Chapters 12 and 13 make a good case study of Chinese studies in India and the contribution of Tan Yunshan and P.C. Bagchi towards the same.
India-China relations are at the lowest ebb since the Galwan bloodshed in June 2020. The deepening of the mutual distrust is likely to deteriorate the security, trade and investment, and people to people exchange environment further. In the backdrop of such a situation, Professor B.R. Deepak’s translated volume, titled China and India: Dialogue of Civilizations will be instrumental in understanding the civilisational dialogue between India and China for the last two millennia. China and India: Dialogue of the Civilisations is one of the volumes in the History of the Sino-Foreign Literary Exchange series (total 17 volumes) written by Professor Yu Longyu and Liu Zhaohua in Chinese. The 700-page plus volume carries out unpretendingly in-depth study of the literary dialogue between the two Asian giants right from the dissemination of Buddhism to China and the present day. The book has one preface, an introduction, 16 chapters, a postscript, and a long chronology of India-China interaction that incorporates the reference books too.
The first three chapters focus on the literary exchanges under the umbrella of Buddhism, and cover issues such as the Sutra translation, influence of Buddhist literature on Chinese language and literature, the birth of China’s translation studies, etc. The study says that in a span of 734 years starting from the 10th year of the Yongping Era in Han Dynasty (67 A.D.) to the 16th year of Zhenyuan Era in Tang Dynasty (800 A.D.), in all, 185 prominent translators translated 2,412 sutras running into 7,352 fascicles. It was in the process of sutra translation in China that more than 35,000 entries of Sanskrit were incorporated into Chinese language, and the language itself got transformed into a tonal and multisyllabic language since then. Various facets of Chinese literature, art, music, theatre and astronomy were influenced by Indian culture, the imprints of which have been discussed in the study in detail.
The next three chapters (4-6) focus on the transmission of Indian fables, myths and theatre into China, dissemination of the Ramayana and Mahabharata and the adaptation of certain contents from these into Chinese and Buddhist literature is quite interesting. Three Jataka stories, King Dasharatha, Monkey King, and Shambuka the earliest and most conclusive texts of dissemination of the Ramayana to China are discussed. All narrate the Ramayana, but in a Buddhist setting—tweaking with the characters, and time and place have certain digressions, which is a phenomenon that can be traced to the Indian subcontinent as well as Southeast Asia.
The focus of the next five chapters (7-11) is on the leading Indologists of China and their research on India’s classical and modern literary works. It starts from the translation of Tagore in China, and then discusses the contribution of Padma Bhushan Ji Xianlin, Xu Fancheng, Jin Kemu, Huang Baosheng and Liu Anwu to the India-China literary dialogue and cultural exchange of contemporary times. Some of the names may be known in India, however, the contribution of Xu Fancheng, who spent 27 years in Sri Aurobindo Ashram and happens to be the first Chinese to translate the Upanishads remains buried not only in India but also in China for a long time. At the end of these chapters, the research by contemporary Chinese scholars on India is also given as an appendix. These are scholars who continued the fine tradition of sutra translation in China; the translation and publication of Bhagavad Gita in the 1940s, Upanishads in the 1950s, Kalidasa’s Abhijnanashakuntala and Meghaduta in the 1950s and 1960s, the Ramayana from Sanskrit in the 1980s, Ramcharitmans in 1988, Rabindranath Tagore’s works in 24 volumes in 2000, the complete Mahabharata from Sanskrit in 2005, various editions of Manusmriti; Sursagar and Kabir Granthavali in 2018-19 testifies this. Apart from the scattered translation of the Vedas, it could be said that China has translated almost the entire repository of mainstream Indian literature and philosophy including the Panchatantra, Kathasagar, Six Philosophical Schools of India, and Shankaracharya into Chinese.
Chapters 12 and 13 make a good case study of Chinese studies in India and the contribution of Tan Yunshan and P.C. Bagchi towards the same. Chapter 14 expounds Osho’s contribution towards popularizing Laozi and Zhuangzi or say Taoism in India and beyond. It also talks about the once Osho phenomenon in China. Chapter 15 is on China in Raja Rao’s writings, and the last chapter discusses the kind of work being done in India and China by the present generation of Indian Sinologists and Chinese Indologists.
The chapters also delve into the kind of Indian literary works that have been rendered and researched by the Chinese scholarship. These include writers such as Bharatendu Harishchandra, Premchand, Yashpal, Mirza Ghalib, Mohamed Iqbal, Krishan Chander, Jai Shankar Prasad, Jainedra Kumar, Phanishwar Nath Renu, Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Aurobindo, Osho, and it may not be possible to list them all here. What is interesting is that Chinese scholars have also studied and rendered in Chinese, Indian writings in Tamil and English. The works of Chinnaswami Subramania Bharathi, Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Narayan, Raja Rao, Bhabani Bhattacharya, Manohar Malgonkar, Arun Joshi, Khushwant Singh, Vikram Seth and Anita Desai have been extensively translated and studied. Even though the import of Indian films in China is limited, but the translation and dubbing right from Raj Kapoor’s Awaara to Amir Khan’s Dangal has gone unstopped that could be discerned from a bulky chronology of India-China relations given at the end of the book.
It could be discerned that Chinese scholarship has picked up works written not only in Sanskrit and Hindi, but also in Bengali, Tamil, Urdu and English. No wonder many universities across China are offering Hindi, Tamil, Bengali and Punjabi etc. languages at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The fine tradition laid down by stalwarts like Ji Xianlin, Xu Fancheng, Jin Kemu, Huang Baosheng and Liu Anwu has been kept alive by their students such as Wang Shuying, Jin Dinghan, Xue Keqiao, Wang Bangwei, Yu Longyu and Jiang Jingkui who in turn have trained a formidable team of young Indologists spread across China. Obviously, such capacity building is not possible without policy formulation, funding and support from the top. Conversely, in India we have to do a lot in term of building capacities in Chinese language and studies.
The translator in his preface to the volume believes that through this translation, people on both sides of the Himalayas will have a better understanding of the cultural, literary and people to people relations between India and China. It will open new enquiries for research, and prove beneficial for the researchers and students of India-China relations, literary studies, Buddhist studies, translation studies, comparative literature, oriental studies, and even studies on individuals such as Rabindranath Tagore, Ji Xianlin, Jin Kemu, Xu fancheng, P.C. Bagchi, Tan Yunshan, Raja Rao, Osho and many more.