Wǒmen | The 4th Yenching Global Symposium Concluded with Diverse Stories and Experiences of China Through a Gendered Lens

From March 29 to 31, 2019, the 4th annual Yenching Global Symposium (YGS) was successfully held at the Yenching Academy of Peking University. YGS was organized by students from Yenching Academy of Peking University, with the Executive Committee working for seven months to ensure a successful event. Nearly 200 outstanding youth representatives,Yenching Academy alumni,experts and scholars from different fields and coming from 60 different countries around the world gathered together to conduct in-depth dialogues on the theme of Wǒmen: Retelling the China Stories. Through lectures, seminars, interactive exchanges and cultural activities, delegates engaged with the “China stories” stories through a gendered lens, exploring the central role of women in China's development and promoting dialogues among young leaders from many countries and industries.

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At the opening ceremony, Zoe Jordan, co-chair of YGS, shared her and her colleagues' journey organizing the Symposium. In her welcoming address, Professor Yuan Ming, Dean of Yenching Academy, reviewed the themes of the past three symposiums, and praised the creativity and wisdom of students in combining and using Chinese characters to express each year's theme in an innovative way. Then Dean Yuan shared her grandmother's arduous but persistent journey of learning. The keynote address was given by Liu Xin, the host of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) weekday opinion show, The Point with Liu Xin. She told audience members about her career as a journalist and public figure.

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The Symposium unfolded over three days and offered a variety of cultural exchanges and activities around the theme. Multidisciplinary thematic forums were the main vehicle for discussion, centering on three sub-topics: Economics and Development, Politics and Law, and Society and Culture. Many scholars from top universities in China and abroad shared their insights with the delegates in these forums. These included Helen Siu, professor of anthropology at Yale University, who described her years of fieldwork experience, and provided an anthropological perspective on how to understand women's role in China's long historical process. Susan Finder, who is a well-known long-term visiting professor from the School of International Law of Peking University,analyzed the importance and feasibility of protecting rights and interests of women and children. Chen Qiufan, of the new generation of Chinese science fiction writers, is a Peking University alumnus and also winner of the Global Chinese Science Fiction Nebula Award, shared his thoughts and explorations on gender issues from the perspective of literature.

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In addition to the rich multi-disciplinary thematic forums, this symposium also provided participants with wonderful cultural experiences and interactive activities. On the afternoon of March 30, the delegates visited the famous Nanluoguxiang Hutong district for a scavenger hunt field visit. Delegates were challenged with interesting questions on Chinese culture and history, and friendships were strengthened through this team-building exercise. On March 31, the delegates experienced Chinese folk culture practices such as paper-cutting, painting, calligraphy, Taichi and tea ceremonies, in several workshops. From academic lectures to art workshops, this Yenching Global Symposium attempted to provide delegates with a three-dimensional and comprehensive impression of China.

The forum concluded during the afternoon of March 31, with a keynote speech by Lily Lee Chen, former mayor of Monterey Park, California, USA. Chen, who is nearly 90 years old, shared her gripping story of forging a path in public service as a Chinese-American woman, which inspired the delegates present.

While the conference lasted just three days, the friendship and intellectual stimulation each delegate gained will last for a long time. The Executive Committee hopes that, into the future, YGS will play a greater role in building bridges between China and foreign countries, promoting friendship between Chinese and foreign scholars, and better telling the China stories.

By Andreas Kyriakos

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