China-India Dialogue Series | An Indian Historian in Dunhuang: Romila Thapar’s Visit to China in 1957 - A dialogue between Romila Thapar, Tansen Sen, and Adhira Mangalagiri

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Event: China-India Dialogue Series | An Indian Historian in Dunhuang: Romila Thapar’s Visit to China in 1957 - A dialogue between Romila Thapar, Tansen Sen, and Adhira Mangalagiri 

Speakers: Romila Thapar, Tansen Sen, and Adhira Mangalagiri 

Venue: Hosted via Zoom

Date & Time:

2021-10-20 | 19:30-21:00 (Shanghai)

2021-10-20 | 7:30-9:00 (New York)

2021-10-20 | 15:30-17:00 (Abu Dhabi)

2021-10-20 | 17:00-18:30 (New Delhi)


This event is co-hosted by the Center for Global Asia, NYU Shanghai, the India China Institute at the New School, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore 

Event Introduction:

In 1957, renowned Indian historian Romila Thapar visited China, where, together with Sri Lankan art historian Anil de Silva, she worked at two cave sites that were the locations of Buddhist monasteries and shrines from the first millennium CE. The first site was the then lesser known Maijishan in north China, and the second was the famous site of Dunhuang on the edge of the Gobi desert in Northwest China. Now, decades later, she is supplementing the academic work that emerged from that trip with a captivating travelogue: Gazing Eastward takes readers back to midcentury China, through the observations that Thapar made in her diary during her time at the two archaeological sites and her trips there and to other sites. Traveling by train or truck, Thapar met people from throughout the country and all stations in society, from peasants on a cooperative farm to Chairman Mao himself. An enchanting document of a long-lost era, Gazing Eastward is a marvel, a richly observed work of travel writing that brings a time and a place fully to life.


Romila Thapar is an emeritus professor of history at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and she was previously general president of the Indian History Congress. She is a fellow of the British Academy and holds honorary doctorates from Universities of Calcutta, Oxford University and the University of Chicago, among others. She is an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and SOAS, London. In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious Kluge Prize from the Library of Congress.

Tansen Sen is Professor of history; the Director of the Center for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai; and Global Network Professor at NYU. He is the author of Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (2003; 2016) and India, China, and the World: A Connected History (2017). He has co-authored (with Victor H. Mair) Traditional China in Asian and World History (2012), edited Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Cultural and Intellectual Exchange (2014), and co-edited (with Burkhard Schnepel) Travelling Pasts: The Politics of Cultural Heritage in the Indian Ocean World (2019) and (with Brian Tsui) Beyond Pan-Asianism: Connecting China and India, 1840s–1960s (2021). He is currently working on a book about Zheng He’s maritime expeditions in the early fifteenth century, a monograph on Jawaharlal Nehru and China, and co-editing (with Engseng Ho) the Cambridge History of the Indian Ocean, volume 1.

Adhira Mangalagiri

Lecturer in Comparative Literature, Queen Mary University of London

Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Global Asia, NYU Shanghai

My primary area of expertise lies in modern Chinese literature (early- and mid-twentieth centuries). I specialize secondarily in Hindi and Urdu literatures. My research explores intersections between the Chinese and Indian literary spheres during the modern period. I study China-India literary comparison both in terms of contact (the overlapping paths of texts, people, and objects across the national borders), and in terms of contingency (comparative paradigms that bring Chinese and Indian texts together in the absence of material contact).


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