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China's first 'school of yoga' to be established in Kunming

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China will soon have its first university department dedicated specifically to the Indian discipline of yoga. Yunnan University of Nationalities (云南民族大学) in Kunming is finalizing plans for a new School of Yoga. Once opened later this year, it will promote cultural exchanges with the Subcontinent while instructing students in the philosophies and applications surrounding the practice of yoga.

The idea for a school of yoga was first broached in 2014 at the tenth annual Kunming to Kolkata Forum (K2K) held in the Spring City. At the convention, representatives from the governments of Yunnan and the Indian state of West Bengal discussed how to better promote relations between their two regions. Out of those deliberations grew the School of Yoga.

In addition to courses in Indian culture, philosophy and religion, the initial plan calls for 20 students from Yunnan University of Nationalities (YUN) to participate in three-week seminars each year at Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata. Others majoring in the Hindi and Bengali languages are expected to stay longer and possibly earn degrees in India.

Professors will also be included in the cooperative effort, and scholars from both institutions will participate in future sabbatical exchanges. Such activities are meant to encourage the establishment of a future 'China-India Culture Communication Center'. Although no specifics have yet been made public, the center is expected to one day be situated on the YUN campus.

Known as yujia (瑜伽) in Chinese, yoga has enjoyed a steep rise in popularity across China over the past few years. While the country's burgeoning middle class has flocked to new studios and retreats, some yoga traditionalists bemoan the focus on American-style fad fitness as opposed to a concentration amongst Chinese practitioners on more cerebral aspects.

In part as a reaction to this — but additionally as a way to raise international understanding of Indian culture — Prime Minister Narendra Modi established a government bureau specifically concerned with the promotion and protection of Indian yoga. Also, at Modi's urging, the United Nations declared June 21 'An international day of yoga'.

The founding of YUN's School of Yoga may indeed help further Modi's aim, but it is also most certainly a calculated political move by both the Indian and Chinese sides. The K2K forum at which the yoga school was first proposed exists almost solely to promote the long-discussed but never realized Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) trade corridor. The overland connection, at least as seen by Beijing, would be a network of highways and railroads linking impoverished but resource-rich areas in all four countries, thus spurring mutually beneficial economic growth.

Regardless of the yoga school's provenance, it should help enliven often erratic Sino-Indian relations. For the past decade, Himalayan border tensions and other disputes between the world's two most populous countries have continually stalled any meaningful progress on the BCIM corridor.

Image: Dawn

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The late Sam Mitchell, whose PhD was in Indian History, and who had a great love for India and Indian culture, played a part in establishing and advancing connections between Kunming and Rabinra Bharati University before his unfortunate death in Kolkata in 2011. I once had the privilege of hearing him go on at dizzying length on Indian metaphysics with a very bright US student upstairs in Salvador's.

yes, for me indian philosophies and cultures are very amazing and strange. i had the biggest cultural shocks and distances in mother india!

good there are more ties and exchanges!

om mari pe meiyou
pro dionisos philosophya?/

About a decade+ ago, there was hardly a single unhappy person in Yunnan - well, none of that modern rootlessness, nihilism, void, or what it could be called. When the mad modernization and destruction of countryside, traditions, architecture and - well, yea, everything - swiped over Yunnan, these days if you look for content and happy people in Yunnan you must add some effort in. Heh.

A major trend among females - who seem to stand for the majority of the confused people - has recently been "yoga".

So what do we have here. Yunnan is trying to cure its modernity-madness and mental void with Indian tradition. A tually this is not too new though - when you start to vipe some dust off in Yunnan history, now what do you find: India.

There are a lot of similarities between not just Yunnan, but the whole of China and India in beliefs, morals, and also behaviours.

Many, if not most, of the secrets concerning a historical Yunnan India connection are still unopened. Some are hidden, some lost and some maybe intentionally wiped away.

Even Kunmings old name Tuodong, is East Kandahar - an area in India/Pakistan.

This etymology is no big deal though, as a huge amount of Southeast Asias previous, and also prevalent, geographical terms are abundant of Indias shadow, and this goes for Yunnan too, but what else there is hidden is very interesting.

Maybe the Ming commanders destroyed a bunch of Yunnan Shiva lingas for examples.

Indian philosophies, mythology and cultures are very deep,amazing and different. its not easy to understand.
The origins of Yoga have been speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions, but most likely developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, in ancient India's ascetic circles, The chronology of earliest texts describing yoga-practices is unclear, varyingly credited to Hindu Upanishads and Buddhist probably of third century BCE or later. The Yoga Sutras is written by Patanjali is the major texts on Yoga. its origins was related to Tantrism.

Ynu also started teaching Hindi language, Now there are more than 80 students they study Indian language and culture.

@Peter: I've never heard that Kunming was ever called East Kandahar, or that the name Tuodong was ever associated with Kandahar. Kandahar is in southern Afghanistan today, but the Old City of Kandahar (the Zor Shar), where I participated on an archaeological dig some 40 years ago, had 'Greek' style remains that allowed us to identify it as one of many 'Alexandrias' taken over (remains at Zor Shar go back a couple thousand years before Alexander's armies) and renamed by the Macedonaian/Greek armies of Alexander the Great and/or the Hellenistic Empire that followed it. The Kandahar area of Afghanistan, as well as much of the Indian subcontinent, was later part of the (Buddhist) Mauryan Empire, centered in what is today's India - wouldn't be surprised if the Mauryans claimed all of Bengal, which included what is now Bangladesh, and perhaps the foreigner kingdoms of what became Burma and called it all something. However, there is no indication that any of the Hellenistic rulers or the Mauryans ever conquered, or even invaded, the Kunming area, although it wouldn't be surprising if they heard of it and claimed it, as conquerors are wont to claim anything they hear of. But I don't know the origin of the name Kandahar, in Afghanistan or anywhere else.

Well Alien, I was expecting you.

This Kandahar/Gandhara connection is something one must dig up, and sweat on to understand, and since most people get their knowledge these days from Wikipedia, and similar "information sources", they cant simply dig it up - (like Alien cant, hehe.). But its good too, it leves all the golden nuggets for us others.

Well its lke this Alien. A thousand years ago (roughly said) most places in Asia (rivers too) had names inspired from India. From Kalimantan to Yunnan. Yunnan chose to be called Gandhara. (This may be a mahayana connection to Avalokitesvara, but why Yunnan/Dali chose Gandhara/Miaoxiangguo is still a mystery.)

Gandhara means fragrant, as does Miaoxiangguo (old name of Dali Kingdom), thats the connection, and neighboring countries such as Burma called Yunnan —> Gandhara even in the 20th C. The "tuo" in Tuodong comes from Qiantuoluo, and dong is obviously East. Dali chose Miaoxiangguo instead of TuoXi.

You can google on gandalarit if you get too sceptical around here, but let me tell you, even you can match some clues, you need to sweat and work hard to put this together. Even if I did tutor you. Hehe!

But its very intresting as theres a Buddha tooth connection too. Buddhas tooth is a relic that gives heavens mandate to rule. Now this is the real Indiana Jones stuff, aint it.

Kandahar/Gandhara - yeah, I think I knew that but forgot. But I'd think it would have been Dali, during the Nanzhao & Dali Kingdoms, that would have been called in Sanskrit(?), rather than Kunming. I take it you're saying that Qiantuoluo is a transliteration of Gandhara into Chinese? Sounds like it could be; and then the Tuo > Tuodong (east, yeah). Which tuo is it and what does it mean?

Logical - are there documents or steles or something in/on which the writers themselves make these connections?

@Petrer: while I was busy not making the obvious Gandhara/Kandahar id (yeah - damn I knew that!) it occurred to me that Alexander's name in Persian languages is pronounced Sikander (a men's name used even today in Afghanistan), so I thought of Si(x)-kandar > Kandahar - ever thought of that one? Sheer speculation, no digging for any sources.

Well Alien, a hundred years ago, most Western scholars studying Yunnan were aware of this Gandhara etymological connection, this was common knowledge - from Pelliot to Rock. Just imagine those days French in Kunming (Yunnanfou) sitting smoking opium around Jinbi Rd, listening to a grammophone and solving the Yunnan-Gandhara connection. Since those days this knowledge has got some dust on the surface, from with the rest of the turbulence, and certainly dont expect any Yunnan potsmoker coming up with any of this stuff today. And whether Chinese scholars are aware of this, oh yes, but not in thousands, no blame on them, the field is just so vast. Yang Bin has written on this in English language for example. Hey, Burma used "Gandalarit" (Gandhara) on Yunnan well into the 20th Century, that says something doesnt it. One of Mandalay palaces old gates was actually called Gandhara - the road to Gandhara/Yunnan started from that gate. And so on. You can start by encrypting Miaoxiangguo 妙香国 this is the Chinese translitteration of Gandhara. From that base you can stumble on some stone tablets and nature writings too. Oh, there are tons of secrets still unopened, following this road, but why dont you go ahead yourself, now you have got some basics here, and you seem interested. Just dont go crazy in the desert. And anyway, this is just one example of Indias shadow on Yunnan, there are plenty of more, from the possibility of Dali cheese being Indian paneer to visits by Ashokas missionaries. So to go back to the first topic here: yoga (or India) is not that recent actually. Theres just some dust around.

Alien, Gandhara comes from Sanskrit. It means fragrant. Anyone who understand Sanskrit can find whole Asia influenced by this language. There was probably some religious, or similar, connection to something fragrant. Or maybe there were fragrant flowers before, now its mostly desert, with a few minarets and desperate faces here or there. Buddhism also used this fragrant-ism (gandhar, or something) symbolically, maybe Hinduism does too. So why did Yunnan choose this fragrantism, now can someone crack that.

Well, in conclusion, I doubt its realted to Sikander, and this is just a very spontaneous reply from the dinner table. Now time for dinner.

OK, well, if Qiantuoluo is the transliteration of Gandhara, then tuodong = East Gandhara makes sense & is logical - just, man, you said 'Kandahar' & that was quite a few jumps away within a bad memory.
And of course India has influenced Yunnan, no surprise. & more to the OP, the yoga - Chinese-meditation connections are many.

PS Note that Miaoxiangguo would then be the translation of the meaning of the word Gandhara, not the transliteration - it's Qiantuoluo that's the transliteration, right?.

Right. Qiantuoluo (or Jiantuoluo) is how Gandhara sounds, but miaoxiangguo is the translation of the meaning (fragrant kingdom). Even the characters change over time. Tuodong on the other hand, is taken from Qiantuoluo - the "east qiantuoluo". This is quite a crypt, aint it. There may be loopholes too, indeed, just as these things usually have, and certainly some competi g theory. But theres more to it than this of course. Oh, there are scholars and archeologists out there who dont know that there are two Gandharas, and this is what makes this interesting. Use a bit imagination on this and get the idea.

By the way, lets put one more thing here. The first Yunnan protestant missionary (who ended up in Dali by the way), George Clark, wrote a book called (something like) Yün-nan and Guizhou Provinces, and the Yunnan part is mostly based on an old document he found in Dali, in 1880's, concerning aspects on Yunnan and India.

Clarks and his family's story would make an interesting book itself. They were all buried on the slopes of Cangshan (old foreigner graveyard) and are now among the malicious ghost tormenting Dali.

About a decade+ ago, there was hardly a single unhappy person in Yunnan - well, none of that modern rootlessness, nihilism, void, or what it could be called. When the mad modernization and destruction of countryside, traditions, architecture and - well, yea, everything - swiped over Yunnan, these days if you look for content and happy people in Yunnan you must add some effort in. Heh.

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