Through Our Door | Shui Li:Deputy Head of Administration-Human Resources of Yenching Academy

Ms. Shui Li’s story with Jingyuan goes back to her years in graduate school. Since her supervisor’s office was at Jingyuan, she often went there to discuss her research. She later returned to Jingyuan for a job interview and eventually began working there. In addition to being deeply impressed by Jingyuan’s summertime exuberance and scenic garden, she has deepened her emotional and spiritual bond with Jingyuan after taking part in many group activities there. Jingyuan will always hold a special and glowing place in her memory.

Q: Do you still remember your first visit to Jingyuan?

A: I completed my graduate studies in the Department of Psychology at Peking University from 2006 to 2009. Yenching Academy had not been founded yet at that time, and each of the six Jingyuan courtyards housed a different department or research center. At that time, my supervisor’s office happened to be in Jingyuan courtyard 3, so I went there quite often in my graduate school years to discuss my thesis, and was sometimes chastised. My thesis defense happened there too.

I worked outside campus for some time after graduation. I also spent some time abroad with my husband, who was completing his postdoctoral studies. When he returned to China to work for Peking University, I also wanted a job there, so I applied for a position in Yenching Academy. When I was called in for an interview, I was amazed that the location was Jingyuan courtyard 3 again.

However, I happened to be abroad when Yenching Academy was being built, so I noticed some changes had taken place when I came back. When I started working, my office happened to be my supervisor’s former office, which is miraculous.

All in all, Jingyuan courtyard 3 is a very special place for me. I have been here but with different identities, and each of these identities represents a unique experience, so I think this small courtyard is very meaningful to me.

Q: Why is your first impression of Jingyuan “a place full of classical beauty?” In the questionnaire, you used “elegant” “tranquil” and “scenic” to describe Jingyuan. Can you elaborate why Jingyuan gives you this feeling?

A: I am actually quite familiar with Peking University because I've spent so much time here. I’ve always had a special affinity for Jingyuan because it is so different from the buildings you see near the East Gate. It is much more classical, with its garden-style aesthetics and Chinese elegance.

Before its repainting, Jingyuan did not use to be so bright and eye-catching as it is now. But there were colors, then, still, with its dark red Chinese-style pillars and moss-covered bricks. For me, Jingyuan in the spring and summer is so classically beautiful. As soon as you entered, you would feel this refreshing coolness in the air, especially in the summer, when the walls are covered in ivy.

Q: What is your favorite place in Jingyuan and Why?

A: My favorite place is the yard between Jingyuan courtyard 2 and 3. The yard is, in fact, a space between the indoors and outdoors: it is connected to nature but not completely open. It has a certain degree of privacy.

In addition, the small yard is well-designed. Small in size, it retains natural elements and contains intricately designed landscaping, scenes that shift as you walk. You can also see the meticulous planning in the vegetation that have been planted here, including tall trees, flowers, and grass. There’s a variety of plants, but they create a harmonious, exquisite whole that makes people feel so serene and comfortable. I really appreciate that yard.

Yenching Academcy had its five-year anniversary celebration event in 2019. I was in charge of liaising and designing the venue, so I spent a long time researching the best spots to give speeches, to put on performances, and to set up refreshments. I also thought about the audience's immediate view upon entering the space. Besides, I needed to consider factors including how the scenery might change between different times of the day, how’s the sunlight in the morning and afternoon, etc.

The celebration turned out to be quite special. It was not a stereotypical ceremony with big, exaggerated banners or solemn speeches given by the leadership. Instead, it was full of characteristics particular to Yenching Academy: youthful, international, and with a dash of Chinese style.

Q: Which time of year/day do you like Jingyuan the best?

A: I prefer spring. Spring brings everything back to life, and we can bask in sunlight. Besides, we have beautiful Chinese wisteria blooming everywhere. Scenes of flowers in full blossom never fail to convey an uplifting feeling.

As for the favorite hour of a day, I prefer my daily morning walk into the courtyard. It makes me feel like a brand-new day is unfolding in front of me. I also enjoy the rays of sunlight slanting into the yard.

Q: What are some of your most memorable moments in Jingyuan?

A: I feel like I have a fresh and new experience every day when I come to Jingyuan. Although I have worked here for a long time, I frequently find myself amazed by the scenery in the courtyard.

Faculty and staff activities usually take place in the atrium on the second floor. When the weather is nice, these activities will be moved to the small balcony outside.

We have also thrown baby shower parties in the atrium for our colleagues who are expecting to be mothers, sharing snacks with each other. We also prepared gifts for this to-be mother or father and asked everyone to guess if the baby is a girl or a boy.

Q: As a staff member who has been working at Yenching Academy for more than three years, what do you hope Jingyuan can offer to students?

A: When I was a student, perhaps I didn’t spend as much time in Jingyuan as I did in the Psychology Department, but this place still gave me many treasured memories, especially the spiritual and emotional bonds, which make me still feel a deep affinity with this place.

On this note, I do hope that for you, Yenching Scholars, this bond can be much stronger since this place is exactly where you live and study. I hope that Jingyuan will have a warm, special place in your memories of campus life so that whenever you recall it, instead of only regarding it as a place where your department locates, you conjure up a lively image, a place filled with happiness. This place should be evocative of fond memories, fascinating scenes, and interesting events.

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