Cultural exhibits become focal point, Masterpieces and famous authors receive attention.
Global times special correspondent in India: Zou Song
“I like this flavour, which tea is this? How much is one pack?” asks an elderly Indian eagerly, squeezing himself through the crowd in front of the “Chinese Tea Culture” booth. He was holding an empty paper tea cup and was asking about its contents he had just drunk. When told it was a free sample pouch, the man excitedly says: “very good, get me two more packets”. This talk on tea is not coming from some sales exhibition of agricultural products, but from a corner of the Chinese pavilion at the 9 day long New Delhi World Book Fair, which opened on Jan 9. The Chinese book exhibition halls and the folk music live performance areas are also equally lively. Indian readers, reporters and even security guards are all crowding in front of the exhibition booths to have a glimpse of the Giant Panda, to watch the Oriental charm.
“Launched in 1972, the New Delhi Book Fair is not only India’s largest but one of East Asia’s most important book fair. This is the first time China is participating as a Guest of Honour. We have been preparing for it for the past 3 years” says Mr. Xiao Guanglu of the China National Publishing Import and Export Corporation, who is one of the persons in charge of the Chinese Pavilion of the current exhibition, to the “Global Times” reporter. “Because it is a common man’s exhibition, we have not only brought fine works of literature from China but also have invited the most famous Chinese authors to conduct cultural exhibitions with striking Chinese characteristics, with the aim of letting the Indian people experience the charm of Chinese culture”.
“Dian Hong, Jin Jun Mei, Jiu Qu Hong Mei,…..,how come everything is black tea? “ To this puzzled question from the reporter, a Chinese, wearing a tea costume and busy preparing tea for the Indian guests explained: “We do promote all the six major types of Chinese tea, but truly the most popular one is the Black Tea, may be because the Indian people like drinking black tea”. This explanation is endorsed by Sangir Shinde, a teacher from Orissa. He tells the reporter: “Indian black tea from Darjeeling and Assam is exported to all over the world, but this is the first time I have tasted Chinese black tea. It is really tasty, the only difference is that we Indians often add milk and sugar to the tea”.
The tea may be very similar but the cuisine is certainly not. Many a time, this reporter has tasted the so called “Chinese food” at many different places, but the taste comes nowhere near to deserving a compliment. Can Indians prepare authentic Chinese food? The culinary books section of the Chinese pavilion becomes the focal point. Mr. Ajay Mago, publisher of Om Books International, which is introducing the Chinese cookbook “The Chinese Flavour- Western cuisine Sichuan cooking” to the Indian market says: Sichuan cuisine is representative of the Chinese food. Indians also equally love spicy dishes, so these kind of books will certainly be widely read”. In return, Om books International is giving rights to the Chinese side for publication of “Power of Yoga: Indian Master teaches you Yoga” “This book is authored by the contemporary Indian Yoga exponent, Yamini Muthanna. We hope it will become the best Yoga teaching material in China”.
Compared with Om Books International, with a history of more than 60 years and having published many Chinese books including “Three Sisters” by Bi Feiyu, Mr. Antony, the publisher of D.C Books from the southern Indian state of Kerala, is not very confident about publishing Chinese books. “China and India yearn for understanding each other’s culture, but as far as India is concerned, we have so many different languages, we use Malayalam in Kerala, and it is very difficult to find a suitable translator. Though many Indians can speak English, but people who can read and understand English newspapers are not more than 5 %”.
If we say the written word is abstruse, may be then pictures, sounds and images could convey things more directly. This year’s Book Fair’s Guest of Honour China’s 1200 sq. meter pavilion is mostly occupied by its “China-India Cultural Contacts Photo Exhibition”. This exhibition is based on the book “The encyclopedia of China- India cultural exchanges” which was jointly compiled by scholars from both countries in 2014. From the Qin-Han period to the present, more than 2000 years of cultural exchanges between the two countries in every field is presented audio-visually through 135 carefully selected entries and more than 300 pictures.
Among the books promoted by this year’s Guest of Honour country, China, one class of book in which readers from both the countries show interest is “biographies of leaders” of both the countries. For example: the English edition of “Approachable- Xi Jinping’s Power of Language”, Chinese edition of “Grassroots Prime Minister-Modi” etc. Besides, books on Chinese economic development like “China Dream: History, Comparison and Reality”, ”Study on ”Chinese Model” : An analysis of the path of Chinese economic development”, “The basic route of China’s peaceful development” are also well received. Noted Sinologist and professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Priyadasi Mukherji says: “These kind of political books may seem comparatively far from the reader, but in fact they also are well received, especially among some Indian scholars who wish to research China. They need to learn about the experience of China through such books.”
Masterpieces and fine works of literature were well received among the Indian readers, but the writers and poets from China were even more sought after. A nine member celebrity team from the field of literature including Liu Zhenyun, Mai Jia, Cao Wenxuan, Shu Ting and Xi Chuan visited India along with the delegation. They eamined issues relating to localization (regionalisation?) of creative works in literature and differences in world literature at the China- India writers’ interaction. If you say these kind of interactions generally have an “official air” to them, then the China- India poets meet, on the other hand, revealed a deep literary mood. In the meet, the Indian sinologist Prof. Mukherjee recited his poem titled “National flag” in Chinese, English and Hindi. “Why select this poem?” To this question, Prof. Mukherjee replied: “People of both China and India have very deep patriotic feelings, I don’t wish it to be expressed too consciously, sharing it using the medium of poetry is a better option”. Mai Jia who has a reputation as the “father of Chinese detective/espionage fiction” had brought along the English edition of his novel “Decoded”. Because of the language barrier, a Chinese writer’s works need to depend not only on their strength but also on opportunity (when they wish to reach out to the world). Sometimes the encounter between a translator and the writing is a mere coincidence”, lamented Mai Jia while sharing his experience in creative writing with Indian readers. Mai Jia’s works have been translated into more than 30 languages and are on sale all over the world. May be the New Delhi Book Fair will pave the way for a chance encounter between an Indian “Bo Le” and Chinese works of literature.
(N.B. Translator’s Note: Bo Le” was a famous horse tamer in the Spring and Autumn period. He was known as a connoisseur of horses and very good at spotting excellent horses. So “Bo Le” is used figuratively to describe a person who is good at spotting talent or is a good judge of talent.)