Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Kumarajiva Expedition

The Expedition
Retracing Kumarajiva’s travels, the expedition will undertake a complete circuit of the Taklamakan desert in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China, travelling in a Landcruiser convoy over 6000 km and exploring the ancient cities, caves, crafts and flora on the Northern and Southern Silk Routes. This unique journey-- starting and finishing in Urumqi, China-- from 3 to 28 September 2010, coincides with 60 years of Sino-Indian diplomatic relations.
Kumarajiva was a Buddhist scholar (344-413 A.D.) whose father was Indian and whose mother was a Chinese princess from Kucha, Xinjiang. He studied both Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism and was renowned as 'the Great Translator' for his translations inter alia of the Diamond Sutra and the Lotus Sutra from Sanskrit into Chinese. He studied in Kashmir and then travelled the entire Silk Route from India to Yarkand and thereafter to Turfan and Dunhuang. Incidentally, the Diamond Sutra is the first ever complete printed work (Dunhuang 868 A.D.), well before Gutenberg’s invention in Europe.As a Buddhist, Kumarajiva was a universalist, venerated nature and was spiritual, but also a great traveler, scholar and diplomat. He learnt Chinese during a short spell in captivity, well enough to communicate and ultimately to translate, and rose to high office as Imperial Guru.
Expedition Theme and Purpose
The Silk Route symbolized globalization and universality at its earliest, and Kumarajiva likewise the spirit of learning, enquiry, brotherhood, goodwill and peace. Today, when India and China---two ancient civilizations—are reinventing themselves as modern and developing States, Kumarajiva’s example and values are particularly important. With India and China celebrating 60 years of diplomatic relations in 2010, the expedition is thus relevant and timely.
Kumarajiva Expedition Members
The 7 persons constituting the expedition team (details below) live in different parts of the world, and are highly regarded for their contributions in their own fields of endeavour. They are well-traveled global citizens united in the pursuit of the expedition mission.
  • Ravi Bhoothalingam: Psychologist, company director and former corporate CEO, with an abiding interest in China and High Asian civilizations. Knows Mandarin, and is deeply involved in Sino-Indian business and cultural initiatives.

  • Sushama Bhoothalingam: Linguist and practitioner in natural childbirth and geriatric care. Her main focus on the journey will be on women’s issues.

  • Jay Dehejia: Former high-powered telecommunications expert and global multinational senior executive, now active in social entrepreneurship and education.

  • Vidya Dehejia: Professor at Columbia University, New York and an authority of world repute on Indian art, art history and archaeology. A complete list of her publications and academic contributions is available on google.com.

  • Jenny Halsey: Having spent 25 years travelling the world as a UK Foreign Office wife, she was able to indulge her passion for garden design and botany –even in the deserts of Saudi Arabia--and looks forward to the Taklamakan.

  • Surjit Mansingh: Professor at the American University, Washington D.C. (formerly of the Indian Foreign Service and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi), she is a recognized authority on international politics and foreign relations.

  • Neeta Premchand: Paper has been her passion. She spent several weeks in Japan learning to make it and has since written a book, having visited almost every place where it was made by hand, except Khotan, now on the Expedition route.
The members on their return will make presentations and write articles in newspapers, magazines and learned journals, lecture and hold photographic and other exhibitions in prominent learned Societies and cultural organizations, and give TV and press interviews.
Every member undertakes to advance in his or her unique way, international understanding and knowledge through this special and unusual venture.
The Kumarajiva Expedition welcomes sponsorship, encouragement and support from those who share its goals. Particularly welcome would be assistance which will facilitate members in the following:(i) free entry to all major cultural relic sites in Xinjiang, and viewing of original sites and artifacts (rather than replicas);(ii) free photography therein;(iii) free access to reserved areas such as the Loulan mummies;(iv) access to media and TV.

Contact and further information
Ravi Bhoothalingam (Kumarajiva Expedition leader)
TeL: +91-124-2396448, (mobile): +91-9811112666

email: sush.ravi@gmail.com