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Hungarian Oriental Studies


The Orient to our people represents more than just a geographical notion, since history proves that there are no other countries, peoples or languages in Central Europe that are tied by so many bonds to the Orient as are the Hungarians. The origin of our people, and a number of subsequent chapters in their history, are tied to the Asian continent. As such, oriental research has become an integral part of our national scholarly activities.

This attention - the scope of which has extended to the countries of Northern Africa and not just to the Asian continent - has always stemmed from a scholarly interest, has at all times been designed to serve scholarly ends, and has always resulted in us winning friends.

According to the testimony of Hungarian early history, the predecessors of contemporary Hungarians probably split from the Finno-Ugric peoples living in the region of the rivers Volga and Kama around the fifth century AD, moving on into the territories north of the Caucasus and the Crimea. This region formed, in every respect, an integral part of the vast steppe stretching from Central Asia to the Danube Basin, and the theatre of the 1,000-year migration of nomadic peoples from east to west. The protagonists playing a major part therein, the Huns, Avars, Bulgarians, Petchenegs, Kipchaks and Mongolians, had all arrived from the Asian steppes before continuing on their way west and south-west.

The arrival of Hungarians on the southern Russian steppes essentially determined their future: they became part and parcel of the large-scale east-west movement of nomadic peoples. In the course of these wanderings - between the 5th and 9th centuries - they came into contact and lived together with primarily Turkish and Iranian ethnic and language peoples.

The first written records of Hungarians date back to that age. For this we can thank the geographers and travellers of the Moslem world which was ever keen to observe the happenings of the steppe world of nomadic peoples.

The Carpathian Basin represented the ultimate station for the nomadic peoples on their itinerary of steppe wandering, as it formed the border between the nomadic and the settled worlds. The nomadic peoples who preceded the Hungarians, Attila's Huns and Bajan's Avars, had settled down in the Carpathian Basin and continued their struggle - although ultimately doomed to failure - against the Roman, Byzantine and Frankish empires. However, the Hungarians who appeared in the region under the leadership of Árpád toward the end of the 9th century managed to establish a homeland in the Carpathian Basin, by retaining their ethnic, lingual and political independence, and succeeded in adjusting to the civilization of the settled world.

Following the settlement of the Magyar tribes in the Carpathian Basin, Hungarians continued to preserve their memories linking them to the Orient for centuries to come. A monk called Ottó sought and found Hungarians left behind in the region of the Caucasus, and in 1235 a group of Dominican monks led by Brother Julianus left in search of Hungarian ethnic groups remaining in the ancient homeland. Indeed, they found some Hungarian-speaking tribes around the Volga and Kama, but they were to be scattered by an impending Mongolian invasion, and the then fragmented Hungarian groups were later absorbed by people living in the region. This dangerous and adventurous enterprise was only survived by Brother Julianus, whose written account of the journey has been bequeathed to posterity.

At the same time Hungarians continued to remain in contact with the peoples of the Orient (e.g. Petchenegs and Kumans (Kuns)) as the Carpathian Basin, soon to become part of the settled European world, remained the target of nomadic migrations for centuries. They fought with them, and settled a considerable part of them on Hungarian territory. The last nomadic people's migration to shake the European world, the Mongolian invasion of the 13th century, however, only succeeded in making the Carpathian Basin part of the nomadic world for barely one year.

It shows the continued openness toward the Orient in the Middle Ages that Moslem Kaliz and the Ishmaelites played no small role in Hungary's trade and in maintaining links with the Levant. The Middle East also recorded the presence of Hungarians, and their name continually crops up in Arabic historical works.

In the middle of the 16th century Ottoman Turks had taken Buda, the capital of Hungary, and controlled the central one-third of the country; the occupation was to last for 150 years. This opened a new chapter in the ties between Hungarian history and the Orient.

Persistent armed clashes, finally ending in the occupation of Hungary, naturally caused tremendous casualties and destruction. This sad part of history, however, also testifies to the cultural symbiosis of peoples, and the corroboration of <|>oriental impacts <|>on Hungary. Theand the corroboration of oriental impacts on Hungary. The aspects of towns in the occupied territories changed: mosques, minarets and hammans etc. were built, and which rank among the priceless historical monuments of today. Balkan goods appeared on the markets, and some branches of craftsmanship, for instance leather tooling and metal working, took root on Hungarian soil.

Quite a few facts bear witness to the impact that Turkish culture had on everyday life. Suffice to consider the coffee and tobacco which took root in that age. A living witness to that bygone era is Hungarian cuisine, which boasts a number of dishes of Turkish origin. The vocabulary of the Hungarian language fully bears this statement out, having been enriched with hundreds of Turkish loan-words from that era.

The centuries following the Turkish occupation evinced an increasing interest in the Orient. This assumed particular importance at the end of the 18th century-beginning of the 19th when Hungary, entering into an epoch of national renewal, sought to explore its ancient history through scholarly means. In Hungary, where the awareness of oriental origin never fell into oblivion, questions regarding the history of the people and the language focused the attention of scholars toward Asia as a matter of course.

First to set off toward the Orient was the legendary and world-famous Hungarian orientalist Alexander Csoma Korösi (1784-1842). Born of a poor Szekler family, he began his studies as a servant and student at the college of Nagyenyed in Transylvania. From 1815, he pursued oriental linguistic studies at the University of Göttingen in Germany on an English scholarship. Here the determination matured in him to leave for Asia on foot and explore the ancient homeland of the Hungarians. He mastered the Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Bengali languages. During his travels starting in 1819 he reached India through Iran and Afghanistan. In Western Tibet, encouraged by the English traveller and scholar W. Moorcroft, his attention turned toward researching the Tibetan language.

He began studying the Tibetan language and culture in monasteries located among the Himalayan mountains and under extremely harsh conditions, as a result of which he published his Tibetan-English dictionary and Tibetan grammar in Calcutta, thus accomplishing a deed of pioneering significance. After a decade of work at Calcutta's Bengali Asian Society, Csoma Korösi again set off toward Tibet in 1842 in quest of the predecessors and relatives of Hungarians. However, he was never to attain his goal, falling ill from malaria during his travels. He died in Darjeeling, India.

Csoma Kõrösi was sharply distinguished from other European oriental scholars of the age by the fact that oriental research to him served national studies. He arrived in India not to fulfill the political ambitions of a foreign power, nor to satisfy his own curiosity. In the people of Asia he saw relatives and friends, and he studied their customs and religion with full openness and understanding, always placing the stress on common human values and not on distinguishing features. With this he has provided an example valid to the present day regarding association with other cultures.

Csoma Kõrösi stands out among all of Hungary's globe-trotters and orientalists, and not just among Hungarian researchers and wanderers of Asia. In addition to Tibetan studies, the foundations of which were laid by him, his scholarly oeuvre is considered significant in a number of other disciplines of oriental studies. His extraordinary human qualities, perseverance, and scholarly accomplishments made his name respected the world over. A number of Hungarian scholars regarded him as their paragon, and set off - guided by his goal and in his steps - to Asia, creating various disciplines and internationally renowned achievements for Hungarian oriental studies.

Interest in the Turkish language brought about invaluable works in the 17th century, but the first internationally renowned Hungarian master of Turkish studies was Ármin Vámbéry (1832-1913) who, only a few decades after the death of Csoma Korösi, set off toward the Orient to explore Turkish languages. Ignác Kúnos devoted his attention to researching the Turkish popular speech in Turkey: the first records on dialogue and folklore texts originated from him. Imre Karácson took pioneering steps in researching valuable deeds in archives in Turkey.

Following in his wake later on were Lajos Fekete, the founder of Ottoman Turkish diplomatic studies, and the oeuvres of József Thúry, Zoltán Gombócz, Gyula Németh and Lajos Ligeti spanning virtually a century, and providing an understanding of and teaching methods in the field of Turkish studies.

Turkish studies, however, were not the only area of relations and co-operation between Turkey and Hungary.

The Ottoman Turkish conquest ended in Hungary toward the end of the 17th century. Memories of the many armed clashes began to fade, and instead bonds connecting the two peoples were stressed. In fact, since the cessation of the Ottoman Turkish conquest also represented the beginning of the rule of new conquerors as well as the rise of independence movements and wars against the Habsburgs, friendly ties were established between the one-time foes. Leaders of the anti-Habsburg struggle - thus the emigration of Thököly at the end of the 17th century, Ferenc Rákóczi in the early 18th century and Lajos Kossuth in the middle of the 19th century - regularly sought and found refuge in the Ottoman Empire. Memories associated with them are to be found in Izmir, Tekirdag and Kütahya. The population of Tekirdag left the areas made available to Rákóczi and his group of emigres untouched until the end of the 19th century, as they were considered the 'land of the Hungarian king'. Quite a few of the Hungarian emigrants played a role in the life of the Empire. Ibrahim Müteferrika (whose Hungarian name is shrouded in darkness to the present day) - who arrived in Turkey during the era of Rákóczi's emigration - founded Turkish book printing. Ferenc Tóth, a 'second generation' individual of the emigration, played a major role in establishing artillery units for the Turkish army and in developing fortresses in the Çanakkale strait.

Several of the emigrants who followed Lajos Kossuth to Turkey (Mór Perczel, Kázmér Batthyány, Gábor Egressy and Richard Guyon) gave heart-warming reminiscences of their years spent on Turkish territory. The legendary Father Bem, Richard Guyon, Miksa Stein and József Kollaman continued their life in the Ottoman army. Ödön Széchenyi is associated with establishing the fire fighter service in Istanbul. Special mention should be made of the daughter of Ödön Fényes who definitively linked her life to Turkey: in her Turks respect Nigár Haním, their first poetess.

Political relations reached their first peak toward the end of the 1870s. During the Russian-Turkish war, the Hungarian public, remembering clearly the role played by Russia in suppressing the 1848-49 War of Independence, openly expressed its sympathy with the Turks. University students took initiatives to collect medicines and funds, and these were delivered (along with a golden sabre) by a special delegation to Turkey.

The move had a tremendous impact on Turkish public opinion; the country unexpectedly found a new and sincere friend who was immediately welcomed as a 'Hungarian brother'. The title which was born at this time, and which is accorded to Hungarians alone of those not related in language, is still used to the present day. The furtherance of relations is well shown by a gesture of Sultan Abdulhamid the Second, who returned to Hungary the Corvinas, priceless Hungarian codices taken from Buda to Turkey.

The activity of Oszkár Asbóth, who later assumed great international renown as an aeroplane designer, is linked to the start of Turkish aviation in the era immediately preceding World War I.

When the Turkish language, literature and history began to be cultivated on a broader scale in the Turkey of Kemal Atatürk in the 20s, Hungarian-Turkish studies played an important role therein.

A large number of Turkish students pursued their studies in Budapest at the university's department of Turkish studies. The names speak for themselves: H.Z. Koóay, R.H. Özdem, N.K. Orkun, H. Eren, T. Gökbilgin, I. Kafesoglu, S. Bastav, S.N. Özerdim etc. Without exception they played a prominent role in Turkish scholarly life, at universities and other institutions in Turkey. These bonds were confirmed and are still strengthened to the present day by the Hungarian Studies Department at the University of Ankara whose first professors László Rásonyi and Tibor Halasi-Kun played a major role in Turkish scholarly life.

Antal Ráthly and Ferenc Csiky had a hand in modernizing the Turkish meteorological service, agriculture and animal husbandry in the era of the Republic of Turkey. International scholarly life honours Lajos Fekete as the creator of the Turkish archives, including Turkish palaeography and diplomatic studies.

Béla Bartók is accorded a special place, who during his stay in Turkey researched Turkish folk music. Hungarians can honour in Adnan Saygun, his then scholarly escort and a true follower of the Bartók oeuvre, Turkey's greatest composer.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences has to date recorded two Turkish members among its ranks: M.F. Köprülü and H. Eren. On the other hand, a number of Hungarian scholars' memberships at the Turkish Society of Linguistics and the Turkish Society of Historians also indicates that Turkish scholarly life has kept and still keeps a record of the research achievements of Hungarian Turkish researchers.

The tradition has not been broken. Today as well, large numbers of Turkish students pursue their studies in Hungary, and quite a few students holding Hungarian scholarships go to Turkey to pursue their studies or to engage in research.

Friendly ties between the two peoples are well symbolized by the event in the autumn of 1994 when the President of Turkey Süleyman Demirel visited Hungary. While here he unveiled a memorial to Suleiman the Great in Szigetvár, at the place where the great conqueror died during the siege of the fortress. This event clearly shows the historical path which has led to the point where one-time enemies who fought each other on the battle field today offer the hand of friendship to each other.

In the field of Arabic studies the work of János Dombay in the early 19th century marked a very important early stage. His excellent book on spoken Moroccan preceded other works of a similar nature by more than 50 years.

Edward Rehatsek who is well known world-wide, but mainly in English-speaking areas, was born in 1819, and after completing university studies in Pest, he settled down in Bombay in 1847, where he translated works from various Islamic languages (Arabic, Persian, Urdu) into English. His greatest accomplishment was the more than 1,000 page translation of the life of the Prophet Mohammed.

Hungary has always fostered the strongest ties with Egypt. It is perhaps enough to stress just three moments in their history:

An interesting highlight of Egyptian-Hungarian relations was the question of the so-called Magyarabs (Hungarian Arabs). This means that - in a way virtually inexplicable to scholars - there lives a minor ethnic group in southern Egypt, Nubia (near the Sudanese border) which claims it originates from Hungary, and whose members call themselves Magyarabs to the present day.
The architect Miksa Herz, known in Egypt as Pasha Herz, played the greatest role in the architecture of Egypt in general and in that of modern Cairo in particular. The Egyptian Museum, visited by millions of people every year, stands out among the many public buildings designed by him on his own or together with the Frenchman Eiffel.
Ede László Almásy ran several car and plane expeditions to Africa in the 1920s and 30s. He engaged in exploring the Sahara desert, carried out cartographic surveys, and also discovered prehistoric cave paintings. His name is preserved to the present day by an airport near Cairo.

Interest of a purely cultural nature always assumed great importance in an effort to learn about the Arab world in Hungary. The greatest motivation was to master Arabic. The teaching of oriental languages looks back on more than a 300-year past in Hungary. As in other countries of Europe, the teaching of oriental languages started with that of the Semite languages, as a supplementary discipline of Christian theology and Bible research. A department established at the Budapest University in 1873, however, was a department of a scholarly nature (in oriental studies) and not theology in the narrow sense of the word. That is where Ignác Goldzíher (1850-1921), already a world famous Islamic researcher and scholar of Arabic studies, gained an honorary professorial title, and who enjoyed great acclaim and recognition in the Arab world, primarily in Egypt. The famous historian and minister of culture of the last century, Pasha Ali Mubárak, not only accepted him as an absolute authority in his field, but wrote letters to Goldzíher on many occasions and sent him his dozen- odd most important works for critical evaluation. Not long after his death the works of Goldzíher were translated into Arabic in Egypt, something that very few European scholars of Arabic studies ever achieved. When in post-World War II times an ever greater suspicion clouded the activities of European orientalists, particularly those who dealt with Islam, equally accusing them of ignorance and bias, Goldzíher was never accused on such charges, even after his death. In fact, his name was mentioned among the exceptions.

From the second half of the 1950s cultural agreements were concluded between Hungary on the one hand and Egypt and Iraq, and later Kuwait and Tunisia on the other. In many cases those agreements enabled students to travel to Arab countries on scholarships.

In 1953, Gyula Germánus was appointed professor to the Department of Arab Literature and Cultural History. As an authority on modern Arab conditions, he tackled the problems of Arab literature, cultural history, the legal system and the latest progress in Islam in his lectures. He established a close rapport with outstanding living representatives of Arab literature and erudition. His works were published in a number of Arab countries and London-based Moslem periodicals. His Arab history of literature (1962) belongs among the class of scholarly works written for the general public. He was also involved in its translation, and he published a Hungarian language anthology of classic and modern Arab poetry (1961). His work Allah Akhbar is a travelogue and a scholarly description of Moslem pilgrimage, which following its Italian and German translations, was published in Hungarian for the second time in 1968.

The teaching of Arabic in Hungary was encouraged by research into Hungarian early history, as a number of data related to contemporary Hungarian history are included by Arabic sources.

Works written in the course of the 10th century assume the greatest significance of all the considerable Arab sources on Hungarian early history. Of these a group of records based on the Djajhani report serve as the oldest report on Hungarians (Ibn Rusta, al-Bakrí, al-Maqdisí, al-Muqaddasí), from around AD 870. The second major group of sources which basically dates back to the work of al-Balkhí (al-Istakhrí, Ibn Hauqal and Abul-Fídá), speaks about the picture following the Great Migration in 889. In his report as ambassador Ibn Fadlán calls the Baskhirs Turks, but those Turks could well have been Hungarians. Later authors (including Ibn Saíd, al-Qazwíní and Abul-Fídá) knew Hungarians by the Danube, and based on older sources wrote about the Hungarians by the Urals, although they had no clear picture of them.

One can find works in the Arab geographic literature of later times that provide invaluable sources about the history of Eastern Europe. Three writers personally visited Eastern Europe. Of them Abú Hamid al-Garnáti was the only Arab traveller to visit Hungary from 1150 to 1153. For three years he lived in Hungary where Moslem troops proved to be key units serving the Hungarian king. He taught the nomadic Moslems, demonstrated religious observances to some of them, while others became his disciples. When as an old man the time came for him to complete a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hungarian king was loath to let him go as he had great influence on Hungarian Moslems. He had to promise to return to Hungary, and was forced to leave his eldest son as hostage. "Hungarians are courageous people and are numerous. Their country consists of 78 towns, and all contain a number of fortresses, with adjacent manors, villages, hills, woods and gardens. Hungary is one of the countries where life is the easiest and best. Their hills conceal much silver and gold. Moslems of Maghreb origin live there by the thousand, and Hvarezmies are also innumerable. Those of Hvarezmi origin serve the king and keep it a secret that they are Moslems. However, those of Maghreb origin only serve the Christians in war, and openly advocate Islam," wrote Abú Hamid.

The interest in Hungarian Iranian studies focused by and large on three major points. The first stemmed from research into Hungarian early history. In the 9th and 10th centuries the earlier mentioned Ibn Rusta benefited from an Arabic book by Djajhani samanida vizier as a source providing a description of Hungarians at the time of the Magyar Conquest. Gardézi's Persian language historical work from the middle of the 11th century also cited Djajhani when it spoke about the Hungarians.

The culture of the ancient Persian empire and its survival constitute the second major sphere of questions. Several Hungarian travellers and orientalists made pilgrimages to the ruins of Persepolis, or as it is today known Takhte Djamshid, ranging from Ármin Vámbéry (1832-1913) to Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943), who researched in English colours but remained a Hungarian, and whose expeditions over the territory of historical Iran produced tremendous results for archaeology. But Aurel Stein is also associated with the exploration of the written records of Baktria and Khotan saka, belonging to the Central Iranian epoch of the Iranian family of languages, albeit defunct languages today, to give a new direction to Iranian.

Even prior to the English scholar W. Jones, the Hungarian Count Károly Reviczky (1736-1793) translated and commented on the Háfez gazals in the middle of the 18th century. The Persian and Arabic language skills of Mihály Vitéz Csokonai (1773-1805), the greatest Hungarian poet of the age of Enlightenment, made him a genuine connoisseur of the Omar Khayyám and Háfez, and a number of his poems carry within them the impact made on him by Persian poetry. He went so far as to devote a study on Asian poetry, including Persian poetry. Outstanding among the translations produced by Béla Harrach Erodi (1846-1936) is the one of Sádi's Golestan.

The man who discovered and made public urban folklore was the landowner Sándor Kégl (1862-1920), the first professor of Persian language and literature at the Budapest-based Péter Pázmány University (today the Loránd Eötvös University).

The oeuvre of Bertalan Csillik proved to be a prominent milestone in Omar Khayyám research. He made public the Omar Khayyám manuscripts of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris in 1933-1934. Thanks to Lorinc Szabó's (1900-1957) beautiful translations (although they relied heavily on the English text), the best known Persian poet in Hungary as of the middle of the century was Omar Khayyám.

By the sixties, a whole generation had grown up at the Persian faculty of the Loránd Eötvös University, whose members translated from the original Persian texts. Sáhnáme, the tremendous epic by Ferdauszi, was published several times in Hungarian under the title Book of Kings, as well as the Anthology of Persian Poets, and the collection Contemporary Persian Narrators. One work each by Bozorg Alavi, Sádeq Hedájat and Nizámi Aruzi were published in Hungarian. Of poets engaging in literary translations Géza Képes (1909-1989) should be first mentioned, who only mastered the Persian language to be able to translate poems by Háfez, Sádi or Láhúti for the Hungarian reader.

The literary translator poets preserved and accurately translated the magnificently rich albeit strictly formal structures in Persian poetry. The Persian gazal became a Hungarian gazal, and the verse in Sáhnáme became a moteqáreb in Hungarian as well.

Demanding Hungarian readers can learn ever more about Iran and the Iranian people: the Koran rendered into Hungarian appeared in a second edition, as has a summarizing historical work entitled Iranian Empires and Traditions.

A department specializing in Iranian studies operates at the Loránd Eötvös University, focusing on teaching the Persian language. An authoritative array of sources in Persian awaits those pursuing Iranian studies at the Oriental Collection of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and a Hungarian-Iranian Friendship Society keeps non experts informed through lectures and functions that are open to all.

The first Hungarian language information about China dates back to 1760. Around that time the Hungarian intelligentsia began to get acquainted with the image of China that had been developed by the West. However, Hungarian scholars found an opportunity in the 19th century to gain direct access to China and thus obtain first-hand information. The opportunities in question were generated mainly in expeditions and exploratory trips to the region.

An enterprise by Alexander Csoma Korösi stands out as the peak achievement both in time and significance. In quest of traces of the Hungarians, his ancestors, he never made it to East Turkestan, present-day Xinjiang, the land of Ujgurs and thought to be a kin folk. Barely fifty years after his solo journey, the first Hungarian expedition to eastern Asia organized by Count Béla Széchenyi took place between 1877-1880. It was mainly the geological, paleontological and geographical research results of Lajos Lóczy which generated success and international acclaim for the expedition.

The Széchenyi expedition was followed by further travels around the turn of the century which produced travelogues, travel descriptions, articles and reports enriching the knowledge of readers about China. The first visitors from China, including the exiled Kang Yuwei, a key figure of the reform movement toppled a few years earlier (1898), arrived in Hungary around those years. The latter immortalized his meeting with the 'kin folk' that broke away from the Orient in a poem in his diary:

White is the colour of the skin, red the face -
You will recognize this type:
You will be greeted from the heart and your hands will be shaken by both young and old Hungarians.
A rare wanderer in Hungary,
Never seen before, homeland so far away
- I am the first to get here
from the distant Chinese homeland.
(translation into Hungarian by Endre Galla)

The already mentioned Aurél Stein, the greatest explorer of Central Asia, also set off on consecutive exploratory journeys around the turn of the century. He travelled the road leading to Northern China both from India and Central Asia, explored the cultural centres which once flourished in the oases of Turkestan, the treasures of the cave temples of a Thousand Buddhas in Tunhuang, cleared up a number of problems in the Chinese stages of the Silk Road crossing Asia, and so on and so forth. He reported on his trips and results in a number of English-language monographs.

Classes in Chinese studies began at the Department of Oriental Asian Languages and Literature of the Budapest University in the early 1920s, and the training of scholars specializing in sinology in the early 40s under the tutelage of Lajos Ligeti. Not long afterwards, in fact from the 1950s, the opportunity arose to train such experts and to provide refresher courses for them in China itself.

Hungarian research into China initially was directed at discovering the broader Asian background to Hungarian early history, that is it set itself the prime goal of examining the Chinese sources pertaining to the peoples of Central Asia. Later on the relations established between Hungary and the People's Republic of China provided favourable conditions for dealing with Chinese culture in the broader sense of the word, ranging from language and linguistic questions to the history of literature, from history to philosophy and art history. In the past forty years, a number of monographs and a countless number of studies and specialized articles have been published on the above subjects by fewer than a dozen sinologists.

The translation of Chinese belletristic works had, as a matter of course, taken place earlier on; for instance, a booklet by Dezso Kosztolányi entitled Chinese and Japanese Poems, went through several editions and enjoyed great popularity. But these translations were rendered into Hungarian almost exclusively through mediating languages. However, as a result of the advent of sinologist translators, two-thirds of the more than 100 Chinese literary works that have been published in Hungarian over the past 45 years have been translated from the original language.

Hungarian-Indian scholarly and cultural contacts look back on a long past, in fact right back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Several centuries of Indian philosophy, religion and literature have enriched Hungarian intellectual life.

Hungarians had their first contacts with Indian culture through intermediaries. The first verifiable influences date back to the 15th century when a Latin work by Franciscan monk Pelbárt Temesvári makes mention of a book called the Kilil, which in all probability was a reference to the story of Kalila and Dimna in Panchatantra. An unidentified author translated the Latin version of Barlaam and Josaphat - originating from the Buddha legend - into Hungarian in the Kazinczy codex in the 16th century. By the 17th and 18th centuries as many as three Hungarian translations - from Latin, Turkish and Persian mediating languages - of the Panchatantra were in existence.

The first Hungarian to be guided by scholarly ambitions to the land of India was the outstanding orientalist Alexander Csoma Korösi - who we introduced earlier on. He was the one to discover that the holy scriptures of Buddhism had not been irretrievably lost, as had been thought earlier on, but were retained in Tibetan translation. He was the first to outline in 1836-39 the content of the 325-volume Tibetan Buddhist canon, Kandjur ('The translation of Buddha's tenets') and Tandjur ('Translations of Explanations') and the life of Buddha who had founded a religion. His articles promoted research into Buddhism, and Schopenhauer learned from his studies about Buddhism, which were to exert a decisive influence on him. Without any bias we can state that Alexander Csoma Korösi is a great founding father of not only Tibetan studies but that of Buddhist culture as well.

What is known about him is mainly due to another prominent Hungarian scholar, Tivadar Duka (1825-1908), who after the crushing of the War of Independence went to India to serve Britain, and with painstaking efforts collected the forgotten studies, reports and letters by Csoma Korösi and wrote a biography of this great "Szekler-Hungarian".

The first scholarly workshop where systematic research into Indian studies was carried on in Hungary was the Indo-European Linguistics Institute established at Budapest's Peter Pázmány University in 1873. From this date classes in Sanskrit were regularly held. The first professor at the institute was Aurél Mayr (1846-1915). His successor, József Schmidt (1868-1933), published a number of fundamental titles on Indo-German linguistics and Indian culture. The most important are Oindi Epic (1921), The History of Sanskrit Literature (1923) and Indian Philosophy (1923).

An ever larger number of people reached India in the 19th century. Transyvlanian Saxon-born doctor János Márton Honigberger (1795-1869) and painter Ágoston Schoefft (1809-1888) spent years in the court of Maharajah Randjit Singh in Lahore. In his travelogue on India (35 Years in the Orient) Honigberger presents a dramatic picture of life in the Lahore court and about the personality of the maharajah.

Vilmos Leitner (1840-1899) also spent a longer period in India, where he pursued anthropological and sociological research. He was among the first to note the significance of Gandhára art. He wrote a book about the educational system of the Punjab, and the Urdu language. He was one of the founders of the Punjab University.

Gábor Bálint Szentkatolnai (1844-1913) arrived in India with the expedition of Count Béla Széchenyi, before leaving the team and spending a longer time in South India. He studied the Tamil language and grammar, and edited a dictionary.

Next to Alexander Csoma Korösi, the best known world famous Hungarian researcher of India and Central Asia - already mentioned in Iranian studies - was Aurél Stein (1862-1943), who in 1888 was professor of Sanskrit language and literature at the Punjab University in Lahore.

He dedicated several books to the religions and cultural conditions of Indian history and Indo-Scythian rule, as well as Indo-Iranian ancient geography. Stein won world fame through the expeditions he ran to Eastern Turkestan, Afghanistan and Iran. A large part of the materials collected during his exploratory trips was transferred to London, and another part is on display as a separate collection at the Delhi National Museum. He held the post of general director at the Indian Archaeological Directorate from 1910. He bequeathed his valuable library, manuscripts, letters and collection of photos to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Interest never before experienced in Hungary was displayed in India in the first decades of the 20th century. This was partly due to the Hungarian cult of Rabindranath Tagore. Hungarian translators and the general public were fast in reacting to the Nobel prize the Bengali poet was awarded in 1913. More than 20 of his works were soon published in Hungarian translation, and several of them lived to see several editions. In 1926, Tagore visited Hungary and received medical treatment at the Balatonfüred heart hospital. A sapling, planted by him and which has blossomed into a huge tree, preserves his memory on the northern shore of Lake Balaton.

The visit marked the start of a long and lasting relationship for Tagore with Hungary. This major poet invited a number of Hungarian scholars and writers to the University of Santiniketan. Gyula Germánus (1884-1979) lived and gave classes there from 1929 to 1932. He also recorded his Indian experiences in picturesque travelogues (Allah Akhbar!, 1936, Toward the Lights of the Orient, 1966). A chronicle of the years spent in Santiniketan was recorded by his wife Rózsa G. Hajnóczi in her popular book Bengali Fire.

Erzsébet Sass-Brunner (1889-1950), a painter and disciple of Simon Hollósy, arrived in India in 1930 at the invitation of Rabindranath Tagore. India's spiritual and religious traditions had a deep influence on her. Her art - chiefly her landscapes and spiritual paintings - blossomed based on the experiences gained there. Her daughter, Erzsébet Brunner (1910-), who still lives in Delhi and is the holder of many Indian and Hungarian awards, has painted portraits of all the major Indian personalities in this century. These two Hungarian artists are respected figures of Indian artistic life. Károly Fábri (1899-1968), an art historian, also travelled to India in 1933 at the initiative of Tagore. He later published many books on various eras of the history of Indian art.

Yet another centre of Indian research in Hungary was established in 1919, through the setting up of the Ferenc Hopp Museum of East Asiatic Art. The first director of the collection, art historian Zoltán Felvinczi-Takáts (1900-1964), did much to enrich the Indian collection at the museum. His book entitled The Art of the Orient is the first Hungarian language summary of Indian arts. During his visit to India - described in his travelogue On Buddha's Trail in the Far East - he established contact with local Hungarians, encouraging them to give donations for the museum. Thanks to Felvinczi-Takáts, Hungarian art dealer Imre Schwaiger (1864-1940) who lived in India donated a number of sculptures and small scale statuary.

A significant period in the life of Ervin Baktay (1890-1963), the man who did much to popularize Indian culture in Hungary, is linked to the Ferenc Hopp Museum. Baktay began his career as an artist, before devoting his life to studying Indian culture. He was the most versatile authority on India of his day. Drawing on experiences gained during his travels to India he wrote works that still rank as basic reference books to the present day (India, 1931, The art of India, 1958). His books on Indian philosophy, astronomy, and yoga were also great successes. His biography on Alexander Csoma Korösi was published in several editions. With high quality literary translations he made a contribution to popularizing Indian literature in Hungary.

Baktay's niece Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941), who was Hungarian on her mother's side, is recognized as one of the pioneers of modern Indian painting. In her works the old traditions of India are coupled with the best modern endeavours.

The frameworks of Hungarian-Indian scientific and cultural contacts were considerably expanded by a cultural agreement concluded in 1962, which was coupled later on by an agreement reached by the scientific academies of the two countries, and a technological-scientific agreement. An ever larger number of researchers visited India, new generations of scholars of Indian studies grew up, considerably expanding the horizon of research.

Thanks to that cultural agreement, people in India can learn ever more about Hungarian culture. Teaching of the Hungarian language and literature began at Delhi University in 1969, with the cooperation of a Hungarian reader.

The spectrum of Indian studies in Hungary also broadened. Sanskritological research and training, until then conducted at the prestigious Indo-European Department of Loránd Eötvös University, was expanded. Specialized classes covering Indian studies were opened in 1956, classes in modern Indian languages began at the department from 1957. The first Hindi textbook designed for Hungarian speakers was completed in 1959, and the first Hungarian-Hindi dictionary in 1973. The translations of a number of classical Indian literary works were published (among others works Upanisades, Buddha's Teachings, and Ghíta Góvinda, Bhagavad Ghíta).

The Hungarian Information and Culture Centre in Delhi, established in 1978 and the only Hungarian cultural institute in Asia to date, is a major organizer of Hungarian-Indian cultural and scholarly relations. Apart from arranging lectures by Hungarian and Indian scholars, professional meetings and conferences, the institute also engages in intensive publishing activities. During its existence it has published more than 50 English, Hindi and Bengali books and publications, mostly about Hungarian scholars and artists who lived and created in India, and translations of the works of major figures of Hungarian literature.

These days there is wide-ranging interest, never before experienced, in Indian culture. The problems of our age have focused the attention of many people on the intellectual heritage of oriental cultures which place an emphasis on inner values. This explains the expansion of a number of Indian-rooted minor religions (Vaisnava Bhakti movements, Buddhists) in Hungary and the advent of Indian religious literature to levels not experienced since the turn of the century.

Japan's opening up to the outside world in the second half of the 19th century and its appearance on the world political arena elicited major and serious interest by the Hungarian public for the first time. Here are some of the contemporary newspaper reports giving an authentic picture:

'Let us be prepared that this genuine pearl of Eastern Asia which was only recently fished up from the sea of twilight and oblivion will, for a long time to come, retain the attention of the civilized world on Japan both as an antiquity and as a novelty...' (Vasárnapi Újság, Pest, 16 (1869), issue No. 18, May 2)

"We can readily place the Japanese among the world's most industrious nations, and with regard to both industry and trade and the fine arts, they are blessed with marvellous talent. What was on display of the Japanese industrial items at the latest Paris World Exhibition awakened a sense of general wonder, and sufficiently proved that a nation with a high level of civilization lives in the island empire of the Orient. West Europeans cannot have any reason at all to look condescendingly on these Eastern Asian people, as they are on a par with us in many things, and have outstripped us in more than one regard...' (Vasárnapi Újság, Pest, 16 (1869), Issue No. 19, May 9)

As a result of the general interest shown, a Department of East Asian Languages and Literature was established under the leadership of Vilmos Prohle at Budapest's Péter Pázmány University. The Alexander Csoma Korösi Society and the Nippon Society engaged in a dynamic operation in those years, working in a bid to popularize Japanese culture on a broad scale. Concurrently, interest in Hungary also picked up in Japan. In the 30s books on Japan (with a scholarly need in mind and sponsored by Japan) appeared, such as Vilmos Prohle's A Small Mirror on Japanese National Literature, Zoltán Takács Felvinczi's The Ferenc Hopp Oriental Asian Museum, István Mezey's Historical Sketch of Hungaro-Japanese Relations, and others.

After the war belletristic works rendered into Hungarian relaunched interest in Japan: first through translations from mediating languages, and later from the original. A number of volumes of poems and Japanese classical works were published such as Fukadjava Sichiro's Pilgrim's Song, Akutagava Ryunosuke's In the Gateway of the Storm, Murasaki Sikibu's Gendji's Novel, Sei Sonagon's Pillow Book, Abe Kobo's The Woman of the Sand, Tanidjaki Djunichiro's The Diary of a Crazy Old Man translated by Árpád Göncz, president of the Republic of Hungary, to much acclaim, Mori Ogai's The Wild Goose, Inoue Jashusi's Embarking on the Sea, Kaiko Takeshi's Night at Osaka, Dadzai Osamu's Setting Sun, Endo Susaku's Silence, Nacume Soseki's The Cat, Mishima Jukio's The Golden Temple, Nagai Kafu's Sumida, Dzeami's and others' women pieces, etc.

Meanwhile a new generation of young specialists dealing with Japanese literature, history and linguistics grew up at the university's Department of Chinese and East Asian Studies. From 1975, the Tokyo-based Japanese Foundation has extended regular support to the teaching of Japanese at higher educational level by donating books and teaching aids.

The launch of an autonomous course for students to major in Japanese at the Loránd Eötvös University began in the autumn of 1986 by increasing the staff of lecturers, and the establishment of a specialized library with regular support provided by the Japanese Foundation for the first time in the history of oriental research in Hungary.

Those who completed their studies in Japanese at the university in the 80s developed further Japanese education in other higher educational institutions, for instance at the Foreign Trade College.

Interest in Japanese has steadily grown among young people as a result of multifaceted economic, scientific and cultural relations. In the past five years - as a result of the activities of language teachers moving to Hungary with the support of the Japanese government - a growing number of students have familiarized themselves with the Japanese language and culture as part of optional foreign language classes at the universities of Szeged, Pécs, Debrecen and Veszprém, the Gödöllo University of Agrarian Sciences, and also at secondary and primary schools.

The Budapest University was considering launching teacher training courses from the autumn of 1996, and under the new law on higher education the organization of Ph.D. courses is also on the agenda with co-operation from the Japanese department of Hamburg University looking back on a great past and with sizeable Japanese support.

As a Japanese programme marking the Millecentennial commemorations in Hungary, an international scientific conference was staged under the title 'New Dialogue between Central Europe and Japan' in Budapest in September 1996, with support provided by the Japanese Foundation, the Japanese faculty at the Loránd Eötvös University, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as well as the Kyoto International Japanese Culture Research Centre, and with the participation of many domestic and foreign experts. This well illustrates the signal achievements attained by Hungarian-Japanese studies in international scholarly life.