President of the Executive Yuan, Kung Hsiang-hsi (H. H. Kung) asked Tan Yun-shan to Carry a letter  to Mahatma Gandhi,wanting to Strengthen friendship between China and India. In 1940, when Tan Yun-shan returned to China from India, he carried Gandhiji’s reply to H.H. Kong in which Gandhiji  heartily appreciated Kung’s  emphasis on Sino-Indian friendship. The letter was published by the Chinese press and made a great impact in China.[lv]

                In 1945, when Gandhi heard about China’s victory over Japan, he sent a telegram from Poona to Tan Yun-shan, expressing the warm congratulations and affection for the Chinese people. Every time When Tan Yun-shan returned to China he would tell the Chinese public about the Indian people’s support for China’s war efforts through lectures, articles, as well as special pamphlets. The information conveyed by him was a great encouragement  to our people while acknowledging the real affection and friendshop from the Indian people. Through the intermediary of Tan Yun-shan the public leaders of India and the Indian people also had a better understanding of the justice of China’s  Anti-Japanese war and China’s determination in fighting it which, in turn, further strengthened their support for China 

                Tan Yun-shan had carried out a lot of activities in mobilizing support for the Anti-Japanese war while he was in India. Through lectures and writings he made publicity of the bravery of Chinese soldiers in fighting the Japanese aggressors, and the atrocities of the latter committed on Chinese soil. His vantage position prevented the Japanese Propaganda mechine from penetrating into Santiniketan and reaching the Gurudeva. In 1938, Tagore exchanged letters with the Japanese poet, Yone Noguchi, which completely demonstrate China’s gaining an upper hand in international morality. Tagore was a great admirer of Japanese culture and art, and had visited Japan a numner of times. He told Noguchi, “Believe me, it is sorrow and shame, not anger, that prompt me to write to you. I suffer intensely not only because the reports of Chinese suffering batter against my heart, but because I can no longer point out with pride the example of a great Japan.”[lvi]

                Tan Yun-shan definitely had his personal input in Tagore’s unreserved condemnation of  the Japanese aggression on China. As Tagore wielded a tremendous influence in international circles, his historic debate with Noguchi became banner news in the world media which registered a tremendous blow on the morality of the Japanese aggressors, and constituted a powerful moral support to the Chinese people.

                Tan Yun-shan had maintained warm personal relationship with Nehru from the 1930s onwards when the latter was but an ordinary politician, but was a frequent visitor to Santiniketan. This lasted the entire duration of Nehru’s prime -ministership -- making the two old friends for more than three decades. Nehru  was also one of the Honorary Presidents of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society. When he was the Prime Minister  of India (and later the chancellor of Visva-Bharati), and when he visited Santiniketan he would make it a point to go to Cheena-Bhavana to see Tan Yun-shan.

                Tan Yun-shan maintained deep friendship with Indian leaders on the one hand, while on the other hand, he first had had intimate contacts with the National Government of China, and , then, established  mutual respect and trust with the leaders of the People’s Republic of China, partically premier zhou Enlai. This enabled him to play the rate of an intermediary -- a faceless role in promoting friendship and understanding. In 1942 when Generalissimo and Madam Chiang Kai-shek visited India to have talks with the leaders of the Indian independence movement, Tan Yun-shan was associated with this significant international affair. The Chiang couple made a point to visit Cheena-Bhavana (that  time Tagore was no more), and was received by Tan Yun-shan. They also met Nehru who was there to welcome the Chinese leader. Tan Yun-shan helped to arrange Chiang’s talks with Nehru. They talked from Santiniketan upto Calcutta in the company of Tan Yun-shan. This talk enabled Nehru to deepen his understanding of and close affection with China. Later, when Gandhi was ready to launch the “Quit  India” movement, he was mindful of Chiang Kai-shek’s worries (that it would disturb the strategic deployment of the Allied Forces and would benefit Japan). Gandhi talked to Nehru and then signed a letter addressed to Chiang Kai-shek (which might have been drafted by Nehru), declaring solemnly: “To make it perfectly clear that we want to prevent in every way Japanese aggression, I would personally agree that the Allied Powers might, under treaty with us, keep their armed forces in India and use the country as a base for operations against the threatened Japanese attack... I shall take no hasty action. And whatever action I may recommend will be governed by the consideration that it should not injure China, or encourage Japanese aggression in India or China.”[lvii]

                This pledge by Gandhi and Nehru was vitally impertant to ensure the victory of China’s Anti-Japanese War and to the entire Asian theatre of the Allied Forces. This was also the biggest achievement of Chiang Kai-shek’s talks with Nehru. We should recognize Tan Yun-shan’s contribution in it.

                The Cheena-Bhavana headed by Tan Yun-shan not only attracted a visit by Chiang Kai-shek, but, one again, welcomed Premier Zhou Enlai in 1957. A small institution of a university having been visited by two highest leaders of China at different times is an extreme varity. This proves that the Chinese leaders  gave great importance to Sino-Indian friendship and cultural interaction. Needless to say that this was also meant to be a full appreciation of the hard labour put in by Tan Yun-shan.

                The two great nations and the two great peoples are now greeted by the twilight of the dawn, after spending a long crucifying dark night. Both countries are marching forward, develping their own economies. Let us always remember those years when we shared with each other our sorrows and joys, that history of our friendship in need. Let this precious historical memory for ever inspire us to maintain our fraternity generation after generation so that we put in our common endeavous to strive for a greater, newer, prosperous future.


[i] See Kang Youwei zhenglun ji (Collected works of Kang Youwei on politics), vol. 1, p. 621; vol. 2, p. 812.

[ii] Kang Youwei, Wanmucaotang yigao (Manuscripts left behind from the study of exuberant plants),p. 168.

[iii] BirendraPrasad, Indian Nationalism and Asia, Delhi,1979,p. 28.

[iv] Ibid, p. 29.

[v] Both were not the full names of the persons who cannot be identified.

[vi] Sun Zhongshan quanji (Collected works on Sun Yat-sen), Beijing,1984, vol. 3, p. 82.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid, vol.4, p. 42.


[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid, pp. 66-72.

[xi] Minbao, photolithographic edition, Beijing: Science Publishers, 1957, vol. 2, No. 13, p. 97.


[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid, p. 98.


[xiv] Ibid, p. 97.

[xv] Ibid, vol. 4, no. 21, p. 107.

[xvi] Ibid, vol. 3, no. 20, p. 38.


[xvii] Ibid, no.19,p.100

[xviii] Ibid, no. 20, p. 38.

[xix] Xueshu yuekan (Academic monthly), 1979, No. 6.

[xx] Sri Aurobindo, vol. 2, p. 230.

[xxi] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol.5,p.172.

[xxii] Manmathanath Gupta, History of the Indian Revolutionary Movement,Bombay,1972,p. 42.

[xxiii] Chinese translation of Rash Bihari Bose’s The Revolutionary India, 1933. p.1.

[xxiv] Sun Zhongshan quanji, vol. 6, p. 14.

[xxv] Ibid, vol. 9, p. 223.

[xxvi] Ibid, vol. 9, p. 240.

[xxvii] Ibid, p. 241.

[xxviii] Ibid, p. 241.

[xxix] A. M. Zaidi & S. Chand (eds), Encyclopaedia of Indian National Congress, New  Delhi, 1980, vol.

                9, p. 43.

[xxx] Selective Work of Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. 2, p. 276.

[xxxi] Ibid, vol. 4, p. 85.

[xxxii] D. Biteli, Communism in India, Calcutta, 1972, p. 180.

[xxxiii] Ibid, pp. 209-210.

[xxxiv] The selective works of Nehru, vol. 8, p.719, Nehru’s letter to V. K. Krishna Menon, Allahabad,                 August 30, 1937.

[xxxv] Ibid, vol. 8, p.733.

[xxxvi] Sheng Xiangong et al, An Indian Freedom fighter in China: A Tribute to Dr. D. S.             Kotnis, Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1983, p. 174.

[xxxvii] Xinhua Ribao (New China Daily), Sept. 5, 1938.

[xxxviii] Ibid.

[xxxix] Nehru’s note “On the development of contact between China and India” which he wrote in Chongqing                 for the benefit of the leaders of the Kuomintang government. See Selective Works of Jawaharlal                 Nehru, vol. 10, pp. 102-108.

[xl] Xinhua Ribao (New China Daily), Sept. 26, 1939.

xli     Ibid, Nov. 3,1939.

[xlii] Ibid, Nov. 5, 1939.

[xliii] Ibid, Jan. 1, 1942.

[xliv] Zhongyang Ribao (Central Daily), Feb. 23, 1942.

[xlv] Selective Work of Jawarharlal Nehru, Vol. 12, p. 247, Nehru’s speech in New Delhi on April 7,                 1942.

[xlvi] Xinhua Ribao, Feb. 24, 1942.

[xlvii] Jiefang Ribao (Liberation Daily), August 27, 1942.

[xlviii] Ta Kung Pao, August 12, 1942.

[xlix] Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily), Jan, 27, 1951.

[l] Minbao, vol. 4, no. 22, p.131.

[li] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, vol. 7, pp.709-710.

[lii] This telegram was carried in a story by Yindu Bao (Indian Journal), a Chinese                 language newspaper                 published in Calcutta, August 18, 1939, p.3, “local news”.

[liii] Letter now preserved in the family archives of Prof. Tan Chung.

[liv] Same as above.

[lv] Xinhua Ribao (Xinhua Daily), Feb. 13, 1940.

[lvi] The entire correspondence was published by Tan Yun-shan as “Poet to Poet”, a copy of which is                 preserved in the family archives of Prof. Tan Chung.

[lvii] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 76, pp. 224-5.


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