Through Our Door | Yiran Meng: 2015 Yenching Scholar

Spending four years as an undergraduate at Peking University, Jingyuan had already been one of Yiran’s favorite places before entering Yenching Academy. Before the interview, she shared an article she wrote for Peking University Gazette, telling the story of encountering an international student who shared his love of Chinese traditional culture on the Jingyuan lawn. Before joining the 1st cohort of Yenching Academy, she was impressed by the idea of international communication delivered in the founding ceremony of Yenching Academy and determined to join the newly established program. She considered Jingyuan as an open and special place which inherited the humanistic tradition of Peking University.

Q:What was your first impression of Jingyuan?

A:I once visited Peking University when I was in high school. Jingyuan and the school library left me with the deepest impression. Jingyuan gave me the feeling that it was exactly how Peking University should be like, a place for studying. Maybe it was because of this impression that I think Jingyuan is so closely related to the humanistic tradition at Peking University. When I was still an undergraduate, humanities departments such as the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, History Department and Department of Philosophy were all in Jingyuan, so I think we can say that Jingyuan is a symbol of the history of the humanities at Peking University.

People can walk freely on the Jingyuan lawn, which is not common in China. This is a symbol of openness. This is very much like in other countries, where people can sit on the lawns of universities, chatting and reading, which represents the humanistic care and openness. I also think that the Jingyuan lawn is a symbol of inclusiveness. Whenever I go there, I can see people busy with their own stuff there. Sometimes I see international students play frisbee; sometimes I see adults come with their children. All of these things make this lawn a place of energy and vitality.

Q:Do you have any memorable impressions of Jingyuan?

A:I always went to Jingyuan to read books when I was an undergraduate student. Jingyuan is near the Peking University Library and its location is very convenient. Just like its name, Jingyuan is very serene. It also looks well ordered, with six orderly and neat yards. I chose Chinese Language and Literature as my second major when I was an undergraduate and the department was in Jingyuan courtyard 5. Therefore, I am quite familiar with Jingyuan. I liked to go there in the morning when the air was especially fresh. Reading books in Jingyuan was also very comfortable.

I once read books at Jingyuan when I was a sophomore and an international student came to me asking, 'Can I lie down here and listen to you reading books?' His name is Mai, who’s from Latin America and was an exchange student from The University of Melbourne. Mai spoke very fluent Chinese. It was noon and he had just finished class before coming to Jingyuan to have a rest. He enjoyed resting while listening to others reading books. Later, I came to learn that he became interested in Chinese culture from a very young age. Beginning to learn Chinese in middle school, he had been learning Chinese for almost 10 years. He would use classical Chinese language to reply to my messages and would read old newspapers from the time of the Republic of China for writing his paper. We rarely spoke English when we were together and his rich facial expressions while speaking Chinese remain in my mind. One year later, Mai was heading back to his home university. Before Mai left China, he told me that he would come back again. I believed him because of his deep love for China and the Chinese culture.

Q:As the first cohort graduate from Yenching Academy, do you have any unique memories about Jingyuan?

A:I was one of the student journalists of Peking University News during my undergraduate years and once had the opportunity to participate in the opening ceremony of Yenching Academy. I support the effort that Yenching Academy has made in its international exchange, and I believe this kind of effort is necessary and appropriate. In addition, students of Yenching Academy are very outstanding. With good intentions, excellent peers, and the thirst for communication, I’ve always believed that Yenching Academy was a place where we can definitely learn from each other, so I chose to apply for this program without hesitation.

We organized many activities in Jingyuan. I remembered we had a party in the Mid-Autumn Eve. That was shortly after entering Yenching Academy when we were still not familiar with each other, but everyone was doing their own part and committing to this big family. I think it was a period of precious experiences of exchanging ideas with people from all over the world with different educational backgrounds.

Q:Compared with other parts of the campus, what's unique about Jingyuan’s architecture?

A:Unlike the recently built teaching buildings, Jingyuan is full of culture and history. It fits well with Boya Pagoda and Weiming Lake. Jingyuan also makes me feel so safe that I feel I can do everything freely there if I want. Besides reading books alone there, I also play frisbee with foreign students and chat with them. I think this is just a manifestation of the spirit of Peking University. Besides their schoolwork, we have conversations with other people with an open mind, exchanging our opinions freely in this space among Jingyuan's six doors.

Jingyuan carries the history of Peking University and the university played a very important role in the course of Chinese history. I would like to be enlightened here, reading as many books as possible and meeting with people. If I must pick one place that can represent Peking University best, I would like to choose Jingyuan and the lawn.

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