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Buddhism will enhance Sino-Indian friendship: Chinese religious head
Anil K Joseph in Beijing | February 08, 2007 10:35 IST
Buddhism, which spread from India to China 2,000 years ago, will play a new role in cementing Sino-Indian friendship and enhancing cultural contacts, China's top religious official has said.
"We believe that Buddhism played an important role in the process of communication between the two countries. Such a role is continuing to function, and will function well in the future," Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs Ye Xiaowen told PTI in Beijing, ahead of his visit to India.
Ye is heading a high-level Chinese delegation of over 100 Buddhist monks and senior officials, who will take part in the formal inauguration of the Xuanzang Memorial Hall in Nalanda on February 12. The Chinese government has undertaken the restoration work of the memorial hall.
Ye's administration oversees Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam in the atheist country, which only allows state-sanctioned religious institutions.
On the significance of religion and culture in communication between China and India, Ye pointed out that the Joint Declaration issued by the two governments in New Delhi on November 21, 2006, during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit, has clearly stated it.
"The centuries-old cultural contacts between the two peoples provide a strong foundation for enduring friendship between India and China. The initiatives to rediscover these historical linkages and revitalise them in the present day context, including through an early completion of the Xuanzang Memorial in Nalanda and the Indian-style Buddhist Shrine in Luoyang, will further strengthen these bonds," he said.
"The two sides agree to strengthen cooperation in the area of spiritual and civilisational heritage, discuss collaboration in the digitisation of Buddhist manuscripts available in China as well as the re-development of Nalanda as a major centre of learning with the establishment of an international university on the basis of regional cooperation," Ye quoted the Joint Declaration as saying.
He noted that Buddhism has been the most important vehicle of cultural communication between China and India and the people of the two countries since it was brought to China from India 2,000 years ago.
Especially the pilgrimage by Xuanzang to India has become a "beautiful story" in the history of China and India communication. It is widespread among the people in the two countries, therefore has very significant historical meanings for both countries, he said.
Xuanzang started his journey to India in 627 AD and stayed in the country for 13 years, including five years of study in Nalanda. He returned with lots of Buddhist sutras and translated them into Chinese, which laid the foundations for Buddhism in China.
Most Chinese people are familiar with the pilgrimage of Xuanzang to India more than 1,300 years ago.
The trials and tribulations he experienced on his way to ancient India for Buddhist enlightenment were depicted in the popular classical work of fiction Journey to the West, also known as the 'Monkey King'.
Talking about the restoration of Xuanzang Memorial Hall, Ye said the work was completed in December 2006 by Chinese engineers and workers.
"The restoration of the memorial hall is the fruit of China and India's joint effort. It reflects the painstaking effort of the leaders and people of the two countries, as well as the strong faith to develop the relationship between the two countries," Ye said.
The restored Xuanzang Memorial Hall will surely serve as a platform better to promote the friendly communication of the religion and culture between the two countries and as a window to show the friendship between China and India, he said.
The concerned departments of the two governments, together with hundreds of people from the religious circles, will attend the completion ceremony of Xuanzang Memorial Hall, as well as the opening ceremony of 'Year of China-India Tourism Friendship' in 2007 in Nalanda on February 12.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, who will be on an official visit from February 11, will also attend both functions, ministry spokesperson, Jiang Yu said in Beijing.