As a rare honour to the famed poet who enjoys iconic status even among several generations of Chinese people, China has released the first ever Chinese translations of the collective works of the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. This is for the first time translation into Chinese, happened directly from the Bengali language.
In all 33 volumes containing around 16 million words covering the poetry, essays, novels and drama sections of the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's collective works were released ahead of his 155th birth anniversary at the China Radio International (CRI).
The CRI broadcasts in Bengali language besides host of Indian and other international languages as diplomats from India and Bangladesh also attended the function. Eighteen Bengali scholars from CRI, state-run Xinhua news agency, Chinese foreign ministry, Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and the Central Communist Party School worked on a five-year project to complete it.
Considering his massive popularity, the Guru’s (as he is widely known as) works have earlier been extensively translated in China mostly from English translations, however this is for the first time his entire works barring few songs are translated into Chinese directly from the original work i.e. from Bengali language.
The translation team reportedly faced several difficulties in translation because there was no Chinese to Bengali language dictionary. "Previously his works were translated from English but this is the first time his works were directly translated from Bengali to Chinese. Problems came with many Sanskrit words," one of the lead translator said. Most of the translation help was reportedly taken from the Bengali experts from Bangladesh while no assistance was sought from India.
"'The Complete Works of Tagore' is of great significance for the researches concerning works of Rabindranath Tagore and south Asian culture in China," said chief translator Dong You Chen who studied Bengali in Russia's Leningrad University in 1960s.
The Indian Nobel laureate, who had visited China thrice in his lifetime, has a dedicated following in the dragon country with several reportedly even devoting their lives to learn Bengali and English languages to translate his works.
Tagore also became popular in China because he took a firm stand against the use of opium among Chinese encouraged by the western powers. Some even regard him as the second best-known Indian figure in China, after Gautam Buddha (or the Sakyamuni, as Buddha is referred to in China).
In the Chinese literature world, the only comparable foreign writer who is equally famous is Shakespeare whose, 400th anniversary falls this year.