The Indologist is the first Chinese to receive the honour
He translated Ramayana from Sanskrit into Chinese in verse
He not only introduced Indian studies in China but also promoted ties between the countries
Beijing: In a rare gesture, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday personally conferred the Padma Bhushan award on Ji Xianlin, considered the foremost Chinese Indologist, who has inspired love for Indian culture and literature among generations of his countrymen. He is the first Chinese to receive the honour.
Mr. Mukherjee visited the ailing 97-year-old scholar in a military hospital to present the medallion and the award certificate.
Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and India’s Ambassador to China Nirupama Rao accompanied the Minister, who is on a four-day visit to the country.
On the eve of the Republic Day, the government announced the civilian award to Mr. Ji, a Sanskrit expert, who had not only introduced Indian studies in China but also promoted relations between the two neighbours.
Mr. Ji translated the Ramayana from the original Sanskrit into Chinese in verse form secretly during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), reflecting his passion for Indian culture and civilisation.
His account of the 10-year turmoil, ‘Memoirs from the Cowshed,’ which was published in 1998, touched the hearts of millions of Chinese readers.
Mr. Ji has translated, apart from the Ramayana, several major Indian classics into Chinese, including the Shakuntala and Panchatantra, and taught generations of Chinese students, many of whom have pursued Indology. Mr. Ji, a life professor at Peking University, is a writer, palaeographer and historian. He is widely respected for his erudite study of Buddhism and cultural interaction between India and China. — PTI