Strengthen Sino- Indian Students’ Exchange and Cooperation – To Bridge over Mutual Estrangement and Misunderstanding

Yu Xinli
June 29, 2019
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On the evening of May 5, 2015, Ms. Wu Qi, Deputy Chief Editor of Yunnan University Press and I went to Kunming Changshui Airport to meet with Dr. Avijit Banerjee, the dean of Cheena Bhavana, Visva Bharati who passed by Kunming. In a small airport restaurant, we talked about deepening the cooperation between the two universities. An essential part of the talk is about students’ exchanges between the two universities with more student visits, to promote mutual learning, gradually change mutual recognition and bridge over the gap between the youngsters of the two countries. With the talk we settled that a book series shall be co-published in both China and India – India Through the Eyes of Chinese Youths and China Through the Eyes of Indian Youths. They are finished by youngsters from both countries, including theses, travelogues, and poems on learning experiences in India by Chinese, and those by Indians in China. By now, India Through the Eyes of Chinese Youths has been published by Yunnan University Press in both Chinese and English, and China Through the Eyes of Indian Youths is on the way.

From November 3 to 4, the 80th anniversary of Visva Bharati Cheena Bhavana and the 90th anniversary of Tan Yun-shan’s entry into India will be held at the Visva Bharati. Then, I will join with the first issues of “Enter the Realm of Chindia, India Through the Eyes of Chinese Youths and China Through the Eyes of Indian Youths.”

China in the Eyes of Indian Youths” will fill the vacancy of Indian youngsters’ recognition of China. Indian students’ writing style may not be mature enough, but it is a mirror of what they have seen and learned in China, which adds to the relationship between India and China. There are many interesting details in the book. For instance, they had learned from movies the quadrangle courtyards and Chinese kung fu, which, however, they hardly found when they were in China. And Indians are vegetarian that they were not used to Chinese food when arriving in China, but later they found delicious Chinese vegetarian dishes like fried peppers and potatoes(辣椒炒土豆), stir-fried green beans(干煸四季豆), mushrooms, and green vegetables(香菇青菜), Mapo tofu(麻婆豆腐), peanuts and spinach(花生菠菜), fried bean sprouts(炒豆芽), mushroom mixed with cucumber(金针菇拌黄瓜)and fried cabbage(炒白菜). And Xinjiang pie is also one of their favorites because it tastes like Indian scone. Besides, a variety of porridge is available everywhere. And it is also very delicious to have Chinese vegetarian dishes with steamed rice or various steamed buns. Indian youngsters are shocked at abundant Chinese dishes that mainly include eight cuisines – South sweet, North salty, East sour and West hot. Preservation of traditional Chinese culture was another concern of Indian youth. They thought Chinese youngsters might have forgotten their own traditional sports and instruments, such as shuttlecock(踢毽子), diabolo(空竹), pipa(琵琶), erhu (二胡) or guzheng(古筝). And Indian youth loved Confucius Institute, hoping more will be built in India. And their biggest anxiety was health care in China. Their medical system and treatment philosophy is different from that in China, and they prefer traditional Chinese treatment over the Western ways. All this above illustrates their changing cognition of China, their passion to Chinese culture, their great adjustment in China, their willingness to exchange with Chinese students and also their suggestions for our improvement.

Mr. Tan Chung wrote the preface of the book. He noted that “since the independence of India, Indian elites had learned of China from the one-sided stories told by American media that they are misled by the US.” The aim of this book is to note down what is sensed by the Indian intellectual youth themselves, which is the start of bridging over the gap between India and China.

In fact, some Chinese intellectuals also have prejudices against India. In July 1924, Gu Hongming issued an essay named “Tagore and Chinese Literati” in the French newspaper Débat, in which he wrote, “Confucius Temple is magnificent, plain and classic, which is a mirror of China. Lamasery is mysterious and obscure and accommodates too many idols that some are ugly or erotic, which is a mirror of India. In fact, the gap between Chinese civilization and Oriental civilization is far more than that between ancient Oriental civilization and modern Western civilization.” The thought of that kind can still be found in Chinese academia at present, which hints the misunderstanding among people of the two nations.

In Abitaki of Indian Buddhism, there is a story named “Two Birds Sharing a Body.” There were two birds that share a body, but they had separate brains and thoughts. One day when one was taking a nap, the other found a fragrant flower falling down by its head. The waking bird devoured the flower alone, thinking “although I eat the flower alone, it will add to the power and good to both of us.” However, the napping one woke up with distress. And days later, it is filled with hatred and killed itself with eating a poisonous flower. And the situation between India and China is like the story which needs the efforts from both nations, especially those from the youngsters. They need to learn from each other with effective communication, so as to grow up together and contribute to respective mother countries.

More than half of the writers of the book are students from Visva Bharati which is founded by Tagore. “Tagore is a bridge connecting Indian and Chinese cultures, and he has set an example for the friendship between the two countries.” Cultures in both countries need to be handed down by elites, which is the main concern of the book. But the book is only a start of the cultural exchange of youngsters between the two countries. I hope students’ exchange shall be continued and developed that further connection and communication among students from each country can be built, so as to prepare for “the prosperity of both countries.”

*** The author is Director at Center for China-India People-to-People Exchange Studies at Yunnan Minzu University ***