Assistant Professor at the Chinese department of Central University of Gujarat, young sinologist and translator. Prabhat Kumar has studied Chinese in JNU, India, and was awarded government scholarship to further enhance his language skills in BFSU, China. He has participated in Indian Youth Delegation to China and worked in government bodies and private enterprises as a translator. He has six years’ experience in teaching Chinese Language, literature, culture, Chinese-English and Chinese-Hindi translation. Driven by passion for scholarly research, he has presented papers on various national and international platforms. Currently, he is translating novel Midnight by Chinese writer Mao Dun into Hindi language under the translation project of Indian and Chinese government.
Q1 How did you start to get interested in Chinese culture?
Besides being the largest neighboring country of India, China is all along a place of glorious mystic traditional culture. India shares longest territorial boundary with China and has old historical exchanges through Buddhism and trades of Silk Road. I grew up listening to the names of great Chinese traveler monk Fa Xian and Xuan Zang and their journey to Patliputra (presently the capital city of my home province Bihar) and then to world famous Nalanda University (which is also situated in my home province Bihar).
In Hindi, my mother tongue, Chinese is called as “Chini”, and the word "chini" in Hindi is used for white sugar. So, whenever sugar was added to my glass of milk, I was intrigued by the thought of it being called as “Chini ”, which represented China. Thus, my childhood was preoccupied with the presence of China. Later, when I started learning Chinese and read works of Ji Xianlin, I came to know that the technology of making white sugar in India possibly travelled from China. Another form of my association with China was through Chinese movies showing marital arts.
Q2 How did you decide to make studying on Chinese culture your life-long career?
Chinese, although one of the toughest languages of the world, is a fascinating language which attracts people with its pictographic nature and tonal rhythm. Moreover, remarkable and robust economic growth of China in early 21st century, as well as increasing economic and trade between India and China attracted many young students like me to study Chinese which was providing good job prospects.
After exploring the prospects of studying the language, I enrolled for bachelor of arts in Jawahrlal Nehru University, New Delhi - one of the most premier institutes of the country - to study Chinese language, literature and culture. I also completed my master of arts from the same institute.
I was happy that I choose to learn Chinese not only because it gave good work prospects but also it was unique in sense of profession with comparison to others. After the completion of my B.A., I was awarded government scholarship to go to China to study one year of advanced Chinese as an exchange student in the year of 2007 to 2008. I was also awarded gold medal for my good academic performance in M.A. in 2011.
Subsequently, I passed national eligibility test for lectureship (a pan-India national test conducted by the government department of education ministry for appointment of the university teacher) and appointed as Assistant Professor in the Chinese department of Central University of Gujarat in the western part of India in 2012. I was the first teacher who was recruited to build the Chinese department of the university and start B.A. and M.A. program in Chinese. It is the only center for learning Chinese in western and southern part of India. It offers integrated five-year course of B.A. and M.A. in Chinese language and culture. I am thrilled to share that it has now also emerged as one of the excellent Centers for Chinese learning in India after hard works of all concerned.
Q3 How did you objectively show the readers the real Chinese culture and China’s change and development in recent years？
My association with the Chinese language and culture is now a decade old and I have been involved with regular translation work for government bodies and private companies. However, first translation of a Chinese novel started with the translation ofMidnight by famous writer “Mao Dun” under joint translation project of Indian and Chinese government. Prior to this, I also worked as a cultural consultant for the translation work of English biography of current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi into Chinese language.
The translation work itself represents and reflects the cultural aspects and social reality as reflected in the original Chinese works. However, interaction and experience with Chinese culture, society and people during each stay in China enormously helps me to apprehend and understand Chinese cultural connotation as well as social, economic living standard and life style of people already represented in the original work, and greatly shape my viewpoints about representation of same in translation and other academic works.
Q4 In terms of your current research, do you find any difficulties?
China is a vast country. It is not easy to understand her language, literature, culture and people’s living pattern of different regions in a short period of time. Lack of often interactions and exchanges of scholars, exposure to continuous changes in society and culture of urban as well as rural area are a few challenges need to be addressed. As far as my personal academic research work is concerned, I am currently working on area of overseas Chinese, but facing difficulties in finding various data related to the same.
Q5 Do you find any challenges in the cultural collaboration between China and other countries?
Translation and publication of Chinese works in other languages face lack of promotion, copyright issues, unwillingness of local publishers, less availability of good translators and sometimes coldness from the government bodies. I have met a few translators who don’t even understand the cultural connotations and social background of China but they are active translators. Translation and publication of Chinese works as well as promotion of language and culture learning need to be supported by the government through diplomatic channels. Joint project of translation and publication between two governments can promote, accelerate and strengthen this task. Ministry of Culture of China is doing tremendous work in this area by organizing such translators meet and other academic activities.
Q6 With the cultural collaboration between China and other countries is getting closer, what challenges and difficulties will they confront together?
Belt and Road Initiative under mutually agreed framework between governments, will bring many opportunities in cultural cooperation and people to people contact which is essential for fruitful gain of globalization. President Xi Jinping and his vision for Belt and Road Initiative is a great opportunity for China and India- two largest population of the world and also fastest developing economies, to gain from this global strategic vision to foster ancient civilization linkages in a new paradigm. Revisit of ancient Buddhist relics in the countries along ancient Silk road and making it center of cultural cultivation through establishing Buddhist tourist circuit in countries will foster solidarity, and it is a great opportunity to create new Asian age. Government’s commitment, mutual trust, role of media, people’s perception, role of politics are core challenges when we talk about this cultural cooperation through Belt and Road Initiative.