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

Speaker: 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)

Inaugural China-India Dialogue Series,

co-hosted by the India China Institute, New School, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS.

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.

Introduction by Joanna Waley-Cohen, Provost and Affiliated Professor of History, NYU Shanghai; Julius Silver Professor of History, NYU.

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