India to win Chinese hearts with Bollywood dance, yoga

Liu Yi Yang, the first Chinese graduate of the National Institute of Yoga, New Delhi, holding a public yoga demonstrations at the Shanghai World Expo. India is looking to set up three yoga academies in China, part of a wider campaign to promote Indian culture. Photo credit: Special arrangement, courtesy the Indian Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo  

Even as the political relationship between New Delhi and Beijing has gone through ups and downs this year, the Indian government has quietly launched a broad campaign to win hearts and minds in China.

By setting up three yoga academies, hosting dance shows in 14 cities in China's hinterland and engaging with intellectuals and academics, the government hopes to drive home to the Chinese public a positive image of a rising India and build a “brand” that Chinese companies can relate to, officials said.

The campaign, launched in recent months to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, is the first attempt by India to engage directly with the Chinese public across almost two dozen provinces, in cities ranging from the remote Dunhuang in the Gansu province to Guangzhou in the southern manufacturing heartland.

In recent weeks, the campaign has included Bollywood troupes performing in 14 cities; painting exhibitions in Beijing; events to honour Rabindranath Tagore, who is widely popular here; and, most recently, yoga performances at the Indian Pavilion at the World Expo being held in Shanghai.

In May, President Pratibha Patil inaugurated a Buddhist temple in Luoyang, which the Indian government had helped fund and construct for the Chinese people. It has already received more than 800,000 visitors.

Indian brand

“What we are trying to do is build an overall Indian brand in the eyes of the Chinese,” Ambassador S. Jaishankar told The Hindu. “And building a brand is not a political issue. Economic ties are one part of it, but it is important for us to have a cultural message, especially when there is a bias towards respecting [Indian] history and culture [here].”

Bollywood, however, is at the heart of this message, viewed by the Chinese as a global success story in soft power which China has not been able to match. In recent months, dance troupes have performed in 14 cities, from Beijing and Shanghai to Harbin, Changsha and Dali. The shows have been received positively, with some dance academies looking to tie up with Indian dance schools to bring over performers and teachers.

Rage among youth

Yoga, which has become a rage among young Chinese, is another example of how India is using the underlying Chinese reverence for Indian religiosity to push Indian culture.

The Indian government has agreed to set up its first yoga school in China, in Shanghai, tying up with the Shanghai Film and Art Academy.

Two more schools will be set up in Anji, Zhejiang province, and the ancient Silk Road capital of Xian, where Indian Buddhism first arrived in China. A yoga research centre will also be set up, in collaboration with Chinese hospitals and universities, in 2011.

This week, Liu Yi Yang, the first Chinese graduate of the National Institute of Yoga, New Delhi, held public demonstrations at the World Expo. Ms. Liu will help set up the first yoga academy in Shanghai, which will also train Chinese yoga instructors. In recent years, dozens of yoga schools have spawned across Beijing and Shanghai, but most do not have certified teachers.

“Chinese people love yoga, but unfortunately, in China, there are no good training schools or qualified teachers who know authentic Indian yoga,” she told The Hindu.

Mr. Jaishankar said he hoped that the campaign would exploit the long-ignored hunger in China for Indian culture, sourced from a fundamental awareness among many Chinese of civilisational linkages through Buddhism. But strained political relations, particularly from the 1960s to the 1980s, have long posed a barrier to either side exploring the Indian influence that runs through Chinese culture.

“As our relationship has become more natural, there is a potential for us now to send across a strong message,” he said. “The challenge we now face is getting this message across.”

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 11:40:06 AM |

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