International Affairs


President of the Peking University,

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 of India.

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.

Thank you

Jai Hind