President Xi Jinping and PM Narendra Modi on “Canvas”: Representing Sino-Indian Buddhist Cultural Bonds
Posted on June 1st, 2015

Master Jinke Xuanlei with the painting of President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. From dailymail.co.uk

The portrait of Modi. From dailymail.co.uk

Venerable Kuanxu, abbot of Daxingshan Temple in Xi’an, and Indian prime minister Modi holding the Bodhi leaf painting. From english.cri.cn
In anticipation of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to China to promote Sino-Indian ties and to celebrate his interest in Buddhism, two paintings were created under the guidance of the head of the Sino-Esoteric Buddhist Association, Master Jinke Xuanlei: one of Chinese president Xi Jinping and Modi together, and another of Modi alone. While it was intended to formally gift the paintings to the Indian prime minister during his visit, the Beijing Jinke Mandala Painting and Calligraphy Institute, which had spent months preparing the paintings, was told two weeks before the scheduled visit that it would not be possible: Modi’s Beijing schedule was simply too tight.
The first painting, a vertical depiction on hand-crafted paper, shows Hindu and Buddhist deities showering blessings on the two leaders, who are smiling and shaking hands. A white elephant and a dragon, symbolizing the cultural link between the two nations, appear on either side. In the other painting, this time on silk, Modi stands next to The Three Friends of Winter”—plum, pine, and bamboo—representing the qualities of moral rectitude, survival in the face of adversity, and the possibility of renewal. Prayers are written on both paintings, with that on the painting of Modi alone, according to the Hindustan Times, signifying the wish that his heart attain the ultimate wisdom and reach perfect enlightenment.”
The paintings were executed at the institute, which is run by the Sino-Esoteric Buddhist Association, by two of Master Jinke Xuanlei’s disciples, Jinke Yindang and Jinke Yinduan. The work each day was preceded by Buddhist rituals and purification. We had to shower before beginning to paint. Burn incense. Meditate for about 45 minutes. Then make offerings of fruits and flowers. We chanted Buddhist mantras while painting,” Yindang told the Hindustan Times.
As well as representing the friendship between India and China, the paintings were motivated by the artists’ belief that their spiritual order is descended from India, according to the Hindustan Times. That is why we were keen to present the paintings. To promote bilateral ties. Our founders were Indian monks. This was our way of paying respect to our ancestors and masters,” said Yindang.
A monk in Xi’an was more fortunate. When the Indian prime minister visited the city’s Daxingshan Temple its abbot, Venerable Kuanxu, was able to present him with another painting, this time depicting the Buddha’s Shadow” on a Bodhi leaf. According to CRI English.com, painter Yue Yu had spent a year reading Buddhist sutras and had even gone on pilgrimage to India before starting work on the painting. The Indian Bodhi leaf combined with a traditional Chinese painting will let the world know about China’s contribution to Buddhist civilization and culture, he said.
I will always cherish this special gift,” the prime minister wrote on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter (CRI English.com).
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