Ahead of the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong highlighted the close cultural exchange between the two ancient civilizations including similar pronunciations of everybody's beloved 'chai'.
"China and India are both ancient civilizations. We had brilliant culture in the history and also we are now the major developing countries in the world. China and India had a very close cultural exchange in the history although there are mountains...between us," Sun told here.
"Chinese papermaking, silk, porcelain and tea were brought to India. Even nowadays in Hindi, the tea is called chai but it's the same pronunciation in China because we also call tea as 'cha'. So that's really a similarity and shows that tea really came from China," he remarked.
The Chinese envoy also highlighted the cultural flow between the two countries, especially highlighting the rising trend of watching Bollywood films amongst Chinese youth.
"Also, India has shared its brilliant art to the Chinese people. For example, the singing and dancing, your architecture and your food - the spices and even the astronomy in the ancient Indian times. We benefit a lot from these cultural heritages," the diplomat said.
"Nowadays when we go to China we find that practising Yoga, drinking Indian Darjeeling tea and watching Bollywood movies have now become a fashion among the young Chinese people," he explained.
He also revealed that Bollywood star Aamir Khan is well known amongst Chinese youth. Khan's film '3 Idiots' paved way for his popularity in the People's Republic of China, leading to his subsequent movies smashing box office records for foreign films in the Asian country.
"Indian movie stars like Aamir Khan are very well known amongst Chinese youth. Chinese movie stars such as Jackie Chan are household names in India," he said.
The envoy also touched upon the love for Chinese cuisine in India while highlighting the close ties and similarities. "People in India enjoy acupuncture, martial arts and Chinese cuisine. I can find Chinese restaurants everywhere in India. So the two countries are getting closer and closer."
"The two countries have established 14 pairs of sister cities and provinces, with two-way personnel exchanges exceeding one million. There are 54 flights linking major cities of the two countries every week. I still remember, in the year 2001, China and India started the first direct flight...I do believe there should more direct flights between us to facilitate our people-to-people exchange," he added.
Sun also quoted the example of a Chinese scholar who had travelled to India during the time of the Tang dynasty.
"In India, whenever I met with an Indian friend, all of them know and they will talk about Xuanzang. He travelled to India during the Tang dynasty which was about 1,300 years ago and he brought back a large number of Buddhist scripts to China and translated into Chinese language. I think this is a great contribution to the cultural exchange between our two nations," he said.
"I can share another example with you that about 600 years ago, a famous Chinese admiral, Zheng He made seven voyages to the Indian Ocean and he stopped at India six times and even nowadays in Cochin, Kerala we still can find those porcelains brought from China by his fleet. And this year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It is also the 70th Republic Day of India," Sun added.
The envoy also highlighted that more than 20,000 Indian youth are studying in China, while over 2,000 young Chinese are studying in India. "Next year, the two sides will jointly hold a series of activities to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, pool more strength of our peoples, promote cultural exchanges and cooperation," he said.
"I think we are doing very important work to plant a tree of friendship between China and India. And I think the people-to-people exchange is the root to this big tree. The deeper the root is, the taller this tree will be. So I do hope more and more people from the two countries can come together to work for this great course of China-India friendship," the envoy also added.
"I can see a lot of similarities and complementaries between China and India. They are mutually reinforcing. Similarity enables us to better learn from each other, while only by complementing each other win-win cooperation can be achieved," he lastly said while speaking to .
The Ambassador spoke at length to about a wide gamut of India-China ties, including trade, investment, the boundary question, the outcomes of the Wuhan Summit and the people-to-people exchanges, to name a few. His comments come ahead of the second informal summit of Xi and Modi which is supposed to be held in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu this month.
( With inputs from ANI )