The first beam of civilization shed light on the land of today’s coastal provinces of China when the Hemudu people sowed the first seed of rice 7,000 years ago.
Many millennia have forged the cradle of the area’s primitive civilization into present-day Ningbo, a port city known for its ancient libraries and book collections, vast as the sea and its long-standing education-first tradition eternal time and space. This culture-enriched city is a perfect place for educationists, scholars, and experts to meet to build a better future for education and the world at large.
Professor Yuan Ming, Honorary Dean of Yenching Academy of Peking University, joined other educationists in Ningbo, a historical and cultural city hailed as the “hometown of academicians”, to engage in dialogues on education cooperation and cultural exchanges.
On November 1, 2023, the 2023 International Education Cooperation and Cultural Exchange Forum was held in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. The event was hosted by the People’s Daily Overseas Edition and co-organized by People’s Daily Culture Media and Huamao Group.
Prof. Yuan joined George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece and Party Leader of PASOK, and Irina Bokova, former Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at the forum’s summit dialogue chaired by Long Yongtu, former Secretary-General of the Bo’ao Forum for Asia (BFA). Honorary Dean Yuan expressed pride in our Yenching Scholars through her thoughtfully composed and delivered address: “The Yenching Academy is rooted in China and Chinese society. Our Yenching Scholars are from all over the world, and they try to understand China by reading extensively and travelling within the country to see and feel by themselves. They’re the Z-generation and have grown up in the Internet age. They are open-minded and free of ideological fetters. Instead, they are concerned about common issues, from climate change, global health, and education to cross-cultural exchanges.”
Yenching Scholars come to the Academy out of their interest and love of China and Chinese culture, and make continuous efforts for a growing, sustained global youth network after returning to their countries after graduation. Prof. Yuan highlighted that these young Scholars have illuminated the world’s future with their mutual faith in each other and leadership capability. The professor was impressed with many of her students at the Academy. For instance, Adela Hurtado from the USA loves Chinese novels and admires Zhuge Liang. Jacob Colman from the USA is passionate about culture and philosophy expressed in literature and visual art, and paints an oil painting after the famous Chinese painting A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains. Antonio Roberto Quiroz Soto from Mexico works at Huawei since graduating from YCA, and as a representative of the company, he opens up new markets for Chinese enterprises of emerging technologies.
“I’m impressed with the beauty of classicism of Greece, in Prime Minister Papandreou’s words. The ancient Greek civilization is admirably brilliant and has a far-reaching influence to this day. While in ancient China, we had blooming schools of thought nearly three millennia back. The ancient philosophies and ideas are still part of Chinese culture to this day. I think that’s what Socrates and Confucius mean to us. We’ve been inspired by ancient wisdom. Civilizations shall engage more in dialogues as more technological advancements emerge. We need to exchange the modern expressions of ancient, classical wisdom with each other,” said Prof. Yuan.
Long Yongtu gained a good knowledge of the Yenching Academy beforehand. During the forum, he raised questions on the Academy’s endeavor for art education and cultural exchanges and on Yenching Scholars’ role in the world, hoping that more people could know about the Academy’s approaches and efforts.
In this vein, Prof. Yuan quoted the Academy’s student-sponsored flagship event, the Yenching Global Symposium, as a quintessential case. In the face of the world-changing pandemic and deteriorating Sino-American relations, Yenching Scholars organized the Yenching Global Symposium 2021 despite being separated geographically. In a year of the imminent decoupling of the world, our Scholars called for “Shared Renewal: Recoupling East with West” to reshape and recouple the Eastern and Western worlds from youth perspectives and with youth force.
Honorary Dean Yuan appreciated the heroic spirit in young people: “Young people are aspirational and talented, and particularly they have a unique heroic spirit. All these are essential to this world and art education. Our young people are trying their best to be well-rounded people who are brave to face challenges and the future. The world needs a heroic spirit. I feel the breath of the age. As I look at them, I feel younger myself. Let’s embrace the future together.”
Rooted in the Fertile Soil: Art Education for Mutual Appreciation
As a judging panelist of the Third M Prize organized by the Education Research Institute at Dongqian Lake on the evening of November 1, Prof. Yuan delivered a congratulatory message at the award ceremony.
She noted, “In mutual recognition and appreciation, people make a better community and world and march to a promising future… The M Prize reminds us to return to the fertile soil where life originates, and to see the intrinsic beauty of knowledge, art, friendship, and humanity. The land knows best the sky. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi said, ‘Heaven and Earth proceed in the most admirable way, but they say nothing about them.’ Heaven and Earth are always there and have the eye on human and humanity.”
Prof. Yuan Ming extended her warmest congratulations to this year’s winners, Zheng Xiaoying and Tian Haojiang. Ninety-four-year-old Zheng Xiaoying is China’s first female symphony conductor and the first Chinese conductor standing on a foreign stage. Despite having battled cancer, Zheng has worked for nearly seventy years. The New York-based opera singer Tian Haojiang was once a boiler worker in Beijing. He has been promoting Chinese music and culture around the world, introducing the Tang poems to the West through concerts. At the award ceremony, Tian and two other top singers sang several Chinese songs, including an excerpt from the Chinese opera The White-haired Girl and I Love You, China. Their audience loved and applauded their performance.
Both Zheng and Tian have made brilliant endeavors and contributions to cross-cultural exchanges in the art of music. They and other nominees are deeply rooted in the fertile soil of art and make remarkable contributions to art education.
“This year’s M Prize is given to the musicians who remain faithful to their original aspiration. They stand firmly on the ground while keeping in mind and heart the starry sky. They are people with a ‘halo of brilliance’.”
Honorary Dean Yuan is rooted in the fertile soil of Chinese culture and has devoted herself to education for decades. She’s a loving teacher for her students and a firm advocate and promoter for cultural exchanges between young people around the globe. Prof. Yuan’s philosophy of education has been well translated into Yenching Academy, an educational institution full of heroic spirit that marches on with the vitality of youth.