China gains exposure to Sri Lankan readers

By Wang Wei
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 19, 2012
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Saman Kumara Athaudahetti, a well-known Sri Lankan author, released his memoir from ten years of travel in China at a launch ceremony at Beijing Foreign Studies University on Aug. 18, marking the first publication about China written in the Sinhalese language.

Saman Kumara Athaudahetti (l.) and his book Wandering with Pleasure along the Silk Route at the Beijing launch ceremony on Aug. 18. [Wang Wei/]. 

Titled "Wandering with Pleasure along the Silk Route," the book aims to introduce China to the Sri Lankan people. The book is also the first Sinhalese work to be published in China, according to Bandula Gunawardana, minister of Education in Sri Lanka, who attended the book's launch in Beijing.

Over the past ten years, Athaudahetti visited many cities and famous tourist destinations in China including Beijing, Lhasa, Yinchuan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shanghai and Xiamen. In addition to travel insights, the book covers other aspects of China including its physical geography, culture, history and religions.

Part of the book highlights Chinese Buddhist temples and Buddhist culture, said Hao Weimin, head of the Sri Lanka Sinology Research Association.

A majority of the Sinhalese, Sri Lanka's largest ethnic group, follow Buddhism. Athaudahetti's book gives a detailed introduction to the Lingguang Temple, the second temple in Beijing's Badachu Park, which is famous for housing a Buddha tooth. It is said that only two Buddha teeth exist in the world, one in Sri Lanka and the other in China. This is proof of the close ties of the two civilizations during ancient times, Hao said.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Sri Lanka.

"I would like to present my book as a gift for readers of the two countries to commemorate our traditional friendship," Athaudahetti said.

"By reading my book, I believe, the Sri Lankan people can have a renewed understanding of both the glorious culture of ancient China and the spirits of contemporary Chinese."

Shen Beili, director general of the Bureau of South and Southeast Asian Affairs in the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, also attended the launch ceremony on Saturday.

"This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Rice-Rubber Barter Agreement between China and Sri Lanka," Shen said in an address to attendees. "The release of this book will be historically significant to both countries."

During the address, Shen expressed her great gratitude and respect for Athaudahetti. "As a friendly messenger to promote the cultural exchanges between two countries, he has made substantial contributions to boost Sino-Sri Lankan ties," she said.

Beijing Foreign Studies University is the only university to offer a full-time Sinhalese language studies program in China. Last August, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa received an honorary doctoral degree there and was invited to be the first director of the university's Sri Lanka Academic Center, which opened that same day.

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