Kolkata, Mar 14 (PTI) Chinese Consul General Ma Zhanwu today said the 50-year old Hsuan Tsang Monastery in the city will be converted into a ”most modern” Buddhist Chinese temple in future.

The monastery in the southern fringes of the city, is named after Hsuan Tsang, the famous seventh century Buddhist monk, scholar, traveller and translator from China who travelled to India in the seventh century.

The monastery had been set up by the local Chinese community about 50 years ago.

Chinese immigrants had arrived in the city in the 18th century to work at the Calcutta port. They have contributed to the social and economic life of Kolkata through manufacturing and trade of leather products, running of restaurants and beauty parlours. Their largest population is in the Chinatown in the city.

Zhanwu, who was present at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the new complex within the compound of the old monastery building, told reporters that once completed the new temple will have the “most durable and most modern features” retaining the unique characteristics of a Buddhist temple in China.

Describing the foundation stone laying ceremony as a “good starting phase in terms of cultural exchanges between the two countries”, the envoy said, it will be made an important landmark in the entire East and a tourism spot for both domestic and foreign tourists.

The temple, once it is rebuilt with modern amenities, will be another step in promoting friendly exchange and cooperation between people of two great nations, enhance their mutual trust and push for continuous development in the bilateral ties, he said.

“We hope that the monastery will be more widely known to the people of India and abroad,” the Consul, whose office is participating in the renovation along with the monastery authorities, said.

Hsuan Tsang had visited India over 1400 years ago by the Silk Road and took large number of Buddhist scripts back to China. This had helped in development and spread of Buddhism in China, he said.

“The story of Hsuan Tsang is a very good example in the friendly exchange between the two nations and exemplified the Silk Road spirit featuring peaceful cooperation, inclusiveness, mutual learning,” he said.

To a question about border disputes between the two countries, the Chinese Consul briefly said “There are border issues between many countries.”

The foundation stone laying ceremony was preceded by an elaborate colourful ritual which was conducted by monks from Lingyin Temple at Hangzhou in China led by the Abbot Guangquan.

Monks attired in silk orange and brown robes chanted hymns amidst the beating of cymbals and moved in a procession with a Buddha idol to the spot where the foundation stone was laid. They then returned in a procession to the old monastery building.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.