Xu Fancheng, the key man in cultural exchanges between India and China
Pondicherry in fact has played a prominent role in cultural exchanges between India and China in modern times. This is due to the influence of the Chinese scholar, who lived in Pondicherry for 27 years. His name was Xu Fancheng, also called the "Modern Xuanzang".
Xu Fancheng was born in Changsha, Hunan province, on 26th October 1909. As a child he studied classical Chinese. In 1929 he went to Germany to study the History of Art at Heidelberg University. He also practiced wood engraving there and became the first Chinese artist of the new style wood engraving. He came back to China in 1932, and encouraged by Luxun (one of the most famous writers of modern China), he started to translate the works of Nietzsche from German into Chinese, and became the first expert of Nietzsche's philosophy in China.
At the end of 1945, he joined the cultural exchange program between India and China, taught in Rabindranath Tagore International University. But the exchange program was cut short after the fall of the Nationalist Government in China, and so he went to Varanasi, the Indian holy city to relearn Sanskirt.
In 1951, he arrived at the Sri Aurobindo Ashramin Pondicherry, in the south of India. He lived there for 27years and plunged himself into teaching, translating, writing, and the practice of yoga.
He translate several Indian classics, as also the major works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He thus became the only person in China who had studied thoroughly the ancient Vedantic, and the mordern philosophy of India. He returned to mainland China in 1978 and worked as a researcher in the Department of Religion in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, until passed away on 6th March, 2000,at Beijing itself.
Xu Fancheng is a master of classical Chinese poetry, calligraphy, sculpture, and painting, had also mastered 8 ancient and modern languages, and was a great scholar of Chinese, Western, and Indian cultures.
For 33 years, Xu Fancheng led a peaceful, humble life in India. He studied and translate classical and modern Indian texts, including the Bhagaved Gita, 50 verses of the Upanishads and the major works of Sri Aurobindo, including Life Divine, and The Mother, who was a close personal friend.
And the Mother, who was one of Xu Fancheng's masters, wrote thus about him "... a scholar who is at once an artist and a yogi."