Yenching Academy of Peking University Holds Its Opening Ceremony for 2019-2020 Academic Year


On the morning of September 5, the 5th Annual Opening Ceremony of Yenching Academy commenced at Peking University's Qiulin auditorium to welcome the newest scholars of 2019 cohort and inaugurate the new academic year.  

The program opened with the lyrical and soothing songs played by musicians on the trombone, piano, and traditional Chinese instruments. Following the uplifting performance, Zoe Jordan, co-chair of the 2019 Yenching Global Symposium and scholar from the 2018 cohort, imparted some advice for the new scholars. Drawing on her extended experience in China, Zoe reflected on how living in China and Beijing led her to discover parts of herself that she previously did not know existed. She encouraged the 2019 cohort to invest fully in every opportunity offered by the Academy, reminding them that would not be a curated experience. Zoe reminded them that by investing in the community, scholars should assume deep responsibility from their commitment to Yenching and embrace the adventure of delving into a new academic and cultural environment.

Present at the Opening Ceremony were many esteemed guests from the Academy and the wider Peking University community, including Professor Wang Bo, Vice President of Peking University, Mr. Victor Chu, Chair of Council at University College London (UCL), Boya Chair Professor Yu Miaojie, and of course, Professor Yuan Ming, Dean of the Yenching Academy. Other honorable guests from the university in attendance included Professor Deng Xiaonan, Professor Cheng Yuzhui, and Professor Qu Jingdong.

Following Zoe's warm words of advice, Vice President Wang Bo welcomed the new scholars by noting the diversity of the 125 students from 44 countries and regions represented in the 2019 cohort. He emphasized the internationalization of Peking University and the rapid development of China's higher education. He encouraged the new Yenching Scholars to shoulder the historic responsibility of keeping Peking University on a forward-looking path, and urged them to find more meaningful value in their paths in China than themselves.

Presenting next was the representative for professors at the Yenching Academy, Professor Yu Miaojie, Deputy Dean of the National School of Development at Peking University. To the new scholars in the audience, Professor Yu noted the economic miracle of modern China in virtually eliminating poverty, and observed the richness of diversity and lived experience available for scholars to explore in their new home. He encouraged scholars to engage with a wider variety of Chinese people in daily life and to keep an open mind, and reminded them that the Academy was the best platform for students to understand China by engaging with both academics and students from around the world. Professor Yu expressed his belief that by studying in China, scholars could not only eliminate ignorance, but also court and emulate China’s economic success and apply it in the wider world for the benefit of a peaceful and prosperous mankind.

To show appreciation and gratitude for all professors of the Yenching Academy and Peking University, 4th cohort scholar Huang Chuying from China presented a bouquet of fresh flowers to Professor Yu, who received the gift on behalf of all the teachers.

This year's Opening Ceremony included a speech by a student representative from the 2019 cohort, Zachary Marcone, who began by remarking on the current global climate of Yenching Academy, in which international agreements are discarded, barriers are erected, and minorities are ignored. Observing the radically different life trajectories of his fellow scholars, ranging from interning in parliaments to volunteering in West African refugee camps, Zachary noted that the common desire of all scholars to disjoint themselves from their backgrounds had led them to converge in Beijing. He encouraged scholars to open themselves to the great diversity of human thought and to approach their time at Yenching with humility whilst exchanging ideas from their personal experiences. By accepting the imperfections of their own ideas and the merits of their fellow scholars’ at the beginning of the Yenching journey, Zachary affirmed his belief that such openness and friendship would lead to a less fearful and tribalistic world - one in which China will play a major role in the development of future human civilization.

After Zachary imparted his wish, a surprise message was displayed on the big screen. From parents to former work colleagues, friends and siblings, loved ones of the new scholars poured their love, pride, and words of support and encouragement from all across the world into a heartwarming video for the entire Yenching cohort of 2019.

Following the video,Professor Qu Jingdong from Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences presented a couplet as a token of friendship to Yenching Academy. As our neighbor in the beautiful Jingyuan, the two academies are joining hands to promote Peking University in the course of pursuing internationalization. Dean Yuan expressed her gratitude on behalf of Yenching Academy and she read the translation of the couplet to the audience courtesy of Professor Mao Liang from School of Foreign Languages of Peking University - “As the parasol trees in the garden aspire to the glory of the silvery moon, below in the humble college yard they shelter, we converse with the wisdom of all nations and of all ages.”

Next, Dean Yuan expressed her excitement at the prospect of new blood and energy entering the Academy and for the intellectual journey of the 2019 cohort in the coming two years. She noted that the core of the program lies in interdisciplinary studies and cross-cultural exchange. She emphasized that the study of China from within China does not mean locking oneself in a box, but rather means discussing China with faculty from many disciplines and observing changes taking place around the scholars, in addition to undertaking field studies. She observed that while knowledge is the foundation to understanding, language is the key, and expressed her hope that the new scholars would use their time at Yenching to immerse themselves fully in the diversity of their surroundings and their classmates.

With that introduction, Mr. Victor Chu stepped onstage and delivered his views on what it means to be a global student and citizen in today’s increasingly complex and anxious world. Mr. Chu noted that the challenges of climate change, poverty, and automation could not be solved by any one country or community alone, and that global cooperation and partnership was more crucial than ever to resolve the problems which lie ahead. Taking the example of artificial intelligence, Mr. Chu argued that new lines of global governance would be necessary to regulate the growth and development of AI and robotic automation in replacing human labor. Mr. Chu concluded it was important for scholars today to take on responsibility as global citizens to engage in such discussions in a community as inclusive and innovative as Yenching.

After this edifying presentation, the 5th Opening Ceremony of the Yenching Academy wrapped up with a bang, as scholars from the 4th cohort performing a synchronized ribbon dance leapt around the auditorium and onto the stage, delivering a final warm welcome to the new scholars and audience for a successful and meaningful year at the Yenching Academy.

by Michael Jun-Hyuk Lee

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