Proponents of Sino-India bilateral ties strengthening are pushing for yoga and tai-chi diplomacy to better relations between the two nations. Just like the US, used ping-pong diplomacy in the 1970’s, to improve US-China relations, advocates suggest using soft power to woo the sweet and sour neighbors.
Indian people believe that the Ganges is a river from Heaven to Earth, and in China there is a similar verse that “the water of the Yellow River flows down from Heaven”. Tai Chi, calligraphy and tea art of China and Yoga, music and dances of India are all treasures of our traditional culture. Although of different cultural forms, they all give expression to the beauty of nature, harmony and inclusiveness, Premier Wen Jiabao, had said to an Indian youth delegation in September, this year.
While the ancient art of Tai chi which works on the principles of balancing your inner yin and yang to create a supreme ultimate state is still to find a big audience in India, Yoga has become very popular in China. Yoga centers taught by Indians and Chinese alike have sprung up across China and are increasingly popular with a generation that is still trying to find its roots, deal with the immense materialism that has hit China and yet stay calm and composed admist the escalating tensions, work stress and the burden of living in a large city. Yoga centers specializing in various types of the ancient yogic art help young Chinese mediate and balance their inner energies, while getting a work out and remaining free of religious practices, a concept still foreign in China.
Leading the “Yoga brigade” is Yin Yan, former Editor in Chief of the Chinese edition of the ELLE fashion magazine, who married Yogi Mohan, an Indian yoga exponent from Rishikesh and set up most lucrative centres called “Yogi Yoga” in China which have a turnover of US$ eight million per annum.
She described renowned Indian Yoga guru B K Iyengar as the Mao Zedong of Yoga in China for his aggressive marketing of Yoga all over the world, including China. Further, yoga enthusiasts turned up in huge numbers when Iyengar, 83, came on a maiden visit to China earlier in the year.
The popularity of yoga in China, is what has given birth to the idea that our two nations soft power should be harnessed and that the future should not be left solely in the hands of diplomacy. While music, dance and movies can help bridge the gap between China and India that already share so much of the essence of their soft powers, the ambit needs to be broadened to expose our people to a plethora of our cultures. If Tai Chi and Yoga can bring the two nations closer, then so be it!