Tagore and China

By Basu, Rajasri | International Journal on Humanistic Ideology, Autumn 2010 | Go to article overview

Tagore and China


Basu, Rajasri, International Journal on Humanistic Ideology


Wang Bangwei, Tan Chung, Amiya Dev, Wei Liming (Eds.), Tagore and China, Beijing, Central Compilation and Translation Press, 2010, pp. 317 (English edition), pp. 237 (Chinese édition), ISBN: 978-7-5117-0527-3.

China had a very special place in the minds of Tagore. He had all the admiration for this ancient civilization of the East and was delighted when he got an invitation to visit China in 1923. In fact, the poet was quite aware of Chinese civilization and culture; his grand father Dwarakanath Tagore had business ties with China, and his father Devendranath Tagore visited China, which was quite uncommon in those days. Ultimately, the poet visited China in April 1924 accompanied by Leonard Elmhirst, Kalidas Nag, Ksitimohan Sen and Nandalal Bose and was received enthusiastically by the Chinese intelligentsia. The poet celebrated his 63rd birthday in China and was given a Chinese name "Zhu Zhendan" by the Chinese intellectual Liang Qichao.

China also considers this as "an earth-shaking event" and the starting point of India-China relations in the modern era. In fact, as Wang Bangwei has mentioned that the best known Indian today, other than Sakyamuni in China, has been Tagore. There have been researches, academic explorations, going on in various study centres of Chinese Universities with respect to Tagore's creations; Seminars and Conferences are being organized to know Tagore more elaborately,, translations from Tagore's original works into Chinese have been done and are being undertaken exhaustively, there are several people who are learning Bengali only to read Tagore, Tagore's short stories have found their place in school curriculum - as a result, Tagore is very much relevant in today's China.

A very rich inclusion to these Tagore researches has been a book titled Tagore and China which saw the light of the day during the International Conference on "Understanding Tagore: New Perspectives and New Researches" at Peking University, Beijing, during August 22-25, 2010. The release of the book not only coincides with the 150th birth anniversary of the poet but also the 60th anniversary of the Sino-Indian diplomatic relations in which, as has been mentioned by Tan Chung in his fascinating Introduction, 'Tagore is the vital link in both the events and the golden bridge between the two countries" The book is very aptly dedicated to the legendary Tan Chung, Tagore's close friend and the mainstay of Chheena Bhawan in Shantiniketan and Ji Xianlin, the doyen of India studies in China and all those who have contributed to the Sino-Indian relations.

The book has fourteen articles, besides two introductions written respectively by Tan Chung, the Indian editor of the book and Amiya Dev, the English editor of the book. The Foreword of the book is written by Nirapama Rao, the present Foreign Secretary of India and who was the Indian Ambassador to China before that. The preface is written by Wang Bangwei, the Chinese editor of the book. The book has a unique feature as it is bilingual - in English and Chinese, which no doubt, is a stupendous job and all credit goes to the editors.

Several articles of the book centre around Tagore's China visit probing the exact situation as to whether the poet received negative acclaim or whether there were only some in the Chinese intelligentsia responsible for creating a debate regarding the poet's visit to China; what was the reaction of the Chinese intelligentsia, what was the impact of his visit and so on.

The first of these papers, which was also the first paper of the book, was written by Amartya Sen titled 'Tagore and China". Sen was not in agreement with the view that opposition to Tagore during his China visit came from the organized left, in general and the communists, in particular as Chen Duxiu, who was Tagore's first translator into Chinese was also one of the founders of the Communist Party of China. Sen also did not warrant the thesis that the organization which invited Tagore was traditionalist in its approach and that is why Tagore was dubbed as traditionalist. …

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