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China celebrates Tagore, releases his works in Chinese

world Updated: May 17, 2012 23:27 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Professor Bai Kai Yuan has translated 17000 lines of Rabindranth Tagore’s poems, essays and novels in Chinese. It's probably a first but the translation was never about the number of words or lines: it was because of his love for Tagore and because "he is so jaunopriyo (popular) in China," Bai said in Bengali.

On Thursday, another first was added to his impressive repertoire: a collection of 50 of Tagore's songs translated in Chinese was released at a function in Beijing. While Bai translated the lyrics, the music score was changed into Chinese by Liu Yuening.

This new book of lyrics with scores comes within months of Tagore's play Chitrangada being staged in Chinese at Lanzhou University in northwest China.

Both Bai and Liu have had a long and close relationship with Indian culture and literature.

In fact, Liu in 2009 was the first Chinese musician to participate in concerts in 10 Indian cities either solo or along with other Indian musicians. She's credited with creating a unique Indo-China music style using the musical instrument, santoor.

Talking about Tagore, Bai said the poet’s work in Chinese could make his works more popular in China.

Currently, he said Tagore and the famous Russian poet and playwright, Alexander Pushkin, are two foreign authors mandatory for senior students in government-run schools.

Thursday’s function was in fact marked by students of Bengali from the Communication University of China singing the Indian poet's

Guo Shulan, from the Central Conservatory of Music, said songs are very important part of Tagore's body of work.

"But till now his songs were not very well known to the Chinese people," she said adding that the new translations could change that.

Indian ambassador S Jaishankar called it an impressive effort, completed with dedication and effort.

For Bai and many of his young collaborators, the work continues.

"We are now translating the complete works of Tagore which comes 18 volumes. We have been working on it, and hope that the book in Chinese can be published by 2016," Bai said.

Clearly, there are more lines to be crossed.