BEIJING (May 11, 2018) — While on a month-long lecture tour of multiple countries in Asia, Prof. Patrick Mendis recently delivered a lecture on “the past and future of Sino-Sri Lankan relationship and the United States” at the Yenching Academy of Peking University.
“The ancient history of China and Sri Lankan Buddhist relations is now manifested in the Colombo Lotus Tower, a hallmark of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” said Mendis, a former Rajawali senior fellow of Harvard Kennedy School and currently a research associate at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.
Mendis is an alumnus of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
After his series of university lectures in Jakarta on “Sino-American relations in the South China Sea and Indonesia,” Mendis also gave a public lecture on “China’s BRI and Sri Lanka” at the Beijing Foreign Studies University.
During his stopover in his native Sri Lanka, Mendis also delivered a lecture at the Polonnaruwa Museum of the UNESCO Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. He was born in Polonnaruwa — the medieval capital of Sri Lanka — which had trading relations with China. Mendis is currently serving as an American commissioner to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO at the State Department in Washington, D.C., where he currently resides.
At the Peking University lecture, Mendis explained to Yenching scholars that the meaning of the Chinese-built Colombo Lotus Tower was inspired by the Lotus Sutra in Buddhism. He then said that “Buddhist diplomacy between the two countries could be traced back to the Han Dynasty.” Mendis described the famous Chinese scholar-monk Faxian (Fa-Hsien) who called Sri Lanka the Buddhist ‘Kingdom of the Lion’ while the venerable Chinese monk Xuanzang in the Tang Dynasty defined it as the ‘Sorrowless Kingdom.’”
“The Emperor Kublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty sent Marco Polo to Sri Lanka, followed by the Ming admiral Zheng He, who visited the island during his seven voyages,” Mendis said to the students.
During his historic visit to Sri Lanka in 2014, President Xi characterized the Buddhist nation a “splendid pearl” as part of the rejuvenation of religious and cultural heritage for “a global community of shared destiny,” Mendis said.
Mendis has had numerous academic appointments in China, including a visiting researcher at the National Confucius Research Institute of China, a distinguished visiting professor of Asian-Pacific affairs at Shandong University, and a senior fellow of the Pangoal Institution in Beijing. He previously served as a visiting professor of international affairs at Anhui, Nanjing, Peking, Tongji, Wuhan, and Zhejiang Universities.
The award-winning American diplomat has authored more than 100 books, journal articles, and newspaper columns. A fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, Professor Mendis is listed in Who’s Who in America as well as Who’s Who in the World.