Monday, May 30, 2011

A Fusion Of Yoga & Tai Chi

The Times Of India ,Kolkata
28 May 2011, page 14

Ninety-three-year-old yoga guru Iyengar & 117-year-old Shaolin master Lu Zijian will brainstorm in China to bring about synergy in traditional fitness practices

What do a 93-year-old yoga guru and a 117-year-old Shaolin master have in common? The fact that they practise their art for hours even at this age. And that after a lifetime exploring the links between body, mind and spirit, they are sharp and agile enough to teach youngsters one-third their age lessons on how to stay not just fit but also equipoised.

Next month, yogacharya B K S Iyengar and the oldest Chinese martial artiste alive, Master Lu Zijian, will come together at an ambitious China-India yoga summit to be held in Guangzhou. The agenda: a dialogue on the traditional fitness regimens of the two countries. Not just that, Iyengar will lead a packed, three-day programme to guide around 1,000 yoga enthusiasts from China and abroad on the many interconnecting layers of the system. ‘‘I will go from the scratch to the ultimate,’’ says Iyengar, who is generously allowing beginners and veterans to take his classes.
Yoga reached China around 40 years ago and caught on like a wildfire despite the fact that the country has its own indigenous systems of mindbody regimens. There are about 15 millions yoga practitioners in China today.

This summit will see the entire yoga industry spread across neighbouring Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau converge at Guangzhao. ‘‘Tai Chi is now not as popular as yoga in China. Yoga is definitely more popular among the educated youth, especially the women—95% of the learners are women,” says Zhiyong Chen, who is directing the
event that has the backing of the Indian consulate and the Ayush (alternate health) department of the ministry of health.

Lu Zijian, who is fondly referred to as the Yangtze River’s Great Chivalrous Man, lives in Chongqin and practises the evolved Tao-based martial art and healing system, bagua zhang. He has lived through China’s historical decades and is today celebrated as China’s most healthy centenarian.

With some help from interpreters, the two masters will “compare Tai Chi and yoga, their principles and similarities, how they look at the human body, mind and spirit, and how they work to improve them”, says Chen.

Senior Iyengar teacher Birju Mehta, who will be among the team of six from India, says the Indian and Chinese systems perhaps have parallel end goals though they follow different processes. Iyengar has held large-scale yoga summits across the world—the last in Russia two years ago. But this one is generating a lot of buzz because it sees the coming together of people who have inherited similar systems. And also because Iyengar has declared that this will be his last foreign yoga tour.

The yogacharya remains a staunch classicist in a world where yoga has acquired some really outlandish forms.But he is also open to dialogues with other traditions and last year had a public interaction with the Dalai Lama over Indian and Tibetan traditions.

Malini Nair

Monday, May 16, 2011


On May 12, 2011, Chinese ambassador Zhang Yan attended the launch of the new book Tagore and China hold in Alliance Francaise de Delhi. Chinese Indian scholar Tan Chung, Special Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs in charge of public diplomacy Jayant Prasad, publisher of the book and other experts and academicians all in total over 100 people also took part in this event.

In his remarks, ambassador Zhang congratulated the publishing of the book. He indicated that Tagore is a well known and influential Indian litterateur in China. Several activities have been held in China in commemorative of Tagore's 150 years birth anniversary. Tagore has made great contributions to the mutual understanding and cultural exchanges of China and India.
Mr. Tan Chung gave a briefing of the book and a retrospection of Tagore and his visits to China. The book, which collected articles and essays about Tagore by both Chinese and Indian scholars, was published by Sage Publications, and edited by: TAN CHUNG , AMIYA DEV , WANG BANGWEI and WEI LIMING ( Peking University, Beijing, China ) .


edited by: TAN CHUNG Emeritus Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi and Academic Associate, University of Chicago
AMIYA DEV Fulbright scholar to USA
WANG BANGWEI Peking University, Beijing, China
WEI LIMING Peking University, Beijing, China
Published : May 2011 , Pages : 420 Size : Crown: 7" x 10"
Imprint : SAGE India , India (INR) Rs 895

About the Book

Tagore and China is the first full account in English of Rabindranath Tagore’s visit to China and its civilizational import. Perhaps for the first time, exhaustive material related to the visit has been collected.

The book charts Tagore’s ‘grand visit’ in 1924 undertaken in response to China’s ‘Tagore fever’ and the series of talks he gave there, their antecedents as well as impact. Also discussed is the foundation of Cheena-Bhavana at Visva-Bharati—and thereby of Chinese studies in India—and Tan Yun-shan’s lifelong dedication to it and the Sino-Indian love it held.

This well-researched book unearths new material from Chinese sources to confirm the devotion of Tagore’s interpreter, poet Xu Zhimo, to him and Tagore’s affection for Xu Zhimo. Tagore’s two personal visits to Xu Zhimo, preceded by the latter’s visit to Santiniketan, have also been detailed.

Supplemented by several rare photographs, Tagore and China is a fitting tribute to Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary and is going to be of abiding value to Sino-Indian understanding.

About Tan Chung

Immediately after his birth in April 1929 in Malaya, Tan Chung was carried by his mother and aunt to Santiniketan to be shown to his father, Prof. Tan Yun-shan ( Tan Yunshan was the Founding Director of the Department of Chinese Language and Culture "Cheena-Bhavana" at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan) .

Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore was glad to see the baby and christened him “Asoka” --- the Bengali name, Tan Chung could, unfortunately, never use. Tan Chung returned to Malaya(now Malaysia)with his mother who was the principal of the Aiqun Girls’ School at Batu Bahar. He was then raised in China from 1931 to 1954. He came to India to be united with his parents and studied at Santiniketan from 1955 to 1958.

He then started his career teaching Chinese language in India from 1958 to 1994 continuously in the National Defense Academy (Khadakvasla), School of Foreign Languages of the Ministry of Defense (New Delhi), Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. He also taught Chinese history at Delhi University from 1971 to 1979.

Tan Chung has published ten books in English and six books in Chinese. His 'China and the Brave New World', published in 1978, 'Triton and Dragon', published in 1985, and 'Dunhuang Art', published in 1994, are used as reference books for university students in India,USA,Taipei, and Hong Kong.

His 'India and China: Twenty Centuries of Civilizational Interaction and Vibrations', co-authored with Professor Geng Yinzeng of Peking University, is Part 6 of Volume III of the series of History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, published by Centre for Studies in Civilizations, New Delhi. His 16th book is 'Rise of the Asian Giants: Dragon-Elephant Tango'(2008,Anthem Press). His 17th book 'Tagore and China' has just been released .

Tan Chung has been active in developing Chinese studies in India in various capacities as the Head of Chinese and Japanese Studies of Delhi University, Chairperson of the Centre for Afro-Asian Languages and of the Centre for East Asian Languages of Jawaharlal Nehru University. He helped create the unit of East Asian Studies in the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (New Delhi) when he was Professor-Consultant there from 1990 to 1999. He was the founder Co-Chairperson of the Institute of Chinese Studies ( Delhi ) from 1990 to 2002.

He guest edited a special issue on 'India and China' for the Indian Horizon, the journal of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in 1994. He has been the Honorary Consultant of the Editorial Board of The Selected Books of Oriental Cultures, Beijing , from 1996 to date.

He popularized the concept of 'Chindia' in China, and brought out the Chinese language book, Chindia --- Idealism and Realization in 2007.

Tan Chung is the recipient of Padma Bhushan award in 2010.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chinese Musician Strikes Tagore Chord

The Times Of India
Kolkata , May 5 , 2011 (Thursday)
Times City , page - 6

She loves to play Tagore songs and dreams of lending a Mandarin touch to the bard’s tunes. They could serve as a bridge between the two ancient cultures, helping people from the respective countries realize the affinity in their music. Chinese musician Liu Yuening , who plays the Yangqin — a santoor-like instrument with its origin in the Middle-East — shared the stage at the Town Hall with singer Prateek Choudhury on Wednesday. But Yuening, an acclaimed music researcher, is bent on striking a melodic partnership between Indian and Chinese musicians.
“A few minor alterations to a Tagore song can convert it into a Chinese rhythm which could be readily appreciated by listeners in our country. I have been playing these tunes in China and would love to do it in Kolkata where everyone swears by Tagore. I expect this to pave the way for a collaboration between classical singers from India and traditional musicians from China. They have a lot of common ground to work on,” said Yuening.

Based in Beijing, she started learning yangqin at the age of nine. By the time she was 12, Yuening had been hailed as one of the leading yangqin players in the world. She went on to do a doctorate from Hungary, where she spent two years researching music. In 2009, she spent seven months at the University of Delhi for a cultural research programme as an Asia Fellow of the Ford Foundation. It was during this stint that Yuening chanced upon the santoor and was taken aback by the similarity between the instruments. “Yangqin originated in the Middle-East and has its European and Chinese variants. In India, it’s the santoor... music in the region has common roots,” said Yuening.
It launched her on a mission to identify the commonalities in Indian and Chinese music. “First, the musical scale in our notes is similar. Secondly, the inspiration behind Indian classical music and Chinese traditional scores is the same — nature. Finally, both India and China have a strong folk music culture and draw heavily from it. These left me convinced that there would be a common origin, a starting point which unites our music,” explained the musician.
The quest brought her back to India in 2010. Yuening travelled to Kashmir for a lecture on Chinese music. “The people there were quite receptive and showed interest in my music. I got little chance of exploring the area, though,” she said. She rounded off her trip with a concert in Kolkata. “The visit gave me the chance to study Tagore songs more carefully. I kept playing the tunes and hit upon the idea of giving them a Chinese touch. Even my friends in India thought it was a brilliant idea and that it could be the ideal starting point for a musical collaboration,” she added.
It will lead to the more difficult task of identifying the similarities in Indian ragas and Chinese scores, realizes Yuening. “Let Kolkata and Tagore songs be the launching pad. I will have done my bit for music if I can accomplish the task,” signed off Yuening.

Prithvijit Mitra - TNN