The first group of senior Chinese scholars and scientists destined to study in the United States as a result of the lessening of tensions between the two countries touched down yesterday at Dulles Airport after an all-day flight from Peking via Paris.

The group of 46 men and six women was whisked through U.S. customs before being taken by chartered buses to the Chinese liaison building in the old Windsor Park Hotel, where they will stay before beginning English language classes at Georgetown University and American University next month.

As soon as each is proficient enough in English, each will travel to an American university to begin advanced studies in science and technology, according to American and Chinese officials.

"The arrival of these scholars will enhance the mutual friendship and understanding between our two peoples," said Ambassador Han Hsu, deputy chief of the Peoples' Republic of China liaison office in Washington.

"They come here to learn advance sciences and technology from the American people and then they will continue the modernization of China in the future. Their arrival is all the more significant in that they arrive on the eve of the normalization of relations between our two countries," Han said, shortly after shaking hands with each of the scholars, who arrived at 5:08 p.m.

The scholars, each of whom holds the equivalent of PhD degree in such fields as mathematics, science and medicine, are the first of as many as 700 such Chinese who are expected to study in the U.S. during the next several years, according to Noris Smith, director of the Chinese affairs section of the U.S. International Communications Agency (USICA).

Eventually an equal number of American students are expected to study in China, according to an aide to Smith.

"I hope to study the metallurgy of cast iron," said Liu Tai-cheng, 45, a professor in the department of mechanical engineering at Tsingh-Hua University in Peking. "America has much advanced technology from which I hope to learn."

Chang Yu-man, 41, a professor of reactor physics, said he hopes to study at the University of California at Berkeley, although his plans are not yet final. "I'm very happy about the normalization of relations between our two countries. Please give our best wishes for the new year to the American people," he said.

Chang and Liu spoke English. Other members of the party appeared to understand English, although they declined to answer questions in that language. Ambassador Han whispered to John Reinhardt, director of USICA, "I was just in time," referring to his late arrival because of holiday traffic jams surrounding Dulles. Then Han addressed the scholars and reporters in Chinese. His remarks were translated by Chinese cultural minister Hsieh Chi-mei.

Each member of the group arrived from China carrying only a small overnight bag. Each wore a gray or dark blue single-breasted topcoat and most wore peaked caps.