Ambassador Zhang Yan's Address at the Inauguration of the International Conference in Honour of Prof. Tan Chung
2008/12/05

Dear Prof. Tan Chung and Mrs. Tan,

Mr. Chinmaya Gharehan, President of IGNCA,

Professors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I feel much honored to address such a distinguished audience. For this, I would like to thank Institute of Chinese Studies for giving me this opportunity.

 

First of all, please allow me to extend my best wishes to Professor Tan Chung. This is the first time for me to meet the Professor, but his name is already very familiar to me. A well-known historian by training in academic circles both in China and India, Professor Tan deserves our respect for his enormous contributions to intellectual studies and to the promotion of mutual understanding and friendship between China and India over decades. I am very happy to learn that a new book by Professor Tan will be released today. Next year Professor Tan is turning 80, I sincerely wish him many, many happy and prosperous years ahead. My warm regards also go to Mrs. Tan. I am sure she is the source of inspirations and a strong supporter of Professor Tan throughout his successful career.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At this moment, our thoughts are still lingering on the tragic terrorist attacks in Mumbai. I would like again to express my deepest condolences to the victims and the bereaved families, and condemn terrorist acts in all its manifestations.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world today is undergoing tremendous changes, affecting not only the order of the world, but also the life, behavior and thinking patterns of people. Blessed with the economic prosperity and modern technology, people are enjoying ever-improving living standard and aspiring for unlimited material comforts. At the same time, the world remains to be far from tranquil. There are still problems and challenges posing threat to the world peace and development. The mankind is plagued with troubles originated from conventional and non-conventional threats. Cultural and religious clashes are among them.

 

Against such a backdrop, it is pertinent to study the role of culture and the interactions between different cultures with a view to minimizing cultural gap and to enhancing trust amongst peoples. I am of the view that culture is a powerful means which can bridge the gap of empathy between people from different countries and draw their hearts closer. In this respect, your conference is very timely and relevant to the present need. You, as experts in the field of culture exchange, can play an instrumental role to create an unfettered environment for people of different culture to interact with each other, with a view to deepening mutual understanding, mutual trust, and as a result, better cooperation and friendship.

 

As two great ancient civilizations, China and India enjoy long history of exchanges especially in the cultural and religious fields. Over the past 2,200 years, the two close neighbours have always learned from and influenced each other. China owes its Buddhist culture to India and India draws inspirations from Chinese products like tea, porcelain and silk. The cultural exchanges have left multi-stranded and multi-coloured cultural motifs to our two countries and become an unfailing driving force for the prosperity of two great civilizations.

 

The credit of rich fruits of cultural exchanges and dialogue enjoyed by China and India should attribute to our forefathers. In history, the Buddhist monks Fa Xian and Xuan Zang, the great navigator Zheng He from China, and the Bodhidharma (or Damo in Chinese) from India, among many others, have helped maintain a steady and continuous interaction and exchanges between our two countries. In the modern times, scholars of two countries have followed the footsteps of these historical figures in extending and promoting the traditional cultural ties and friendship between the two great nations. The great Indian thinker and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Professor Tan Yun Shan, famous Chinese Indiologist Dr. Ji Xianlin, have further carried forward the cause through their unremitting endeavors.

Entering into the 21st century, China and India, as two fast rising economic powers, are facing historical opportunity for the reemergence of our two great nations. At the same time, it is also high time for our two countries to make new contribution to the world civilization.

 

China and India have contributed many valuable thoughts to the mankind. Among them is the concept of harmony which influences not only our two great cultures but the culture of the world. In Chinese culture, the concept of harmony is deeply rooted. "Harmony is priceless", "making all nation live together peacefully" are typical notions cherished by Chinese people. In India, harmony has for centuries been the characteristic feature of Indian philosophy. It is exemplified by the deeds like Great people as Mahatma Gandhi. To make the past to serve the present, Chinese President Hu Jintao recently advanced the concept of building a harmonious world, which emphasizes the promotion of democracy in international relations, respecting the diversity of world, building mutual trust and cooperation, working for win-win progress, making joint efforts to advance human civilization, and working together to safeguard world peace and security.

 

As experts in the field of cultural exchanges, you have already made remarkable contribution in your respective fields. Today, I want to pose a challenging task to you. The task is, in view of the current international situation, what can you do to contribute in a substantive way to the development of China-India relations through cultural exchanges? The reason why I pose such a question is that since my arrival in India, on the one hand, I have felt the strong sentiment of friendship and fraternity from Indian people towards Chinese people. On the other hand, I have also found the lack of understanding between our two peoples, which very often leads to misunderstanding and distrust. Such a situation often creates force of obstruction to the advancement of our relationship and cooperation. As Chinese ambassador to India, whose mission is to foster a strong bilateral relation for the well-being of two peoples, I want to put this challenging task to you.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I assume you would share my view and be prepared to employ your knowledge and wisdom to help our two countries rediscover each other and learn from each other. At the same time, with your help to up-lift the status of oriental culture in the world arena. Your contribution in this respect will make imprint on the history of China-India exchanges. People of both countries will remember you forever, as they do with all those I have mentioned before.

 

Having said this, I must express my appreciation to your efforts for promoting friendly exchanges between China and India. Today, you get together again to brain-storming on relevant issues. You are going to cover a broad range of issues in the following two days. I hope you will have a fruitful deliberation and come up with some wonderful and practical ideas on how to bridge the gap and build the trust between the 2.4 billion people of our two countries, so as to create harmony in Asia as well as in the world, which is the prerequisite for the prosperity of Asia and the World over.

 

I sincerely wish this conference a great success! Thank you!

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