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

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Introduction 

Tan Yun-Shan 

 

The cultural relationship between India and China is indeed a rare thing in human history; it has no parallel in any other two countries of the world; and it is really a wonder in the history of human contacts and international intercourses. We have seen from the very beginning of human history that between nations and nations and between countries and countries there were more of diplomatic quarrel, political conflicts, military invasions, economic exploitations, commercial struggles and so on than of any cultural intercourses, neighbourly contacts and friendly relationship. But it was quite different with India and China. From times immemorial these two ancient nations approached each other with love, affection and respect. They exchanged their greetings and gifts just as nook friends would do. They had “traded in ideas, in art, in culture, and grown richer in their own inheritance by the other's offerings": (Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's words). There never happened such as diplomatic quarrels, political conflicts, military invasions, economic exploitations, commercial struggles and so on between these two great countries, India and China. Who would dare say that such amicable contact and noble relationship between China and India is not a rare and wonder in the history of human society and international relations?

But unfortunately, very unfortunately, this contact and relationship between India and China, later on, relapsed into forgetfulness, probably on account of vicissitudes of life and changes of circumstances. For the last few centuries, the path between these two countries had been filled with deep darkness and was covered up with the accumutated dust of indifference. Nevertheless, from a spiritual point of view our national love and sympathy for each other have never ceased, though the formal relationship has been somewhat suffered in course of time. As soon as the opportunity arises, we shall ever be ready to take hold of it and renew our old relationship at any cost. Let me quote the fate Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore’s message which he sent through my humble self to China ten years ago, and which has inspired us all so much and so deep :

“My friends in China,

The truth that we received when your pilgrims came to us in India, and ours to you, -- that is not lost even now.

What a great time in history! It is our duty today to revive the heroic spirit of that pilgrimage, following the ancient path which is not merely a geographical one- but the great historical path that was built across the difficult barriers of race difference and difference of language and tradition, reaching the spiritual home where man is in bonds of love and co-operation.”

Rabindranath Tagore,

Santiniketan, 23rd April, 1934.

Yes, it is our duty today not only to revive the old friendships and associations but also to create new contacts and relations between our two great countries, India and China. It is our duty not only to discover the ancient path and follow it but also to make our own way and a way for others to follow in the future. But how and what to do? First of all some strong and sound organization must be formed. Hence, the Sino-Indian Cultural Society.

The Sino-Indian Cultural Society was first initiated in China in 1933, then initiated in India in 1934. But it was inaugurated in India first in 1935 and then in China in 1935. Therefore, China has had the privilege of taking the leading part in initiation, but India, in inauguration. From this we can see the urgent need of and the genuine zeal for the society in both the countries, and both countries emulated each other in the formation of .the society. Now the society has its formal existence already for ten years in India and nine years in China. Although the unfavourable and unfortunate situation of the world, specially the war in China, has hampered to a very great extent the work and growth of the Society, yet it has been going on quite well, especially in India. For this, our due tribution must go first to the supreme inspiration and auspice of the late Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore, then to the wise guidance and keen interest of the present President of the Society, Dr. Abanindranath Tagore, and to the greatest enthusiasm and tireless effort of Sri Rathindranath Tagore, the illustrious son of the late Gurudeva and the General Secretary of The Sino-Indian Cultural Society in India, as well as to other co-workers.

The object of the Society, as prescribed in the General Constitution, is “to study the Mind of India and China with a view to an interchange of their cultures and cultivation of friendship between the people of the two countries for the purpose of promoting peace and unity in the world”. This may be analysed in a more plain manner into six items: firstly, to study Indian and Chinese learnings; secondly, to have a cultural intercourse between India and China; thirdly, to develop mutual understanding of Indian and Chinese feelings; fourthly, to start associations of Indian and the Chinese people; fifthly, to establish love and peace among human beings; and lastly, to bring about a great union and harmony in the world.

In accordance with the above object and in order to carry it out the following General Programme has been made :

1. To organise Indian cultural delegations to go to China and Chinese cultural delegations to come to India for research work respectively.

2. To organise delegations to deliver lectures on Indian and Chinese cultures in both countries.

3. To recommend Indian students for studying Chinese culture in China and Chinese students for studying Indian culture in India.

4. Tom establish a Sino-Indian or Indian Institute for Indian and Chinese students and scholars to study in China. If the Society is unable to build an independent institute there for the time being, the Society shall affiliate it, to some well-known Chinese university.

5. To establish an Indian-Chinese Institute or Chinese Hall for Indian and Chinese students and scholars to study in India. The Institute and the Society itself may in the first instance be affiliated to the International I University at Santiniketan.

6. To publish books and journals containing the results of researches in Indian and Chinese cultures, and revealing the spirit and content of the same.

7. To open in both the countries a Sino-Indian Publishing House for publishing and circulating books on India and China.

8. To found in both countries a Sino-Indian Library and Museum first on a small scale within the scope of the Society and the Institute, which shall be gradually developed and expanded into an independent library and museum.

9. To make arrangements for the purpose of receiving, guiding and accommodating Indian visitors to China and Chinese visitors to India.

As mentioned before, the unfavourable circumstances of the world and the war in China have handicapped a great deal of the work of the society, and have even retarded its very growth; the above programme has not been fully and satisfactorily carried out. In China, immediately after the formation of the Society, we had acquired quite a large and new building for the Society as its headquarters at Nanking. We intended to make out of it an institute together with a library for our regular Sino-lndian studies. But before we could hardly complete our plan and just start the work, the Sino-Japanese War broke out. The wanton Japanese invasion of China had not only upset the country but also our Society. The Japanese indiscriminate bombardment of Nanking did not only destroy the city, but also our society building. Later on, the location of the Society along with the city of Nanking, the then capital of China, had been very painfully fast to and very ruthlessly occupied by the merciless Japanese soldiers and invaders. Since then, the members of our Society in China have been scattered over the interior of the country. They could hardly have the chance of having a formal meeting. And the circumstance of the country compelled them to concentrate every energy and effort upon fighting the enemy out not only for the independence and freedom of their own country but also for the preservation of peace, justice and decency of the whole world. They could not naturally do any obvious work for the Sino-Indian Cultural Society. But this does not mean that they have forgotten or neglected the work of the Society. Nor is it that the Society has died away or ceased to exist. The Society will never die and will exist for ever. Despite the absolutely difficult conditions of the country, the members of the Society in China have tied and are always trying their best to promote the ideals and to further the cause of the Society either individually or jointly. Whenever and wherever there was any chance and opportunity they would never fail to carry on the work of he Society either directly or indirectly or both. There have been successive visits of several Chinese Missions to India in recent years: first, the Buddhist Mission led by His Holiness Tai Hsu, President of the China Buddhist Association, which visited India in January-February, 1940: second, the Good will Mission led by His Excellency Tai Chi-Tao, President of the Examination Yuan of the National Government of China, which of education, which visited India in March-April, 1943;  all these Missions had been more or less encouraged by the Society, and all the members of these Missions are members of The Sino-Indian Cultural Society in China. Although the historical visit of the supreme Chinese leader and personality Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and his heroic consort Madame Chiang to India in February 1942, was more political and military in purpose than cultural, yet it has given great impetus to the Society and both the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang are the Society's best patrons and benefactors. Very recently the Society has again constructed a new and large building at Chungking. Meetings and lectures have been occasionally arranged in the new building. Plans for starting a library and an institute are under preparation. Arrangements for Sino-Indian studies have been made for members both inside and outside the Society. It is hoped that as soon as the War will be over the Society will without doubt be ready to carry on its programme in full swing in China.

In India the condition is different from that of China. Immediately after the inauguration of the Society, a scheme for establishing a Chinese Hall at Santiniketan was drafted and it had soon been carried out very successfully. Hence the establishment of the Visva-Bharati Cheena-Bhavana, I think, many friends would like to hear and to know; mentions, references and remarks have been very often made by different persons in different publications; several articles been written and published by several scholars and writers in several languages; and great attention has been focussed from and generous enthusiasm has been given by numerous friends in every walk of life, specially in the cultural and educational fields of both the countries, India and China. The Visva-Bharati Cheena-Bhavana is a department of the Visva-Bharati University as the very name indicates, forming an integral part of the same world-known International University at Santiniketan. But it, at the same time, is also the centre of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society in India. The work of the Society in India has been concentrated on this Cheena-Bhavana during the last few years. It has a big two-storied building together with two hostels and two family quarters for the time being; the main building consists of a large hall and spacious residential rooms down-stairs, and a large library, four big research rooms and several offices, working and reading rooms upstairs. The Chinese Library of the Cheena-Bhavana is not only magnificent and unique in India but also rare and unusual in all countries outside China. It contains abut two hundred thousand fascicles of Chinese books, most of which deal with Chinese Buddhism, Chinese Classics, Chinese Philosophy, Chinese history, Chinese Literature and Chinese Art, and are very important and - valuable. I am afraid that owing to the indiscriminate and criminal Japanese bombardments on Chinese institutions, museums and libraries, many of these books might have been lost in China and shall be found only in the Visva-Bharati Cheena-Bhavana. The main work of the Cheena-Bhavana is Sino-Indian studies and research, for which we have provided the following courses :-(1) Languages-including Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Pali, Hindi, Bengali and other modern Indian languages; (2) Buddhism-including Chinese, Indian and Tibetan, (3) Other Religions-including Hinduism, Jainsim, Confucianism and Taoism; (4) Philosophy - including Indian and Chinese; (5) Literature-including Chinese and Indian; (6) History - including Chinese and Indian ; (7) Cultural Studies-including Chinese and Indian, both ancient and modern. (8) Restoration of lost Sanskrit works from Chinese and Tibetan scriptures; (9) Translation of Chinese, Sanskrit, Pali and Tibetan scriptures; (10) Editing of Sanskrit, Chinese and other works; and so on, These items and subject open before us a very vast sphere of work and give us the opportunity of cultivating many rich fields. It needs much labour and it wilt take long time, to accomplish the end. At present we have one and half-a-dozen of workers in the Cheena-Bhavana, including the staff-members, research scholars and students, both Indian and Chinese, of whom we may specially mention one of the most celebrated Indian savants in modern time, Maha-mohapadhyaya Pandit Vidhushekhara Bhattacharya Shastri, who had been a very intimate friend and co-worker to the late Gurudeva for more than thirty years, who had been the former principal of the Research Department of Visva-Bharati for more than ten years and the Head of the-Sanskrit Department of the Calcutta University for eight years, and now has taken charge of directing research studies in the Cheena-Bhavana. The Sino-Indian Cultural Society in India has already published a number of pamphlets and bulletins. Several books are ready for publication. An annual journal is also under preparation. But owing to the problem of paper, we have to postpone these publications for the time being.

The preceding two paragraphs have only given a very short account in a general way of the works done by the Sino-Indian Cultural Society in both countries, China and India. Besides these, the Society from the very beginning has been sending from time to time students and scholars from China to India and from India to China for studies. Among those who went to China from India, special mention should be made of Shri Krishna Kinker Sinha, who was a research scholar of  the Visva-Bharati Cheena-Bhavana and has been sent to China at the request of the Oriental Languages College, established by the Ministry of Education of the national government of China, as professor of Hindi to that College. Shri Sinha is also a Life Member of the Society. He is not only a good scholar of Hindi Literature but also an ideal, active worker along cultural and educational lines. A man with a simple mind, sincere heart and religious nature, he has no hankering after any thing else but love for and devotion to Sino-Indian studies as well as to the common cause of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society. He has already written a number of articles on Chinese subjects in Hindi, has translated Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s “San Min Chu Yi” into Hindi for the first time, and now is translating the Generalissimo’s “China’s Destiny” into Hindi. Such men and workers like him are really needed and have proved themselves extremely helpful to the Society. Hence these few remarks. The Oriental Languages College of China has also invited another Indian professor, Dr. D. N. Roy of Gwahati, Assam, whose name is already well known both at home and abroad, and who is also a member of the Society. Besides these, the recent idea of the exchange of Indian and Chinese students between the Government of India and the Government of China has also come from the project of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society. And the recent visit of the most outstanding exponent of Indian Philosophy, Sir Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, Vice-Chancellor of the Benares Hindu University, to China in May this year (1944), and the most memorable and historical visit of the great Indian National leader Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to China in August, 1939, have given great impetus to the Society; the former is an elected member of the Central Committee of The Sino-Indian Cultural Society in India and the latter is an elected Honorary President of The Sino-Indian Cultural Society in India.

The most important and characteristic feature of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society is that we have gathered under the Society almost all the leading scholars, educationists, culturalists, religionists, writers, artists, etc., of both the countries, India and China. The Society also enjoys the great courtesy, countenance and patronage, though without any material support, of both the Government of India and the Government of China; and many Government high officers of both the countries have joined the Society as its members. It has also had the greatest sympathy, enthusiasm, encouragement, good wishes and blessings of all the National leaders of India and China, and the best wishes of the Indian and Chinese people as well as of peoples over the world. But one sad thing is that shortly after the institution of the Society, many of its-members have left the Society as well as the world forever without witnessing any accomplishment of the aim of and of the works taken by the Society. The most mournful event, in the history of the Society is India is the inopporture demise of the Gurudeva Ravindranath Tagore, the founder -President, the spiritual Guide and the sponsor of the Society. It was due to his inspiration, that my humble self has taken, the intial step in organizing the Society and had devoted my humble self to the common cause of the Society. The most tragic event of the Society in China is the unexpected death of the late Dr. Tsai Yuan-Pei, the first Chief Director of the Executive Committee of the Society in China. Dr. Tsai was one of the greatest cultural leaders of modem China, the Founder-President of Academia Sinica, the highest Chinese National Institute for learning, the sponsor of the New-Culture Movement in China, and Patron of many educational and cultural institutions both national and international. He was also one of the best friends arid co-workers of the late Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. He was a typical old Chinese scholar of simple ideals and noble spirit. His ideas, however, were those of the young and the active and he possessed a large heart, combined with a fare farsightedness. His interest in and hope for the Society were so deep and so great that during-the last years of his life he gave up all offices of other institutions, but kept the only one of the Sino-Indian Cultural Society in China as its Chief Director of the Executive Committee, It was mainly owing to his patronage together with the patronage of His Excellency Dr. Tai Chi-Tao, President of the Examination Yuan of the National Government of China who is already very well known to India, that the Society owes its existence in China. To those two great souls, the late Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore and the late Dr. Tsai Yuan-pel, we, the members of the Sino-Indians Cultural Society in India as well as in China, especially my humble self, will remain in debt for ever and will ever pay our highest homage. At last, I would like to point out another very salient and important feature of the society, which needs and deserves special mention and explanation. We have especially prescribed General Constitution that the Society may cooperate with others cultural or literary organizations of different countries but it shall strictly keep away from any political movement, and shall never participate in any work against any State or Race or Government. Why should we have made such a particular restriction which no other organization of the same kind would have even. There are several reasons: First, as I have mentioned at the very beginning, the relationship between India and China from time immemorial had been purely cultural and religious and not political. Therefore we have had no quarrel or conflict of any kind between us but love and respect for each other. We should not only always follow and maintain such noble traditions ourselves, but should also help it to spread all over the world. Secondly, all political movements so far as we have seen are based on either narrow nationalism or communalism or sectarianism. They care only for their own interest or the interest of a particular nation or a particular community or a particular sect, and they cannot help taking recourse to all kinds of evil means, especially in the unhealthy atmosphere of the present world politics. They also can not go without hatred, anger, wrath enmity, hostility and all kinds of ill will.

The only exception may be Mahatma Gandhi's movement. But according to me Gandhiji’s movement is rather more religious than political. All these things are not only against the aim and object of our Sino-Indian Cultural Society, but also against our Hindu-Chinese cultural tradition. The ultimate aim and object of our Society is not only the good of our own countries and peoples but also the good of the whole world and all mankind. We should not have any kind of ill will for any one but should only have the best wishes for everybody, and our good will and motive should he absolutely Sincere and unselfish. Thirdly, the life of a political movement is always short and it changes like a Chamelion. There is no in the association of politicians and in the political relationship between countries. Today they are friends and tomorrow they can be enemies, or today they are enemies and tomorrow they can turn into friends. Such unfair and undesirable things must naturally be avoided by our society, and the life of our society and the relationship between our two great countries must be long and permanent. Fourthly, when we say, we shall never participate in any work against away State or Race or Government, it is not because we are afraid of any State or Race or Government, but because we have got nothing to do with such work, and Such work is absolutely not our business and is also against the aim and object of our society. As we have no evil design of any kind, we have naturally no fear. The aim and object of our society, when carried out, will only help every State or Race or Government. Fifthly, a cultural society, like ours should always keep up its lofty dignity and maintain its high prestige. We should and must only work within the limit of our duty and according to the scope of our programme. Of course, there were people who did utilise such organization as custody for all kinds of mean works; but we should absolutely not only avoid this kind of things but also condemn the same. Otherwise, we shall not only lose our dignity and damage our prestige and shall do no good to any body but harm to our own society. As we have taken our stand on this ground, I believe we shall surely achieve our aim which is our sacred duty as well as our holy responsibility, not only to our own selves, to our own countries and to our own peoples, but also to the whole world and all mankind !

S antiniketan

1944

TAN YUN-SHAN

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