Beijing: Poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore was on Thursday described as the "prophet of Asia's revival' at a global meet here to mark the 150th birth anniversary of the Nobel laureate and discuss his achievements, life and work.

"At a time when it is fashionable to talk of a shift of power towards Asia, we might do well to remember Tagore as the prophet of Asia’s revival," said S Jaishankar, the Indian Ambassador to China.

Addressing the conference jointly organised by India and China at Peking University, he said many of Tagore’s speeches and activities "were devoted to the very subject that is in the minds of policy makers and intelligentsia now: the distinction between modernisation and the westernisation".

The envoy said Tagore would "surely see in 'development with Chinese characteristics', the validation of many of his arguments".

Tagore, one of the most revered Indian literary figures by Chinese readers, visited Shanghai three times between 1924 to 1929 besides Beijing, Nanjing and Hangzhou.

Through his visits, the Nobel laureate made extensive contacts with many influential figures of China's literary circles and delivered a number of speeches and exercising far reaching influence on China's literary horizon.

But his one Asia concept, advocating a more cohesive political union among Asian countries came in for criticism from left wing thinkers in China at that time.

Jaishankar said Tagore's emphasis on Asian societies retaining their distinctive cultural traits was a subject of some controversy when he came to China.

"The world in transition requires not just new power groupings. It also needs alternative socio-cultural and philosophical constructs. Drawing on Tagore’s vast legacy will be greatly helpful to that process," he underlined.

He also described Tagore as symbol of India-China cultural relations.

Tagore made immense contribution in a very difficult geopolitical context to connect the intellectuals of both the countries, Jaishankar said, adding that his encouragement to teaching of Chinese language and propagation of Chinese culture in India was noteworthy.

"We must appreciate that in our current situation where inadequacies in people-to-people contacts have imposed consTRAInts on the development of our ties, I am sure that some of our new initiatives, such as India-China cultural contacts encyclopaedia or teaching Chinese language in Indian middle schools would surely have Gurudev’s blessings," the envoy noted.

Born on May 7, 1861, Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for his poetry anthology Gitanjali. Tagore's works are widely translated into Chinese, with many scholars learning Bengali to study his works.

Tagore, who became Asia's first Nobel laureate, had much admiration for China. One can find numerous references to China in his work, signs of his curiosity for the Middle Kingdom.

In 2006, the People's Daily elected Tagore as one of the 50 foreign personalities who have influenced modern Chinese thinking.

Noted Indian and Chinese scholars took part in the conference organised by the Indian embassy here in collaboration with Peking University to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Nobel Prize-winning poet.

Agencies