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Rabindranath Tagore in the Hearts of Chinese People
   2016-05-05 10:56:20    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Guo Jing

by Rabi Sankar Bosu


¡°Once I went to the land of China,
Those whom I had not met
Put the mark of friendship on my forehead
Calling me their own¡±.           

(Rabindranath Tagore wrote this poem under the title ¡°On My Birthday¡± on 21st February, 1941, a few months before his death)

Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian literary giant and first Asian Nobel laureate, is known by Chinese people for his poems and his friendship with China. He is a great friend of the Chinese people who love reading his literature. His literature gives Chinese readers peace of mind and spiritual abundance. He is remembered in China as a great poet and philosopher who made historic contribution to cultural dialogue between China and India. Tagore¡¯s works have been widely translated in Chinese. As a poet he inspired the Chinese intellectuals intensely in the early decades of the last century and became an icon of liberty, progress and creation in China. He was very enthusiastic in promoting friendship and understanding between our two peoples of India and China in modern times.
Tagore¡¯s Trip to China  and its impact on New Culture Movement

Rabindranath Tagore went to China in 1924 and 1929 during which he visited Shanghai and several other cities and widely interacted with top Chinese personalities of that time. Through his visit to China he brought together patriots and intellectuals of our two great countries and aroused them from the slumber of ignorance caused by centuries of colonialism and foreign domination. He set out for China in 1924 at the invitation of Mr.Liang Qichao, a Chinese scholar, journalist, philosopher and the President of Jiangxue She (Chinese Lecture Association) and gave a big push to the New Culture Movement, the Chinese Enlightenment. His visit to China in 1924 was described by Chinese scholars as an "earth-shaking event" at that time. On April 12, 1924 upon setting foot on China¡¯s soil, Tagore made these emotional comments: ¡°I do not know why coming to China seems to me like returning to my native soil. I always feel that India has been one of China¡¯s extremely close relatives, and China and India have been enjoying time-honored and affectionate brotherhood.¡± During his visit to China, Tagore was in Shanghai for six months and made several public lectures.  China obviously cast a spell on the Nobel laureate because in his many talks there he waxed eloquent about his admiration for ¡°its world of beauty¡±, ¡°wisdom¡± and ¡°touch of the human¡±. Rabindranath Tagore had stayed in one of the shikumen houses in Shanghai that was home to a young Chinese poet Xu Zhimo, who was his official translator during the trip. Xu Zhimo was hugely influenced by the Indian bard. Xu and his wife Lu Xiaoman lived at No. 923 shikumen. Tagore gave Xu Zhimo an Indian name ¡°Susima¡±. During the visit, the Chinese celebrated Tagore's 63rd birthday and conferred him the Chinese name of 'Zhu Zhendan', a name Tagore greatly cherished.

Tagore¡¯s popularity In China:

Being an Indian writer and thinker, Tagore¡¯s compositions reached in China in 1915 and no doubt, his writing played a profound role in China¡¯s New Culture Movement and left an enormous impact on China's literature that was distinctly visible in the works of modern writers of China. His great popularity was traced in the survey in the year 2009 conducted by China¡¯s state-run Global Times which showed  Tagore was listed 11th in a list of 60 "most influential foreigners" who played a profound role in shaping how over 1.2-billion people of modern China think and live. During his stay in China, he applauded the traditional friendly relationship and cultural exchanges between India and China. Tagore believed in the mutually beneficial interactive relationship between India and China and passionately advocated the reopening of the path between the two countries that had become obscured through the centuries.

The writings of Tagore reached to Chinese readers

Tagore remains very close to Chinese hearts. Chinese readers first read Tagore¡¯s poetry through the translation of one of  the founders of the forthcoming Communist Party of China (founded in 1921), Chen Duxiu, a Peking University professor of Chinese literature and also the founder-editor of the leftist journal, Qingnian zazhi (The Youths¡¯ Journal). Chen translated four poems of Gitanjali ((An Offering of Songs) and published them in Volume I, Number 2 (October 1915) of the journal, entitled ¡®Zan¡¯ge (Hymns). Chen was followed by Liu Bannong, Zheng Zhenduo and Xie Bingxin.Since then, Chinese readers got familiar with the great Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore and later his many compositions translated into Chinese and were published in various journals in China. Tagore¡¯s works revitalized the progressive thinking and the patriotic appeal in the Chinese intellectuals.

The Role of China Radio International  in publication of the Complete Works of Tagore in Chinese:

Here I would like to mention that the complete works of Tagore have been translated directly from Bengali into Chinese in 2015 on the occasion of the 154th  anniversary of the birth of Tagore under the aegis of Professor Dong Youchen, a professor at the Center for South Asia Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University .The project took a dedicated team of 17 translators nearly six years. They include Mrs. Yu Guangyue, Director of the Bengali Language Service of China Radio International (CRI); Prof. Bai Kaiyuan, Prof.Shi Jingwu, Madam Zhong Shaoli at the CRI Bengali Service; Pan Xiaozhu, a veteran reporter of the Xinhua News Agency; and Liu Yunzhi, an official at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is an amazing corpus of literature, encompassing novels, short stories, poems, songs, essays and letters. The Chinese translations are housed within 33 volumes. It can be said that the complete works of Tagore is a milestone in the history of translation of Tagore¡¯s works in China.
The writings of Tagore are extremely popular in China and this shows the great love and esteem with which the Chinese people view him and his writings. In the words of Professor Dong Youchen, Tagore ¡°not only built up deep friendship with renowned Chinese literary figures, but also exerted significant influence on many Chinese writers.¡± Dong said, "When we read him, we don't feel it is foreign literature; we feel it is our own story. He had a great love for China. In 1881 as a teen, the Nobel laureate wrote an essay on the opium trade in China, expressing deep sympathy for the Chinese. He also had a strong sense of justice. Though drawn to Japanese art and culture, he strongly condemned the Japanese attack on China. When someone tried to justify it by calling it a process to unify Asia, he called it wrongful aggression."
As per the words of Mrs.Yang Wei Ming, a CRI Bengali presenter and translator: ¡°Chinese readers got familiar with the unique writings of Rabindranath Tagore through the English translations of Tagore¡¯s works in the early twentieth century. The translation process of Rabindra literature directly from Bengali to Chinese language began with the hands of Bengali experts of China Radio International in the middle of 1970s¡±.

Prof. Bai Kaiyuan and Prof. Shi Jingwu, translators of Rabindranath Tagore in Chinese

Rabindranath Tagore was very popular in China. As a poet he had significant impact on China's literature. Chinese is the language which has done the most for Tagore's publications, second only to Indian languages and English. Prof. Bai Kaiyuan, veteran presenter of CRI Bengali Service, is a well-known translator of Rabindranath Tagore's major literary works. He has translated 17000 lines of Rabindranth Tagore¡¯s poems, essays and novels in Chinese for his love for Tagore.He received the second prize for his translated writing ¡°Taigeer shi xuan¡± awarded by China Radio International in 1999. Another senior presenter of CRI ¨CBengali Service Prof. Shi Jingwu,a renowned scholar, also translated the literature of Rabindranath Tagore into Chinese.

'The Select Collection of Rabindranath Tagore' in Chinese

In China, the numbers of Bengali-speaking people are handful. As such Tagore's songs, popularly known as Rabindrasangeet, were not published till 2011. The lack of translations of Tagore's songs has fulfilled in the early 2012 in China. 'The Select Collection of Rabindranath Tagore', translated by Prof. Bai Kaiyuan, was launched at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing on 17th May, 2012. The musical scores for the songs were changed into Chinese by noted Chinese musician Prof. Liu Yuening. Both Bai and Liu have had a long and close relationship with Indian culture and literature. Praising Tagore's songs, Chen Ziming, the President of the World Music Society of Chinese Musicians Association, said: "There had been many publications of Tagore's literary works but hardly any musical works and it is the first grand celebration for his achievements in music, which reflected Chinese people's admiration for Tagore and the ever-deepening friendship between China and India."

"Heart of Rabindranath Tagore left in China"

Still today, 92 years after his visit to China, Tagore continues to evoke fascination and interest among Chinese. The release of the book entitled "Heart of Rabindranath Tagore left in China" (in Chinese) was held on 10 January, 2014 in Peking University. The event was organized by Peking University's School of Foreign Languages Department of Asian and African Languages. Scholars present in the program praised the role of Rabindranath Tagore to increase the exchanges between China and India. The ¡°Tagore in My Heart¡± Essay Competition was started in October 2012 by Centre for Indian Studies, Shenzhen University and Hangzhou Buddhist Academy in association with the Indian Consulate. The competition was organized in order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of winning of Nobel Prize for Literature by Rabindranath Tagore. The competition generated overwhelming response not only among students but also among professionals, scholars, teachers and senior citizens. This shows that Tagore and his literature are extremely popular in the Chinese people.

Rabindranath Tagore and Chinese Leaders and diplomats

Rabindranath Tagore is revered throughout China. In modern times, the Chinese leadership gives much importance to the path of Tagore¡¯s humanism and ideals. When paying a visit to India in June 1954 Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai said ¡°We will never forget Tagore¡¯s love towards China and also cannot forget Tagore¡¯s support towards China¡¯s Liberation Movement.¡± On his first official visit to India in May 2013, Chinese premier Li Keqiang told that he was mesmerized by the deep philosophical insights of Rabindranath Tagore, the famed "sage poet" as a university student and moved by his profound friendship with the leading Chinese authors of his day. During his visit to India in Sepember, 2014 Chinese President Xi Jinping said that he had read several poetry collections of the late Nobel Prize winner in literature and quoted Rabindranath Tagore: "Grow like a summer flower, magnificently; die like an autumn leaf, quietly and beautifully!" In writing published in the Business Standard on 22nd August, 2015 China's ambassador to India, Mr. Le Yucheng comments: ¡°China will not forget how Rabindranath Tagore supported the Chinese people's liberation cause with the power of his pen¡±.
Mr. Mao Siwei, former Consul General of China in Kolkata in his speech on August 29, 2010 said: ¡°In the ancient times we learned Buddhism from India; in the modern age we have been inspired by Rabindranath Tagore, the great son of Bengal."
Mr. Ma Zhanwu, present Chinese Consul General in Kolkata said: Tagore, the great Indian Poet, made great contribution to China-India friendship and the bilateral cultural exchanges. Perhaps discussing of literature of Rabindranath Tagore is more in Beijing than Kolkata.

Rabindranath Tagore - Real Builder of the Golden Bridge of Friendship between India And China

Rabindranath Tagore was a close friend of the Chinese people. He went to China with a message of love and brotherhood that he felt symbolised the essence of the ties between the two countries -India and China. In July 1937, the Japanese imperialists launched an all-out war of aggression against China. Observing the darkening despair and destruction of war he was greatly shuddered at Japan's ruthless aggression in China. He stood on the side of China and condemned Japanese imperialism though his poems and writings; he was quite hopeful of China's victory against the Japanese imperialism.Through his visit to China in 1924, he laid the seeds of a new understanding and friendship between our two countries in the modern age. Through the establishment of Cheena Bhawan at Santineketan   in West Bengal, he laid the foundations for a new dialogue and intellectual exchange between our two ancient civilizations. He always emphasized that the people of India and China should cooperate closely. It is beneficial for both countries. I believe the life of this great poet and his writings will inspire the people of our two countries, particularly the youth, to dedicate themselves to the cause of India - China friendship, and, in the process, will enable our two countries to achieve the "mutual contact of hearts and minds" that Tagore dreamed about.



1) Special Reports on Rabindranath Tagore of CRI HINDI,BENGALI & ENGLISH (different times)
2) A century of vibrations between Tagore and China (1913-2012)by Tan Chung & Wei Liming
3) "Rabindranath Tagore In China" by Hu Shih
4) Rabindranath Tagore¡¯s vision of India and China: A twenty first century perspective by India¡¯s former Foreign Secretary Ms.Nirupama Rao at Singapore Consortium for China-India Dialogue
5) "The Bengali Bridge" published in the Beijing Review on 20 MAY 14,2015
6) "Rabindranath Tagore's vision of India and China" published in The Hindu on November 25, 2011
7) ¡°On My Birthday¡± a poem written by Rabindranath Tagore on 21st February,1941 a few months before his death
8) "Tagore¡¯s Inspiration In Chinese New Poetry" by Tan Chung

9) "Tagore in China", a news report published in the Hindustan Times on May 08,2010
10) Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech at the Indian Council of World Affairs on 18 September,2014

Rabi Sankar Bosu
New Horizon Radio Listeners¡¯ Club
West Bengal, India



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