Jawaharlal Nehru University
Sabaree Mitra introduces Chinese culture to India, and her research includes Chinese Cultural History, India-China Cultural Relations and Regional Interaction, etc. She compiled the Encyclopedia of India-China Cultural Contacts (2014) on behalf of the Ministry of External Affairs, GOI, with Chinese scholars.
Q: How did you begin to learn Chinese and study ancient Chinese history and culture?
A: As a student of Middle School, I was fascinated by Chinese history. Especially the painting of Xuanzang carrying Buddhist scrolls left a deep impression on me. The city of Kolkata, where my father taught in the iconic Presidency College and I grew up till I was thirteen, had a large population of Overseas Chinese; their culture and lifestyle captured my attention. But after school I did not immediately start to learn Chinese. I studied Life Science for three years and then, as if drawn by destiny, I enrolled myself in the Chinese language programme in Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. The rest, as they say, is history !
Q: You have a beautiful Chinese name, is there any stories about it?
A: I had the privilege of being trained in Chinese by the eminent scholar of Chinese History and India-China Cultural Interaction, Prof. Tan Chung. His father, Prof. Tan Yun Mount was invited by Rabindranath Tagore to establish the School of Chinese Culture College in Visva-Bharati. Within a month of my starting to learn Chinese, Prof. Tan Chung gave me my Chinese name keeping in mind the pronunciation and meaning of my Indian name as well as my personal traits. In fact, he changed my name thrice, until he was satisfied that the name conveyed the essence of me as a person. I feel that this name was a blessing that was meant to remain with me all my life.
Q: Both China and India have ancient civilizations, what do you think of the different cultural characteristics of the two countries?
A: Both India and China are ancient civilizations with thousands of years of rich cultural legacy and a long history of sustained, mutually enriching cultural interaction, complementing and shaping each other through millennium. To quote the eminent Chinese Indologist Prof. Ji Xianlin, they were “created in heaven and constructed on earth”. I think their complementarity has been successful because they have been wise enough to understand, appreciate and accept their similarity in difference and difference in similarity.
Q: You have published several books about China, what is the public attitude towards China and Chinese culture in India?
A: I think Indians have always been keen to know about China and Chinese culture. The historical connection is undeniable and the depth of knowledge and interest is clearly visible in all aspects, may it be intellectual quest, academic curiosity or may it be popular interest that includes a whole range of things such as, Chinese cuisine, martial arts, films and much much more!
Q: What’s your deepest feeling during the decades of teaching, research and translation?
A: Chinese is a lifetime vocation, the more one unravels layer by layer, more it reveals itself in its true beauty. Teaching too is a lifelong dedication, a pledge to light the lamp of knowledge. Both are very close to my heart, both truly define me as a person. I am myself when I am intellectually creative, reading, writing, translating, otherwise I lose my balance and purpose.
Q: Please share with us your joy of winning the award.
A: I am undoubtedly happy, but it reminds me that life is too short for all that I wish to do. I must keep on doing what I do best, in my modest fashion: Read, write and translate about Chinese culture and India-China cultural exchange.
By Long Yingtai
By Gao Ming
By Bai Yansong
By Yang Jiang
By Da Bing
By Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee
By Liu Tong
By Publicity and Education Bureau of the Central Propaganda Department
By Helence Hanff
By Da Bing