Beijing: Pitching in strongly to rekindle close cultural ties between the two countries, India and China on Saturday invoked the spirit of the 1924 "epic journey" of Rabindranath Tagore, voted by Chinese as among 50 foreigners who contributed most in shaping China's modern development.

"Tagore was not only a great bosom friend of the Chinese civilisation, but also a very faithful friend of all Chinese people", Chen Haosu, President of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, (CPAFFC) said while addressing the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Tagore.

The official body delegated to create close links between China and foreign countries, CPAFFC organised a special event along with the Indian Embassy here to celebrate the life and times of Tagore that included a special mention of Tagore’s 50 day visit to China which left a profound impact.

During his visit, Tagore forged close intellectual relationship with a host of Chinese writers of that time advocating spiritual rejuvenation of Asia.

Tagore along with Jawaharlal Nehru was featured amongst the 50 foreigners who contributed most in shaping China's modern development in an opinion poll in 2009 to mark the 60th anniversary celebrations of China.

"Ancient China and India used to share a close relationship in history, but they became estranged in Tagore's time. However, Tagore's great humanitarianism, compassion and
kindness to Chinese people, the two countries have re-established an intimate and friendly relationship of cooperation soon afterwards", Chen said.

Recalling Tagore's prediction of Asia's rise, Chen said "Tagore called for the light on behalf of Asia in the age of darkness and now when the brightness comes, (India-China rise)
people must pay glorious tribute to great emissary of light".

Highlighting Tagore's link for India-China cultural relations, Indian Ambassador to Beijing, S Jaishankar said "Tagore can be regarded as the father figure of India-China cultural relations in the modern era".

Tagore established the first Sino-Indian cultural society and the Chinese department at the Visvabharati University in Bengal.

His work Gitanjali was translated way back in 1915, Jaishankar said.

"His visit to China in 1924 was an event of considerable significance, although it was not without controversies", he said, adding, "Today we are addressing the same issue that came up when Tagore visited China. The answers however are quite different from what the  Gurudev heard then from many Chinese intellectuals".

"The revival of Asian societies about which Tagore was so discerning is undeniable happening now. Its political and economic ramifications are, however, just beginning to be
felt. That can be hastened if Asian countries, particularly India and China work more closely to advance their shared interests", Jaishankar said.

"We also need to overcome old mindsets that are rooted in less fortunate periods of our history. Building a strong India-China relationship would be the best tribute we could
pay to the founder of Cheena Bhavan in India," he said.

Bangladesh Ambassador to China, Munshi Faiz Ahmad also addressed the gathering saying that Tagore had the distinction of writing the national anthems for two countries, India and
Bangladesh.

Several artistes from China and India sang Tagore's songs and recited some of his famous poetic works.

(Agencies)