Through Our Door | Dong Wang: 2018 Yenching Scholar

Dong Wang considered Yenching Academy itself as a “door” to all kinds of possibilities for history, future, and life. The Yenching Academy journey has greatly shaped him. Inspired by it, he thus determined to pursue his own passion in philosophy and religion and switched his concentration for a new start. He became devoted to telling China's story on the basis of understanding the cultural roots of different Chinese ethnicities in depth. He cherished Jingyuan for its historical and cultural heritage, which represents the essence of the humanistic tradition of Peking University.

Q:In your opinion, what kind of space does Jingyuan represent?

A: I think Jingyuan is at the center of the spirit of Peking University. Jingyuan was given so much meaning, largely because it used to be the place where the humanities departments of Peking University once located. The Chinese Language and Literature Department, History Department, and Philosophy Department are the earliest-founded departments of Peking University, and their names remain the same over these many years, not renamed as ‘colleges’ or so. This actually represents the cultural continuity. Correspondingly, Jingyuan, as the location of these humanities departments, is naturally also the carrier of the spirit of Peking University. Of course, Weiming Lake and the library are also crucial to the campus, but I would say Jingyuan symbolizes the essence of Peking University. The role of Jingyuan in history, in my opinion, is irreplaceable.

Q:Our exhibition focuses on the sense of connection that the doors of Jingyuan bring to Yenching Academy and Peking University students. Do you feel a sense of connection during your school years here?

A: I think Yenching Academy is a door itself. It is above all a door to infinite possibilities in life. So many students from different countries with various backgrounds in the school make me feel that various possibilities await. My roommate was Japanese. He decided to travel around China in the second year and he made it. Although in the end he only completed half of the trip due to the pandemic, he has also visited more than 20 provinces. Not only did he travel all the way, but he also set up his own website, shot various videos, and wrote blog posts to introduce the customs of China. Another classmate who played table tennis with me, drove from Europe to China in 100 days. They worked with "National Geographic" magazine to shoot a documentary. These are expeditions that can happen at any time. Without knowing these fellow scholars, I would have found it difficult to think outside of the original path of life, and it also would have been hard for me to have seen the prejudices that were accustomed to my own ideas. Yenching Academy provides us with a precious environment: in-depth exchanges and friendships with so many students. It can actually illuminate our generation, enrich our knowledge outside the classroom, and enhance our ability of being in the driver’s seat of our own life.

Yenching Academy is also a door leading to both history and the future. A professor once said that we are shouldering a special mission: different nationalities, in this case different students, have cultural roots within, and the roots represent the wisdom and culture of their whole nation's tenacious striving. We link these roots together, when we trace back to the origins of culture, we are talking with history; when we recreate the work with our own nation’s characteristics, we are talking with the future.  As for how to excavate and trace national wisdoms, and then speak on behalf of the country on the world stage, many people may have thought about this issue, but they have not done it out of various reasons. If I can really have some achievements in the future, I think this accumulation will have stemmed from Yenching Academy. It is a brand-new starting point in my future career and life.

Q:Are there any memorable stories that happened in Jingyuan?

A: What impressed me most was running for the president and vice president of Yenching Academy’s Graduate Student Union with Miles, my American classmate. When we first met, we hit it off and decided to campaign together. We took more than 100 promotional photos in Jingyuan. What I want to express through this experience is that Jingyuan actually gave us a concept of "door". Because Miles is my first international friend in the true sense, with him I learned about Western politics, lifestyle, and the thinking of Western college students. This experience greatly encouraged me.

Q:What place in Jingyuan do you like most?

A: My favorite place in Jingyuan is the yard between Jingyuan 2 and 3. That is where we usually held our activities. There are many good memories. For example, we once had a party there. We played musical instruments, sang, played games, and everyone brought the specialties of their hometown. It was a good opportunity to learn about multiculturalism in a relaxed and joyful way. Everyone would spontaneously like to introduce the traditional festivals of their country, such as Indian Diwali, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and so on. Russian friends attaches great importance to New Year's Day, which I learned from an event in the yard. They have a sense of ritual on that day, and they would even pray for the New Year.

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