BY SHRI K.R.NARAYANAN, PRESIDENT OF INDIA, WHILE PRESENTING THE BUST OF RABINDRANATH TAGORE
TO PEKING UNIVERSITY
BEIJING, TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2000
President of the Peking
Students and Friends,
I am extremely happy
to unveil this bust of India's national poet, Rabindranath Tagore, which
has been presented to the Peking University by the Government and the people
Tagore's poetry deeply
influenced the people of our country during our national struggle for freedom.
Not only did he become the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature
but his song "Jana Gana Mana" was also chosen by the founding fathers of
India as the national anthem of our country. Tagore expressed his ideas
and thoughts through the multiple media of poetry, art, music and education.
Even to-day, the life and writings of this great intellectual continues
to inspire and guide our society.
Tagore was a close friend
of China. Through his visit to China in 1924 - a visit which also brought
him to Peking University, 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 laid the seeds
of a new understanding and friendship between our two countries in the modern
age. Through the establishment of Cheena Bhawan - the first academic centre
for the systematic study of Chinese culture and society in India, he laid
the foundations for a new dialogue and intellectual exchange between our
two ancient civilizations. In this context I should like to recall the name
of Prof. Tan Yun Shan, whom Tagore invited to head the Cheena Bhawan and
his son, Prof. Tan Chung who stayed over in India to propagate Chinese studies
in Indian Universities.
I understand that 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.
I believe it is only appropriate that we use this occasion of my visit to
China to remember Rabindranath Tagore and his contributions to the friendship
between our two countries and its peoples. Rabindranath Tagore as a poet
had significant impact on China's literature. Chinese translations of his
work appeared in 1915. Geetanjali was translated into Chinese and a Society
called Crescent Moon Society was set up during 1920's by great literary
personalities such as Wen Yiduo, Xu Zhimo and Hu Shi. Wen Yiduo wrote before
Tagore's visit, that every word of Tagore was translated into the Chinese
language. The origin of the genre of Xiaoshi (short poem) in China was attributed
to the influence of Tagore's collection of short poems entitled "Stray Birds".
Tagore was equally fascinated by Chinese poetry. In his public lecture he
referred to Chinese poetry and admiringly admitted: "I have not seen anything
like it in any other literature I know of."
Peking University is
China's leading institution of higher learning. It is also the oldest and
foremost centre for India Studies in this country. I am grateful to the
authorities of the Peking University for having accepted so graciously this
small token of affection from the people of India.
Permit me to conclude
by recalling the very poignant words expressed by Tagore during his talks
in China: (I quote) "If I could live among you, I could speak to you and
you to me, and our thoughts would live through our close contact. They would
bear fruit, not immediately, but in the process of time. Obstacles would
vanish, misunderstandings would not be possible. Our relation would no longer
be one-sided. We would work and produce together from the mutual contact
of our hearts and minds". (Unquote) Let me wish that memories of 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 societies to achieve
the "mutual contact of hearts and minds" that Tagore dreamed about.