Buddhism, which spread from India to China 2,000 years ago, will play a new role in cementing Sino-Indian friendship and enhancing cultural contacts, China's top religious official has said.
"We believe that Buddhism played important role in the process of the communication between the two countries and people from the two countries, such role is continuing to function, and will function well in the future," Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Ye Xiaowen said ahead of his visit to India.
Ye is heading a high-level Chinese delegation of over 100 Buddhist monks and senior officials, who will take part in the formal inauguration of the Xuanzang Memorial Hall in Nalanda on February 12. The Chinese government has undertaken the restoration work of the memorial hall.
Ye's administration oversees Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam in the atheist country which only allows state-sanctioned religious institutions.
On the significance of religion and culture in communication between China and India, Ye pointed out that the Joint Declaration issued by the two governments in New Delhi on November 21, 2006 during Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit, has clearly stated it.
"The centuries-old cultural contacts between the two peoples provide a strong foundation for enduring friendship between India and China. The initiatives to rediscover these historical linkages and revitalise them in the present day context, including through an early completion of the Xuanzang Memorial in Nalanda and the Indian-style Buddhist Shrine in Luoyang, will further strengthen these bonds," he said.