China Studies for the World | YCA Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary

Yenching Academy celebrated its 10th birthday in May 2024.

On May 16 and 17, Vice Presidents Wang Bo and Fang Fang, along with Vice Chair Jiang Guohua of PKU Council, joined PKU Council Chair Hao Ping and President Gong Qihuang in visiting the Academy’s 10th-anniversary photo exhibition at the B1 atrium of Second Gymnasium. Dong Qiang, Dean of Yenching Academy, introduced the Academy’s development over the past decade, highlighting its curriculum, field studies, student activities, and alumni development efforts. Both Hao and Gong praised YCA’s work and extended their best wishes for the Academy’s future development. Li Yun, Director of the PKU Office of International Relations (OIR), Chen Peng, Executive Deputy Director of the PKU Graduate School, and Wang Tianbing, Deputy Director of the PKU Graduate School, also joined the visits.

Established in 2014, Yenching Academy offers a master’s program in China Studies focused on cross-cultural exchanges between China and the world. The Academy leverages Peking University’s strengths in the humanities and social sciences and employs an interdisciplinary approach to cultivate young talents with Chinese and international perspectives.

Over the past decades, the Academy has continuously explored new paths and made unswerving efforts to achieve its goal in international education and cross-cultural exchange. It is now recognized as a flagship international education program. Yenching Academy continually improves its curriculum and program, balancing academic rigor with practical experience and integrating specialized knowledge with a liberal arts education. The Academy investigates China-related issues from international perspectives and has made significant contributions to its China Studies master’s program. YCA alumni are now working with international organizations, government agencies, top-notch universities, and world-known companies. They are the youth power who tell China’s story and contribute to cross-cultural exchanges across the globe.

On May 18, Yenching Academy held an event celebrating its 10th anniversary at Li Ying Hall in Peking University Hall. The event, hosted by YCA Associate Dean Fan Shiming, began with performances by the Qingzhou Choir, featuring the songs "Jianjia" (Reeds), "Shuangyan" (Two Swallows), and "Dingfengbo" (After the Storm). These songs beautifully combined Chinese poetry with Western musical instruments, showcasing the best of classical Chinese literature through modern music. Professor Fan Shiming delivered an opening speech, extending gratitude to the attendees, including leaders from within and outside Peking University, industrial partners of the Academy, and faculty from other schools and departments for their long-standing support of Yenching Academy.

A video presentation highlighted the Academy’s development over the past decade through four sections: “Choice of the Era,” “Cultivation,” “Connecting Minds,” and “A Future Without Limits.” Wang Enge, former President of Peking University; Liu Wei, former Executive Vice President of Peking University; Yuan Ming, first Dean and Honorary Dean of Yenching Academy; and Dong Qiang, Dean of Yenching Academy, reflected on the Academy’s early days. Teachers, Scholars, and alumni also shared their experiences at YCA.

In his speech, Wang Bo, Vice President and Provost of Peking University, congratulated Yenching Academy on its remarkable achievements over the past decade on behalf of PKU Council Chair Hao Ping and President Gong Qihuang. Wang emphasized that Yenching Academy is firmly rooted in Peking University’s traditions and opens up new horizons for understanding China from international perspectives. He praised the Academy as a role model that draws on historical and cultural strengths to build a promising future, focusing on current issues and exploring history- and culture-informed solutions. The Vice President noted that as China moves into the spotlight on the world stage, it is important to foster world-oriented talents of the new era and facilitate a better understanding of China’s history, culture, and modern development among Chinese and international youths. He highlighted that Yenching Academy epitomizes the answer to the call for “cross-cultural exchanges between Chinese and international youths in the new era.” With support from the competent authority, partner departments, various colleges, schools, and functional departments within Peking University, the Academy has explored new paths for and gained valuable experience in operational mode, curriculum design, and international collaboration over the past decade. Wang expressed his belief that Yenching Scholars and alumni would be like bridges between China and the rest of the world, spreading friendship and peace. He hoped that Yenching Academy will reach the next level in the coming decade, adhering to its original aspirations and fundamental principles while breaking new ground.

Professor Guo Li, Dean of Peking University Law School, gave a speech as teachers’ representative. A long-time contributor to the Academy’s development, Prof. Guo teaches one of the Academy’s compulsory courses, “China in Transition,” and the elective course, “The Legal Dynamics of Chinese Commerce and Society.” The professor noted that understanding China is no longer an "elective" course in the global context but a "compulsory" one that requires theoretical research and hands-on experience. He emphasized that Yenching Academy is integral to the development of Peking University, China, and the world, attributing its achievements to its Scholars, alumni, teachers, and supportive individuals from the society. The Academy’s China Studies program is a distinctively international and interdisciplinary master’s program emphasizing students’ personal experiences. The Academy provides its Scholars with an excellent education, offering English-taught courses from eminent scholars, a well-designed course selection system, and field study trips. At Yenching Academy, China Studies is a practical discipline learned in China. Prof. Guo noted that the Academy’s success lies in its outstanding curriculum, publications, and teaching awards, but more importantly, in its Scholars, who are globally-minded individuals with international perspectives and capable of cross-cultural communication. He noted that YCA Scholars and alumni will be significant contributors to the world’s peace and development.

Professor Lu Yang, Director of YCA Graduate Studies, hosted the book launch of “Xintang yanyu (Words from the Campus),” a collection of Yenching Scholars’ course papers published to commemorate the Academy’s 10th anniversary. At the recommendation of lecturing teachers, 14 course papers and three project closure reports financed by the Dean’s Research Fund were selected and included in the book, expected to be published by Sino-Culture Press. The authors hail from Australia, Brazil, Poland, Germany, USA, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, UK, and China, covering research topics such as ancient Chinese literature, sinology and China Studies, comparative literature, history of Chinese art, global population studies, language studies, family and gender, international education, urban planning, and international economy. The book epitomizes YCA’s interdisciplinary approach to China-related issues and demonstrates our Scholars’ integration of extensive knowledge about China with their specialized research track. Prof. Lu highlighted that at its inception, the Academy aimed to foster researchers with critical thinking who conduct thought-provoking, valuable studies of China from Chinese perspectives. While the papers in the book may not be perfect, they exemplify our Scholars’ academic efforts, inspiring future Yenching Scholars’ research interests. Prof. Lu thanked Bao Yan, President of Sino-Culture Press, for her support and efforts for the book.

Chinese student Sun Wen from the 2021 Cohort shared her writing experience in interdisciplinary research, China Studies, and global citizenship. Liu Chen, associate Dean of the PKU School of Arts and lecturer of “Art of China” at YCA, supervised a student paper selected for the book. Prof. Liu noted that the book demonstrates the Academy’s pursuit of excellence and creativity and serves as another significant achievement for the Academy.

Other universities also sent their congratulations via video. Tong Shijun, Chancellor of New York University Shanghai, stated that “the best way for one to learn, to know a foreign country is to live in that country for a period as if he or she were one of the native residents,” benefiting and nurturing one's academic research. John Quelch, Executive Vice Chancellor of Duke Kunshan University, congratulated Yenching Academy on fostering many exceptional global citizens over the past decade. Noting that his university and YCA share the same vision, Quelch expressed his anticipation of more cooperation between the two institutions in the future. Adam K. Webb, American co-director of the Johns Hopkins-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies, extended warm congratulations on the Academy’s remarkable achievements and wished for YCA to reach new heights in forging exchanges between China and the US.

YCA Honorary Dean Yuan Ming, who was visiting Duke Kunshan University on May 18, sent a congratulatory video to Yenching Academy. Prof. Yuan said that Yenching Academy invites exceptional and creative students from China and around the world to Peking University, where they forge long-lasting, mutual friendships and build stronger ties between China and the world. In 2015, Prof. Yuan spoke as the staff representative to the first cohort of 96 Yenching Scholars from 32 countries and regions. Over the past decade, the Academy has encompassed 972 Scholars and alumni from 82 countries and regions. Prof. Yuan has remained involved in the Academy’s growth and student development throughout the years, maintaining contact with many alumni. She expressed pride in the Yenching Scholars embarking on an intercultural, interdisciplinary study journey, tapping into their potential vitality, curiosity, and imagination at YCA and leveraging the true strengths of culture. Prof. Yuan extended her heartfelt wishes for the Academy’s promising future.

Dean Dong Qiang delivered a report on the development of Yenching Academy over the past decade. Appointed as Dean in December 2021, Prof. Dong has a background in French language, literature, and culture, as well as comparative studies of Chinese and French cultures. He was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes académiques (Order of Academic Palms) in 2009. Admitting his initial nervousness in his new role, Dean Dong noted that he has since gained a deep understanding of the thoughts and needs of youths through communication with Yenching Scholars from across the globe. He highlighted that the Academy was born from a well-informed decision and was a response to the call of the era and and attributed its success to effective management. Prof. Dong extended gratitude to former PKU Presidents Wang Enge and Lin Jianhua, the first Dean of YCA Liu Wei, and YCA Honorary Dean Yuan Ming for their contributions. He pledged to follow the traditions while leveraging its rich legacy and breaking new grounds for the Academy’s future development.

Over the past decade, Yenching Academy has also received immense support, particularly from the China Scholarship Council, Bai Xian Foundation, Shuhsi Hsü Chair Professorship Fund, Lide Chair Professorship Fund, and Peking University Education Foundation. These sources of support have enabled the Academy to invite and integrate eminent figures, including former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and Zhang Longxi, Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation at City University of Hong Kong. These distinguished academics help maintain the Academy’s international reputation.

Dean Dong acknowledged the challenges higher education faces as an incubator of high-caliber talents due to social and technological developments. He emphasized the essence of adhering to the Academy’s original aspirations amidst the rapid and ever-changing background of international education. Dean Dong delivered keynote speeches at the Harvard College China Forum and World Development Forum, highlighting Yenching Academy’s contributions to international education. He is committed to enhancing the Academy’s international visibility and influence, and forging stronger collaborations between YCA and major overseas academic institutions. Dean Dong noted that higher education is becoming increasingly internationalized, as evidenced by YCA’s growth. The Academy now encompasses exceptional students from over 82 countries and regions and 374 universities worldwide, including Peking University, University of Oxford, Harvard University, University of Cambridge, and Sun Yat-Sen University, with an annual enrollment of 120 students. At Yenching Academy, our Scholars gain firsthand experience of China through interdisciplinary studies in Chinese literature, history, philosophy, politics, economy, and law. They engage in practical learning through core courses like "China in Transition" and "Field Study," receive academic funding from the Dean’s Research Fund, and participate in the Yenching Global Symposium (YGS). At YCA’s 10th-anniversary photo exhibition, PKU Council Chair Hao Ping stressed that textbook reading is far from enough for a complete understanding of a country, adding that students need to gain knowledge of China by living here.

Dean Dong highlighted Peking University’s commitments to innovation while following core principles, and promised that Yenching Academy would continue to address new challenges by leveraging the University’s humanities legacy in the coming decade. He assured that with strong support from Peking University’s leaders, functional departments, schools and colleges within the University, and from individuals across society, he and his colleagues would make concerted efforts to build Yenching Academy into a world-known institution to attract more exceptional students from all around the globe.

Reflecting on a visit to the University of Bologna, one of the world’s oldest, earliest universities, a decade ago, Dean Dong remarked that he had no idea that Yenching Academy, a young, pioneering institution, was taking shape at Peking University, let alone imagining that he would become its dean. As for the importance of humanities in coping with rapid technological advancement, Prof. Dong cited Milan Kundera’s idea in “Slowness,” noting that speed should not be society’s sole focus and that the joy of exploring and experiencing different cultures nurtures wisdom in unique ways. One may have the greatest joy in seeing and living in different cultures, and Yenching Academy aims to be a platform where students are entitled to such opportunities.

Lei Xufei and Liu Jiayue (China, cohort 2018), Grace Ishola (Nigeria, cohort 2022), and Samuel Pekats (USA, cohort 2023) shared their experiences at Yenching Academy. The international students expressed how, in two years, they have polished their Chinese language skills and told stories about how Chinese and international students have forged lasting friendships. They reminisced about memorable study trips to different locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Sichuan, Chongqing, and Hainan. At the Academy’s 10th anniversary celebration, they extended their best wishes to their fellow Yenching Scholars for fruitful, joyful, and successful learning experiences at the Academy. The four gave a brilliant performance of “Tianmimi” (Sweet Honey) and “Shangchunshan” (A Spring Hiking in Mountains). The event concluded with our Scholars singing the birthday song in Chinese and many other languages.

Other notable guests at the celebration:

Wang Daquan, Director of Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange, MOE

Hu Yixiong, Director of Beijing Overseas Talents Center

Xia Jianhui, Deputy Director of the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange, MOE

Xi Ru, Level II Bureau Rank Official, Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges, MOE

Ma Yun, Director of Overseas Division of Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange, MOE

Zhang Longxi, Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation at City University of Hong Kong and Lide Chair Professor at YCA

Neysun A. Mahboubi, Director of the Penn Project on the Future of U.S.-China Relations at the University of Pennsylvania

Jeong Jong-Ho, Former President of Seoul National University (SNU) and Former Dean of the SNU Graduate School of International Studies

Zhang Zhan, Representative of Ge Li & Ning Zhao Family Foundation

Pan Qingzhong, Executive Dean of Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University

Xiao Kai, Chief of Staff of the International Confucian Association (ICA) and Dean of Jingshi Academy, Beijing Normal University

Bao Yan, President of Sino-Culture Press

Li Lingxi, Managing Director of Princeton University Press China

Li Feng, Director of Minsheng Art Museum Beijing

Chen Ming, Dean of the School of Foreign Languages, Peking University

Yan Fengqiao, Dean of the Graduate School of Education Peking University

He Jin, Party Secretary of the Department of History, Peking University

Guo Li, Dean of Law School, Peking University

Xia Hongwei, Party Secretary of Peking University Press

Dong Xiaohua, Secretary of the Party Committee of Affiliated Units of Peking University

Li Wensheng, Director of the Alumni Office, Peking University

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