Yenching Academy 2017 Opening Ceremony



On September 10, 2017, the Yenching Academy of Peking University held its third annual Opening Ceremony to officially launch the academic year and inaugurate the new cohort of Yenching Scholars. This year, it was held in the Qiu Lin Auditorium of the Peking University School of International Relations.

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Speakers included Lin Jianhua, Peking University President; Zhang Longxi, Distinguished Professor of Yenching Academy; Mr. Ronnie Chan, Chairman of the Hang Lung Group Limited; and Dean Yuan Ming, Dean of the Yenching Academy.

The Ceremony commenced with welcoming performances by the Peking University Folk Orchestra, and Acapella group, followed by an opening speech by Professor Lu Yang, Director of Graduate Studies of the Yenching Academy. On behalf of the Academy, he welcomed a number of distinguished guests including Ambassador of Ireland H.E. Eoin O'Leary, Chairman of Hang Lang Group Limited Mr.Ronnie Chan, Distinguished Proffesor of the Yenching Academy and Formal Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Repubic of China Professor He Yafei, Distinguished Professor of Yenching Academy, Chiar Professor of Comparative Literature and Translation of City University of Hong Kong and President of the International Comparative Literature Association Professor Zhang Longxi, President Lin Jianhua of Peking University, and Dean Yuan Ming of Yenching Academy.

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Professor Lu commented on the ways that the Yenching Academy, China and the world have undergone such immense changes, in such a short space of time. He pointed to the ways artificial intelligence had set off new waves of technology development, while bike-shares were changing the pattern of public transportation all over China. Professor Lu encouraged the scholars to be ready to meet the challenges of the future, and be active participants in improving both the Yenching Academy, and the world around them.

After his brief opening remarks, Professor Lu Yang introduced President Lin. President Lin recalled his speech two years ago at the first opening ceremony of the Yenching Academy, and his hopes that the Academy would bring a more rich and diverse culture to Peking University. He was very pleased to welcome in the new cohort and urged students to open themselves up to this experience, make the most of their time as a Yenching Scholar and use what they gain here to make the world a better place.

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Professor Zhang Longxi then offered remarks as the teacher representative. He commented that, “Yenching Scholars have the opportunity and responsibility to understand China and its people” and to bridge of cross-cultural understanding and communication between China and the rest of world. He encouraged the scholars to see their Yenching experience as an shared opportunity and responsibility, and closed with the advice to “focus less on what you already know and focus more on what you do not yet know” in their pursuit of knowledge.

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After Professor Zhang’s speech, Hannah Feldshuh, a 2016 Yenching student representative, presented Professor Zhang with flowers. She then invited several Yenching Scholars to give words of appreciations and thanks in English, Hindi, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and other languages in honour of Teacher's Day.

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Mr. Ronnie Chan then delivered the keynote speech in which he stressed the importance of cross-cultural communication in the course of human history. He stressed that it was those who communicated with different cultures who really changed the world. He encouraged the students to study history and learn from history. Mr. Chan went on to discuss the challenges facing mankind, from natural disasters to pandemics, from food security to terrorism, and urged Yenching scholars to study issues open-mindedly to find innovative solutions. He ended by hoping that during their year in China, they might discover “something in China that they didn’t know before, and that will be meaningful to the world”.

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Finally, Professor Yuan Ming, Dean of the Yenching Academy gave her welcoming remarks. First, she thanked Professor Zhang Longxi, Professor He Yafei and other teachers for their hard work and contributions on behalf of China, and offered her sincerest thanks to Mr. Ronnie Chan and his family for their presence.  She went on to discuss the idea of “sharing”. Sharing, she said, is an inherent part of human nature, whether it was needed for survival or for emotional fulfilment. However, in this age of increasing cross-cultural interaction, she pressed the Scholars to consider what and how best to share their perspectives with the world.

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Dean Yuan then invited three Yenching Scholars -- Alix Lewis (2016 Yenching Scholar, Trinidad and Tobago, Wellesley College), Liu Xinyu (2017 Yenching Scholar, China, Peking University), and Travis Jamaal Gidado (2017 Yenching Scholar, USA, Yale University) -- to share their ideas and thoughts.

Alix shared her first year experience, and recalled the warmth of her classmates and teachers. She reflected on how much the Yenching Academy supported into her research and shared her dreams for her future, and finally, on the “shared legacy” that Yenching Scholars are building together. Liu Xinyu shared how his life had changed since first coming to university to study physics, and how he grateful he was for the opportunity to allow experience this new form education. Travis shared his thoughts on fear and change regarding coming to China for the first time. He spoke about how he derived strength from seeing an institution like Peking University grapple with unknown future, and produce the Yenching Academy in response to that uncertainty.

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After that, the three students shared their favorite words in Chinese: Ms. Lewis shared "Friendships across the world make near neighbours of far horizons”(海内存知己,天涯若比邻), Mr. Liu shared "Education is a tree shaking another tree, a cloud to promote another cloud, a soul to wake up another soul " and Mr. Gidado concluded with “Teachers open the door, but you have to enter for yourself”(师傅领进门,修行在个人). The three then surprised Dean Yuan Ming with a gift from the Second Cohort to thank her for all her hard work.

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At the end of the Ceremony, Dean Yuan thanked the three, quoting “In a party of three, there must be someone from whom I can learn”, and encouraged the Yenching Scholars to learn from each other and grow together. The Yenching Academy office staff and student assistants performed a vibrant welcoming dance to bring the Opening Ceremony to a successful conclusion.

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