My YCA Story | Qiu Zheqian: I Won’t Stop Looking at the Stars

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” — Oscar Wilde

“I’m unsure whether I can make it at all, but I want to keep looking at the star. I hope that I can have substantive China studies from diverse international perspectives. The star is probably far away, and I won’t stop looking at it.”

Other’s experiences cherished

Every September, many celebrate in WeChat Moments news of being successfully recommended for direct admission to master’s programs.

September 2019 was no exception. At that time, Qiu Zheqian was still studying at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), savoring her senior fellow students’ happy successes. Zheqian got interested in Yenching Academy, where her senior fellow student Luo Hanyi (from the 2020 Cohort of YCA) would go for a master’s degree. She followed YCA’s official account on WeChat and was updated with the “My YCA Story” reports and the Academy’s curriculum and events.

During her undergraduate years, the China Scholarship Council supported Zheqian in completing a one-year academic exchange at the University of Paris Est- Créteil (Paris XII), where she joined the Tandems Bilingues – an intercultural exchange program – and cultivating friendship ties for language learning and cross-cultural communication.

Zheqian began to rethink her future research interests after an in-class discussion on varied hotly debated international issues. She acutely saw how French and Chinese students’ prejudgments on similar topics differed due to their political systems and values, spurring her to reconsider her area of research.

Qiu Zheqian then turned her eye to Yenching Academy, which offers an interdisciplinary master’s program in China Studies and incorporates theory and practice in its featured field study. Zheqian cherishes the Academy’s vision for an intercultural exchange from both Chinese and international perspectives. She believes that at the Academy, she can improve by drawing on others’ experiences and learning to tell China’s stories. “I applied for Yenching Academy’s program because its interdisciplinary, intercultural approaches fit with my experiences and plans for the future,” said Zheqian.

Good friends and teachers

Qiu Zheqian and her fellow international students were more of “online mates” in the era of the pandemic.

International students from the 2020 Cohort organized the Coffee Pairing Chat, providing a platform for Yenching Scholars to chat online freely across the world and get to know themselves and their interests even more.

Qiu Zheqian once had a pairing chat with a YCA Scholar from the United States interested in classic Chinese poetry. Unsatisfied with reading only English translations of classic Chinese poetry, the student took Chinese as a minor in the university, hoping he could grasp the essence of classic Chinese poetry by reading extensively.

Thanks to this coffee chat, Zheqian saw a passion for and persistence in learning Chinese culture in her colleague. She grew firmer in her role in intercultural communication and was determined to work harder on China Studies.

“Rural China is the starting point to understand China.” Professor Wang Shuguang’s “Rural China Studies” has been popular with students for its rich, substantive content. Zheqian, who studies in the Literature and Culture track, took this course from the Economics and Management track to piece her bite-sized knowledge of rural China into an organized system.

After a semester’s study in the course, Qiu Zheqian gained a better understanding of rural China, including crucial issues of the people’s commune, household contract responsibility system, rural finance, rural governance, and urbanization, incorporated and investigated in this course. Rural China is fully presented from a historical perspective and examined with interdisciplinary approaches of economics, political science, sociology, and cultural anthropology. Qiu admits that she benefited from the course, its content, and class discussions between the teacher and other enrolled students.

Zheqian recounted how easy it was to meet and converse with the professor on several class themes that needed clarification. At one point, she inquired from Professor Wang about the reform of credit unions in Zhejiang province, and the professor shedding light on her question drew a diagram of relationships. Likewise, Zheqian later consulted Professor Wang for advice on her thesis topic. She found a solution to her confusion with the professor’s insightful advice and instruction.

Qiu Zheqian is grateful to meet many good friends and teachers at the Academy.

Persistence drives you far

In their first year at the Academy, Qiu Zheqian, Jack Allen (UK), Phua Jue Yu Jade (Singapore), Lu Danqi and Tang Tianyue (both from China) received YCA Dean’s Grant to research the sketch comedies put on the Spring Festival Gala’s stage in China.

They examined how the sketch comedies represented and responded to social realities in China over four decades from 1983 to 2022. The students commanded a good understanding of China’s changes and development over the period through the comedies’ content, which covered a wide range of social issues, traditional values, and possible solutions.

Contests for the 30th Challenge Cup of Peking University kicked off in November 2021. Qiu Zheqian made no delay in setting up her team for the Challenge. Her team of six students (from Yenching Academy) selected their topic and contacted the challenge organizers for their requirements. Qiu’s team beat six rivals, and their well-targeted research proposal won.

Considering others’ failure to fulfill their projects due to poor time management, Qiu and her teammates designed a schedule for their project and strictly followed the timetable.

The team tried their best to conduct as many in-depth interviews as possible and received immense support from career instructors and senior students.

They were in contact with the project instructor, whose advice helped significantly with the team’s final work.

The team members prepared diligently, brainstorming and endeavoring to exhaust every possible question they might be asked during the oral defense.

The six-member team delivered a 224-page, fact-based project report titled “Status Quo of Peking University’s Graduates Selected for Basic Units”. For the project, 15 selected graduates, five current students preparing for the selection test, and four career instructors from Peking University were interviewed, and 275 questionnaires from Peking University’s graduates selected for basic units were examined. The 200,000-word-long final report covered the motivation, status quo, and future development of graduates selected for basic units. Also, the report outlined possible solutions for the career development of Peking University’s graduates selected for basic units.

Unity of knowing and acting

Qiu Zheqian wants to be a person who truly knows China. Understanding she’s far from that goal, Zheqian tries to know better by acting more.

In February 2022, she volunteered for community service at the Weixiuyuan residential area in Beijing’s Haidian district and gained valuable experience over the four-odd months there.

She was most impressed by the community service’s efforts to identify the special groups in the community and form a report on the issue. Zheqian felt she was no longer a student living simply on campus; instead, she learned the essentials of communication and giving back to society in community-level work. She believes communication is vital to understanding people and situations; principles and heartfelt considerations for others are equally important. Sincerity wins over trust and understanding.

Qiu Zheqian worked and thought. Thanks to the support from the community service director, Zheqian offered to prepare a research report titled “Community-level Resident Information Management in the Pandemic: A Case Study of Weixiuyuan Community of Yanyuan Neighborhood in Haidian District”.

In the summer of 2022, Zheqian joined China Education Support Project and worked on probation in the local government offices in Ningde, Fujian province. She was in charge of the probation team.

This role gave Zheqian a first-hand experience of the important and complicated nature of grassroots work and a better understanding of the meaning of serving the people, addressing their needs, and attending to their problems.

Over their probation period at Zherong county, China’s top producer of taizishen ginseng or false starworts, Zheqian and her team explored ways for local rural revitalization. The team worked on university-industry collaboration to promote deep processing and specialty industry in the county. At Xikou village of Zherong county, a village inscribed on China’s List of Traditional Villages, the team helped raise local awareness of cultural preservation and enhance local new media operations to promote culture-enriched tourism. At Baojianzhai village of the She people of Zherong county, the team focused on encouraging the local She people to fully utilize their ethnic traditions and boost the cultural industry.

Qiu Zheqian devoted herself to the probation project. She was the messenger between her team and local government offices and the job arranger for her team members. What’s more, she had to deal with pandemic-related inconveniences. Zheqian’s team conducted a field study of rural revitalization in 15 villages, accomplishing nearly 100 tasks assigned by local government offices and writing over 50,000-word reflections on their work. The team’s efforts were repaid: they received the First Team Award, and Zheqian was awarded the Excellent Team Leader.

Thanks to the probation project, Qiu Zheqian was able to apply her in-class knowledge of rural China in local villages in east Fujian province and translate her thoughts on rural revitalization into reality-changing efforts.

“Rural revitalization should not be merely a topic in black-and-white; it must be people-oriented, beneficial measures. Every village is unique. It has its own geographic, historical, and cultural features. We must delve into rural China to have precision strategies for rural revitalization.”

Words for future

Without knowing, acting can’t start well. Without acting, knowing can’t be complete.

Qiu Zheqian has been faithful to her original aspiration – in class or practice. She learns, travels, observes, listens, and feels. She translates her sense of responsibility and passion for the nation into tireless efforts. She looks at the star and keeps on.

  • Address: Jingyuan Courtyard 3, Peking University, 5 Yiheyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing, 100871

    Tel:010-6275 3625

  • Admissions

    Tel: 86-10-6274 4510 (Domestic)

    86-10-6276 6358 (International)

  • Media

    Tel:010-6276 8317

  • Alumni

    Tel:010-6276 8302

Copyright  © 2018 Yenching Academy of Peking University