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China and India getting closer, building understanding
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The first China-South Asia cultural forum is taking place in Beijing from November 19 to 27. The forum coincides with the 110th anniversary of the births of Tan Yunshan and Bagchi Prabodh, two scholars who devoted their lives to promoting academic and literary links between India and China.

More than 70 scholars and officials from China, India, America, Canada and Britain attended the event, including representatives of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, the Chinese Academic of Social Science and universities, as well as relatives of Tan Yunshan and Bagchi Prabodh.

The forum is sponsored by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Peking University and Shenzhen University.

Li Xuetao, deputy director of the Overseas Sinology Study Center in Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the forum would cover a multitude of topics including the lives and works of Tan Yunshan and Bagchi Prabodh Chandra, Sino-Indian relations, overseas Sinology research, and the role of Yoga in India culture.

The forum was not just an academic exchange, but would include cultural events, said Wang Xiuyun, of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. A photo exhibition about the lives of Tan Yunshan and Bagchi Prabodh Chandra opened on November 19, and a program of Indian films will be shown in universities.

This is the first China-South Asia cultural forum; a follow-up forum will be held in India in 2009.

Tan Yun-shan (1898-1983), was a renowned Chinese scholar of India, an old associate of Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore and Prime Minister Nehru. Tan spent a lifetime studying the relations between China and India.

Bagchi Prabodh Chandra (1898-1956) was the doyen of Chinese studies in India. Born on November 18, 1898 in Srikol (Jessore district), Prabodh Chandra studied Buddhism and Chinese language under the illustrious French scholar, Sylvain Levi. His best known work was India and China: A Thousand Years of Sino-Indian Contact, published in 1944. His scholarship formed a bridge between Indology and Sinology.

India and China are two ancient civilizations whose histories have been intertwined for thousands of years during which eminent priests, monks and scholars from both sides have crossed deserts and mountains to establish cultural bridges. Buddhism is China's most enduring cultural import from India, and the relationship with India is celebrated in China's ancient and universally-read comic novel Journey to the West in which the Tang dynasty monk Xuanzang, accompanied by the Monkey King, makes an epic journey to India to fetch Buddhist scriptures.

(China.org.cn by Chen Lin, November 20, 2008)

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