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Taiwan turns to Mahatma Gandhi to cement cultural ties with India

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Taiwan is hosting an exhibition to mark Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. On display at the venue is also information on India’s cultural and heritage sites.

Taipei: The words ‘love and peace’ greet visitors at the entrance of a wine factory refurbished into an exhibition hall. Inside, there are audio-visual displays on Mahatma Gandhi’s life, the different types of charkhas (spinning wheels) that he used as well as a replica of Gandhi Smriti (formerly called Birla House) in Delhi where Bapu was assassinated.

It would have been just another exhibition to mark Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, except, this one is in Taiwan.

Organised for the first time in the region by the Taiwanese government, the exhibition is an attempt to bring India and Taiwan culturally closer even as the two regions do not share formal diplomatic relations.

Besides portraying Gandhi’s life and ideology, the Taiwanese government has also displayed information on India’s various cultural and heritage sites in the exhibition.

“We hope, through this exhibition, Taiwanese can know more about India. After visiting the exhibition, we hope the audiences would be influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s life and his faith,” Shy Gwo-long, director-general of the Bureau of Cultural Heritage at Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture, told ThePrint.

“In addition, we hope they would be impressed by the magnificent Indian heritage. In fact, (we hope) many people show interest in visiting India in the future to know more about India and understand the life of Indians,” the official added.

Also read: Taiwan looks to India for stronger economic ties as it hopes to cut dependence on China

Gandhi in Taiwan

The exhibition, being held at the Cultural Heritage Park in Taichung, a city in the central part of Taiwan, was inaugurated on Gandhi Jayanti (2 October).

It is supported by the National Gandhi Museum in India, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, ICOMOS India, Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre in India, the India Museum in Taiwan and the Department of East Asian Studies of National Taiwan Normal University.

A Taiwanese team visited India before the exhibition to select artifacts and plan displays.

Until 9 October, a week since its inauguration, a total of 1,176 people in Taiwan had visited the special exhibition.

Inside the exhibit | Manasi Phadke/ThePrint
Inside the exhibit | Manasi Phadke/ThePrint

The displays give information about Gandhi’s life, his contribution to the Indian freedom struggle, information on his stay in South Africa, replicas of different types of charkhas, displays of the songs associated with the Indian freedom struggle, a replica of his house and the compound of the Birla House in Delhi where he was shot dead.

A number of displays were brought to Taiwan for the exhibition from the Gandhi Smriti Museum in Delhi.

There is also a section giving information about the different cultural and heritage sites of India, its classical and folk dance forms and a separate section of about 18 potential heritage sites from Taiwan.

The visitors are led out of the museum through a makeshift auditorium where the Taiwanese government has been playing Bollywood movies, with Mandarin subtitles, related to Gandhi and the Indian freedom struggle.

Students visit the exhibit | Taiwanese culture ministry
Students visit the exhibit | Taiwanese culture ministry

Officials from the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture at the exhibition venue said a large number of the visitors so far have been students from Taiwan’s schools and colleges.

Relations between India and Taiwan

Taiwan has been actively trying to cement its ties with South East Asian and South Asian countries, especially India, at a time when China has been hardening its stance on the country.

China considers Taiwan as its breakaway province and insists on a one-China policy although Taiwan is governed by a separate administration and has its own president.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has launched a ‘New Southbound Policy’ to get economically and culturally closer with countries in South East Asia, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

India and Taiwan too have been warming up to each other since President Tsai took charge in May 2016 with the two sides having signed at least five bilateral agreements cooperation across sectors such as agriculture, trade and mountain heritage railways among others.

(The reporter is in Taipei at the invitation of the Taiwanese government)

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