79 year old Zhang Jun, a Chinese dancer who brought Bharatanatyam and Kathak to Mao’s China in the 1950s and inspired thousands to follow her passion for classical Indian culture over a celebrated, five decade-long teaching career, passed away following a long battle with cancer.
For Zhang, India became a life-long, all-consuming passion to which she dedicated her life. She became a window into India for two generations of young Chinese, who would flock to her modest first-floor apartment in north Beijing to learn Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Odissi.
Zhang first travelled to India in 1954, the first of her eight visits to the country. She was 19 then & She was very interested in ballet. But after that first visit, she became very interested. She decided that this was what she wanted to do. That experience changed her life.In India, Zhang met Uday Shankar, regarded as the father of modern Indian dance, and visited Indian schools. Indian dance, though, was her biggest passion. She returned to India on eight occasions, studying with Birju Maharaj and travelling to Kalakshetra in Chennai.
She had to stop teaching in 1996 when she began battling breast cancer. Despite being weakened by chemotherapy and three surgeries, she resumed her classes and fought her way back into good health.
Childhood:Zhang was born in the town of Qichuan in central Hubei province in 1933 to a family of intellectuals. Her mother was a university teacher. She met her husband, Wei Jun, when they were both studying the arts – he later became a conductor of classical Chinese orchestras.
I hope Indian Government will also do its part to commemorate her contribution to the relationship between the two countries.Her funeral was held in Beijing on January 8. Zhang had asked to be cremated with an anklet wrapped around her leg.
My whole hearted condolences to her family. & may her soul rest in peace..