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A Civilizational Approach

Srikanth Kondapalli

Edited by A. Rahman
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002, pp. xxx 533, Rs. 1750.00


On a visit a decade ago to Nanniwan, a remote village in north-western Shaanxi Province in China, the reviewer was surprised to find a spinning wheel, charkha (much like the Gandhian model) in the museum there. Nanniwan, adjacent to the more well-known Yanan, the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party after the Long March in 1935 till 1945, shot into fame for its self-sufficiency model of economic activity. The reviewer was also surprised recently to see coins of the Kushana period at the refurbished Shanghai Museum. Further, on a visit to Quanzhou in Fujian Province, the reviewer noted not only the extensive trade contacts between this coastal town with India in ancient times but also a Hindu temple with several statues of Hindu gods and goddesses and a functioning Islamic mosque. All these have something in common—that the interactions between India and far away places like even remote areas of China not only thrived but expanded to other areas in Central and West Asian regions.   The book under review is a tribute to such wider interactions, captured in detail and in the words of the editor A.Rahman, analysing these ‘Asian traditions, without the European framework and its projections.’ (p.9). Indeed, the volume under review treads into paths uncovered in the past—that of interactions among peoples in ideas related to science, technology, crafts, music, etc. This forms a unique contribution to our knowledge on such interactions. In the light of the multipolarity debate in the current world order and the coming together on selective areas of mutual concern, by India, Russia, China and some Central and West Asian countries, it would be interesting to see the contemporaneous value of this work given its avowed editorial agenda.   This work is part of a larger research project on the history of Indian science, philosophy and culture (PHISPC) undertaken by the Centre for Studies in Civilisation, New Delhi. Divided into 43 parts (of which 14 are published) in ten volumes, the work under review is the 2nd part of the 3rd volume. The current volume is divided into five sections and 23 chapters by different contributors who had experience in teaching/research for several decades in relevant fields. Led by D.P. Chattopadhyaya and A. Rahman, whose contributions to analysing Indian philosophical thought and science are well-known, the team included Tan Chung, the doyen of Indian Sinology, D. Devahuti, and Salim Kidwai, noted historians, C.K. ...

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