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Did maritime museum inspire Chinese prez Xi Jinping’s new silk route dream?

world Updated: Sep 13, 2014 02:32 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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President Xi Jinping’s grand idea of reviving the ancient maritime silk route — touching countries via a sea trade route as far as India and beyond — could have well come to him during his visits to the Quanzhou Maritime Museum during his long tenure in the Fujian province.

Besides showcasing hundreds of multi-cultural and multi-religious artefacts brought to the city by sea-faring traders centuries ago, the unassuming museum boasts a rare, historical connection with India – it displays nearly 200 carvings, sculptures and remnants from a Hindu temple built a thousand years ago.

During his Fujian tenure between 1985 and 2002, Xi visited the temple and could take time to go over the exhibits and ask about details from the museum curators.

“President Xi learnt a lot about China’s maritime history in Fujian. There could definitely be a connection (between his study of the maritime history and his idea of a modern sea silk route),” Wang Liming, the present curator, said on Friday, adding that under him, the museum got millions in government grants.

The remnants of the Hindu temple were unearthed during the middle of last century and subsequently preserved in the museum.

It is evidence, according to Wang, that traders from southern India frequented Quanzhou — now designated as the starting port for the ancient maritime route — a hub for traders from Asia and Africa during the 12th and 13th centuries Officials in Fuzhou, the provincial capital, talked animatedly on Thursday about the old India connection are very enthused with the idea of the sea route.

They felt that there was a lot to explore and expand business and trade cooperation with India; they expect Xi to bring up the topic of the maritime silk route with PM Narendra Modi during his India visit next week.

India is waiting for clearer details about Xi’s project.

India of course would be wary about the strategic objectives of the plan, especially as China has approached both Sri Lanka and Maldives to be part of it.