When Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited Mamallapuram

China's first Premier Zhou Enlai during his visit to Mamallapuram. (Image courtesy: Ananda Vikatan)

When Chinese President Xi Jinping lands in this metropolis on Friday, he will the second high-profile leader from the Communist nation to have visited Tamil Nadu after India’s Independence.

The country’s first Premier Zhou Enlai had visited Chennai in December 1956 by making a short trip to Mamallapuram, 50 km from here, underlining the links that the ancient port city and China shared centuries ago.

Besides visiting the rock monuments in Mamallapuram, the Chinese Premier also made a trip to Kulipanthandalam village near the ancient port city.

A flourishing port till about the end of 9th century, Mamallapuram was an integral part of the ‘Silk Route’ and ‘Spices Route’ of ancient China and India respectively.

Mamallapuram and China have shared trade and cultural links for at least 2,000 years, researchers and archaeologists say.

After Mamallapuram, China’s first premier Zhou visited Chennai where he received a rousing reception from the people.

Besides visiting the then fledgling Integral Coach Factory (ICF) set up by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Zhou also made a trip to the famous Gemini Studios and watched shooting of a film.

Ananda Vikatan, a popular Tamil magazine launched by Gemini Studios’ owner S S Vasan, had carried pictures of the reception accorded to Zhou in Chennai.

The photo article published in December 1956 said that the Chinese delegation witnessed the shooting of a movie and a dance performance by veteran South Indian actor Padmini.

Mamallapuram, the port city of the famed Pallava Kingdom, has had historical trade and defence ties with China that are nearly 2,000 years old.

Several epigraphical evidences, including coins with inscriptions of Chinese symbols, were unearthed from Mamallapuram during excavations, emphasizing the age-old links that the port city and the communist nation had shared in the past.

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