My first visit to Gandhiji: Tan Yun-Shan (including Gandhi's first letter to China)

Edited by Tan Chung

The text of the entire book is available here:

My first visit to Gandhiji: Tan Yun-Shan

The editor of the book, TAN CHUNG is an Indian Citizen of Chinese descent born in Malaya in 1929, having lived first, in China for 23 years, and then in India for 44 years till date. He stepped into the shoes of his illustrious father, Prof. Tan Yun-shan (1898-1983) of Shantiniketan - a pioneer of Chinese studies in India and Sino-Indian studies- and contributed to the building up of the Chinese studies programmes in Delhi University and Jawarharlal Nehru University from 1964 up till 1994 when he finally retired from JNU as Professor of Chinese. 

He has been a Consultant of IGNCA from 1989 onwards to help develop its East Asian Programme. He has authored many books, among which, China and the Brave New World and also Triton and Dragon (a Gyan Publication) are text books for history courses in Indian and foreign universities. In 2010, he was awarded the Padma BhushanA conference in his honor, at the occasion of his 80th birthday, was held in New Delhi in December 2008

Extract from the article: By the time we had already come to the place where the car was waiting the - place was surrounded by hundreds of people including men and women, old, young and children. They gathered together there simply for a darshan of the Mahatma. When they saw Gandhiji, they shouted in one voice " Mahatmaji Ki Jai!" Then they made Pranama to him and took the dust of his feet. The men offered him money, some with big notes, some with a few rupees, some with a few annas. The women offered him yarn spun by themselves, and children gave flowers. Similar incidents occurred at several places on the way and it took us quite a long time to reach the venue of the meeting. 

I was deeply moved by the scenes. I bad never seen such a thing before a simple man with no authority behind him having such great influence over his people and held in such profound reverence by them. I was reminded of the Chinese sage Mencius' saying: " A man who influences people with virtue gets the heart of people:' Also I remembered the saying of the great Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu. "The more one does for others, the more the other will do for him; the more one gives to others, the more the others will give to him." These words uttered by the Chinese sage and philosopher more than two thousand years ago were proved by Gandhiji that day. The meeting lasted for about two hours and we returned to the Ashram late in the night.

The next day was Gandhiji's silence day. Although he did not speak, he worked as usual. His programme had been suddenly changed by some urgent important affairs. He had to go to Surat in the afternoon. I too, therefore, prepared to leave Bardoli. I saw him once again in the morning and requested him to bless the Chinese students with a message. He answered me in writing saying that he would send me the message and his reply to the Dalai Lama after some time and asked me to give my Calcutta address to him. He also asked me to go by the same train if I were so prepared, for I had to change my train again at Surat for Bombay.

We left Bardoli at 5-45 p.m. and arrived at Surat about one and a half hours later. The station was already flooded with thousands of people. They shouted at the arrival of Gandhiji Some local leaders of the Congress came up to the train to receive him. But Gandhiji was still observing silence. He answered the continuously thunderous hail of the people and returned greetings to the leaders with a smiling face and folded hands. I intended to take leave at this juncture, but those friends very affectionately asked me to go to their place with Gandhiji for a while and told me that there was still ample time for me to get my train for Bombay. So I went with them. Such was the rush of visitors that we could hardly get out of the station.

I stayed there for about two hours and had dinner with them. After that, Sri. Devadas and two other friends took me round the ancient city of Surat and accompanied me to the station. Before leaving, I again paid Gandhiji my profoundest salutation and adoration, and asked him: "May I take your leave and say good-bye to you know !" He grasped my hands, nodded, smiled and looked at me just as a father grasping the hands of his child. I almost wept at his boundless Maitri and Karuna, and felt great sadness at leaving him. All friends there said in one voice: "you must come again", and I bade them all "Farewell !"

After touring through Bombay and Madras, I came back to Calcutta on 6th May, 1931. Gandhiji's message to the Chinese students along with his reply to His Holiness, the late Dalai Lama, had already reached my Calcutta address. His reply to the late Dalai Lama was really written in Gujrati with his own hand as he had said at Bardoli, but his message to the Chinese students, which was attached in a short letter addressed to me, was in English and this also with his own hand. I posted the Gujrati letter to His Holiness, the late Dalai Lama, without knowing the contents. I took the other message to China, which was widely published in almost all the important Chinese journals and was appreciated, not only by the students, but by the whole people of my country. This was his first message to China.

I quote this message below, not only as a loving memory of my first meeting with Gandhiji but as an emblem of the long, great and intimate friendship which started two thousand years ago and will continue for ever between China and India :-

Dear Friend,
You must come again whenever you like. My message to the Chinese students is:- 
Know that the deliverance of China is through Ahimsa pure and unadulterated.
Yours sincerely,

M.K. Gandhi
As at Sabarmati. 4-5-31

See also:
Glory Days, or remembering how Indians love(d) China

Popular posts from this blog

Third degree torture used on Maruti workers: Rights body

Haruki Murakami: On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning

The Almond Trees by Albert Camus (1940)

Satyagraha - An answer to modern nihilism

Rudyard Kipling: critical essay by George Orwell (1942)

Three Versions of Judas: Jorge Luis Borges

Goodbye Sadiq al-Azm, lone Syrian Marxist against the Assad regime