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Wednesday Seminar | Panel Discussion: Centenary of Rabindranath Tagore's Visit to China | 8 May 2024 @ 3 PM IST | Zoom Webinar

08 May 2024
Uma Das Gupta, Amrit Sen, Sabaree Mitra
Venue: Zoom Webinar
Time: 3:00 PM

Rabindranath Tagore (1881-1941) the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, was also one of India’s most prolific travel writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, with nine travelogues that record his interactions with various cultures. Tagore’s idea of visva-bodh led him to theorize travel as a tirtha where a cosmopolitan exchange of cultures could take place. His visit to China in April 1924 marked a significant moment in India-China dialogues. Invited by the Beijing Literature Society, led by the prominent intellectual Liang Qichao, Tagore's presence sparked intellectual fervor and intense debate among Chinese intellectuals. Despite initial concerns about his influence, Tagore's philosophy garnered increasing interest over the 20th century, prompting a reassessment of his contributions to world literature among the Chinese populace.

The seminar brings out various facets related to Tagore's visit to China. In her presentation, Uma Dasgupta seeks to explore the connections and notions surrounding the considerable interest among Chinese intellectuals and literary circles well before Rabindranath Tagore visited China in April 1924, particularly since his Nobel Prize in 1913. Amrit Sen, in his presentation titled “The Unwritten Travelogue”: Rabindranath Tagore and China, examines why Tagore refused to write at length about his travels in China and America (with a more detailed look at the former), his objectives and also challenges the immediate and long term implications for Tagore and Visva-Bharati. The presentation by Sabaree Mitra traces the factors that contributed to the unfolding of a different consciousness about Tagore in China as there emerged a sizable body of translation and research, leading to Tagore Studies becoming an important component of Chinese scholarship on India.


About the Panelists

Uma Das Gupta, D.Phil., University of Oxford is a historian and Tagore biographer. She taught at Jadavpur University, Calcutta, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, and the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta, and Delhi. She was head of the United States Educational Foundation in India for the Eastern Region from 1984-1999. She was also Editorial Fellow, Centre for the Study of Civilizations, Govt. of India, Delhi, for the project on the ‘History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture’, 2005-08, and a National Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, 2012-14.

Amrit Sen is a Professor, former Head of the Department of English and former Director of the Publishing Department at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan. His research interests include eighteenth-century studies, travel writing, Tagore Studies, and the history of science. His recent publications are Sharing the Dream: The Remarkable Women of Santiniketan (Visva-Bharati, 2016) and The Scottish Enlightenment and the Bengal Renaissance: The Continuum of Ideas (Luath Press, Scotland, 2017).

Sabaree Mitra is a Professor of Chinese in Jawaharlal Nehru University and an Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi. Her teaching and research have spanned the fields of contemporary Chinese literature and criticism, Chinese cultural history, gender issues, India-China cultural relations and regional interaction. Her latest publication is, an edited volume titled China’s May Fourth Movement: New Narratives and Perspectives, published by Routledge in 2023. She has recently taken over as Editor of the ICS quarterly journal, China Report, now in its 60th year of publication.


About the Chair

Patricia Uberoi is an Emeritus Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), Delhi. She served as the Chairperson of the Institute of Chinese Studies from 2015-2021. Her research interests centre on aspects of family, kinship, gender, popular culture, and social policy with respect to both India and China. She is a co-author of The BCIM Forum and Regional Integration (Institute of Chinese Studies, 2012). At the ICS, she has been closely associated for several years with the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Forum for Regional Cooperation, a Track II dialogue focusing on development issues in the region stretching from Northeast India to Southwest China.


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