Her visiting card carries the name Zhao Jiang. But, when she greets you, she says in crystal clear Tamil ‘En Peyar Kalaimagal’ (My Name is Kalaimagal). It is by this name that millions of listeners across the world recognise this resident of Beijing when she presents Tamil programmes aired by China Radio International (CRI).
Ms. Jiang began learning about Indian history and Tamil culture nearly 16 years ago; today, she is the author of two books in Tamil. Having worked at the CRI since 1999, she is now the director of CRI’s Tamil Department. During her visit to Chennai on Friday, Chennai Press Club honoured Ms. Jiang for her services to Tamil language.
Pausing in between every sentence to be clear, Ms. Jiang preferred to talk in classical Tamil and talked about her work at the CRI’s Tamil Department, which recently celebrated its golden jubilee, and her books.
“I learnt the language from Chinese and Tamil teachers at Communication University for four years. I like Bharathiyar,” said Ms. Jiang, who also recited a couplet from the Thirukkural. With a 15-member team, the majority of them Chinese, her Tamil department airs programmes for four hours daily and has listeners in various countries, including India, Singapore and Canada.
Speaking to The Hindu, Ms. Jiang said: “We air programmes on Chinese culture, music and tourist destinations. We have even launched a mobile application to enable people to listen to our programmes. I want to help foster China-south India relations and promote Tamil among the Chinese residents.”
Her first book, ‘Cheenavil Inba Ula’, is probably the first Tamil book to be authored by a native of China. “It is about tourist destinations in Beijing and Tibet. My idea was to introduce China to Tamil readers,” she said.
She also authored a Chinese-Tamil dictionary with meanings of over 27,000 words. “Both Chinese and Tamil are classical languages. But, there is no direct dictionary. My next book will be a Tamil-Chinese dictionary,” said Ms. Jiang, who is on her third visit to the State.