Renewing old friendships and finding similar pathways of truth

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A study of China India connections through writings of Bengali Intellectuals (1860-1960)

Events and circumstances in Indian history, from the late 19th Century to the end of the first half of the 20th Century, which coincided with the Indian independence movement, saw writings and cultural exchanges with particular reference to China, with whom India had historical links, and which could now be a role model.

“WHEN I READ ABOUT China and find similarities with India, I feel inspired and empowered. Not only that we Asians have long been made to stand trial in accordance with Western standards, and have always accepted their adverse judgement of our civilisations as final, but even submitting to the complete overhaul of our traditional systems. This is not right. If we judge European civilisations by Asian values, we will see that they too fall far short of the ideal. Secondly, not only does Asian unity give strength to Asians, the very fact that Asian civilisations are ancient, is proof that their values are eternal and universal, not just because they are ancient, but because they are pathways of truth” – Rabindra Nath Tagore, Chinaman’s Letter, 1902, Bangadarshan’

The urge to know and discuss the qualities and values that made China great has been an important part of the intellectual history of India from the latter half of the 19th Century, and this is connected to cosmopolitan and nationalist ideas emerging among the educated elite. These ideas on Asia and its constituent countries were widely discussed and disseminated through the vernacular literary periodicals in Bengal in order to educate a large reading public on a cosmopolitan world view, with nationalistic undertones, from the 20th Century onwards, in furtherance of the idea of an ideal people, strengthened by past glories and inspired by the struggle for independence.’

 

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