原创 2018-01-03 王晓珊 21世纪英语传媒
Unfolding all-round reform in undergraduate education and teaching, developing high-level undergraduate educational system, and promoting undergraduate education quality have been the most important goals of Tsinghua’s comprehensive reform over the past several years. Excellent undergraduate education is the most important foundation for cultivating first-class talents. It reveals the traditions and characteristics of the university. First-class undergraduate education being the foundation for first-class university, improving undergraduate education thus becomes the key to achieve the goal of developing into a first-class university in the world. In the course of the comprehensive reform, Tsinghua should further emphasize the fundamental and overall importance of undergraduate education.
Not long ago, in the review and assessment of Tsinghua’s undergraduate teaching, a group of domestic and international scholars rallied by the Ministry of Education have concluded that Tsinghua has made a leading and demonstrative move in orienting its comprehensive reform to the development of undergraduate education. The comprehensive reform is centered on cultivating talents, innovating talent-developing schemes, and dedicating greater efforts to developing undergraduate education. All of these efforts have well-sustained Tsinghua’s goal of talent-cultivation. The scholars have highly commended Tsinghua Xuetang Talents Program. They believed that the program offers the best undergraduate education for the most talented undergraduates who are eager to pursue academic ideals and new heights in science.
Tsinghua Xuetang Talents Program, launched in 2009, is designed to transform the advantages of teaching into the advantages of improving the quality of talent-cultivation. It rallies the first-class professors, fosters a strong academic culture, and encourages talents to devote themselves to academic and scientific researches. The program intends to take a leading role in the course of cultivating innovative talents. Tsinghua invites well-educated and well-experienced first-class professors, who have broadened horizons and plentiful academic achievements, as the chief professors in the program. Besides, Tsinghua Xuetang, the teaching building entailed a hundred year of history, has come into use as the teaching venue reserved for the program. Currently, Tsinghua Xuetang Math Program, Physics Program, Tsien’s Elite Program in Mechanics, Computer Science Program, Chemical Science Program, Life Science Program, and World Literatures and Cultures Program have all been formally opened.
World Literatures and Cultures Program is cofounded by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures (DFLL) and the Institute of World Literatures and Cultures (IWLC). The Program has formally entered Tsinghua Xuetang Talents Program in April, 2017, as the first and only liberal arts subject in the program. Director of the department and institute, chief professor in the program, Yan Haiping, said “Tsinghua Xuetang Talents Program has been centering on science subjects in the past. The entrance of IWLC today marks that Tsinghua places high premium on the development of its liberal arts subjects. The institute is an innovative field for both Chinese and international students and professors in Tsinghua’s liberal arts subjects to better themselves in global-competence, to develop themselves to be ‘more innovative, more international, and more humanity-oriented’.”
Goal: Narrating China through Interpreting the World; Influencing the World through Narrating China
The interviewer noticed that it was not a coincidence for the institute’s becoming the first liberal arts subject in the Tsinghua Xuetang Talents Program. Since its opening, the institute has not only caught the attention of Tsinghua but also the attention of its peers outside of the school for its clear goals, strong characteristics and innovative ideals.
Professor Yan Haiping has been teaching in the first-class universities in the USA for 20 years. Her main research fields include contemporary Chinese and Western literatures, history of Western thoughts, transcultural theories study and teaching. As a member in the first group of distinguished professors in 1000 Talents Plan, Professor Yan Haiping was invited to lead the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and to direct the preparation and construction of the Institute of World Literatures and Cultures in September, 2014. In December, 2014, Tsinghua authorized the opening of the institute and in April, 2016, the institute was formally opened. Being designed to develop a multilingual, interdisciplinary and transcultural teaching and researching platform of humanity, the institute is dedicated to cultivating talents who are capable of understanding and applying logics of different cultures. It aims to narrate China through interpreting the world and to influence the world through narrating China, so as to cultivate talents who are needed in the merge of Chinese humanities, national strategies and international social cultures. The decision to establish the institute offers a fundamental support for the development of liberal arts in Tsinghua.
April, 2016, Opening Ceremony of Institute of World Literatures and Cultures. (First left, director of the institute, Yan Haiping. Second left, Chen Xu, Party Secretary of Tsinghua. Second right, James Holloway, Vice Provost for Global Engagement and Interdisciplinary Academic Affairs. First right, Zheng Li, former Vice Provost of Tsinghua University. )
World Literatures and Cultures experimental class, jointly launched by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and the Institute of World Literatures and Cultures, has made 10, 12, and 15 recruitments respectively in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The three grades of classes have formally entered Tsinghua Xuetang in 2017.
Yan Haiping noted that the core idea of Tsinghua Xuetang Talents Program is to cultivate international academic talents, making them leading and demonstrative “frontrunners” in basic disciplinary fields. For science students, the metrics for their international competence are very clear. For instance, whether or not their papers are published in top-tiered journals, or whether their scientific achievements are recognized globally. However, for humanity subjects, what counts the most is to answer “how to understand Chinese students’ capacity of being ‘frontrunners’ on the international stage while being educated in China”.
“We can understand it from different perspectives, but we should always keep our academic principles strict and relatively clear. “ ‘Narrating China through interpreting the world; influencing the world through narrating China’ is our goal,” said Yan Haiping. “From the perspective of cultivating liberal arts students, ‘narrating China through interpreting the world’ refers to the goal to cultivate students to be knowledgeable enough to understand and to do researches on cultures of major ethnic groups and regions in the world; ‘influencing the world through narrating China’ refers to students’ high awareness of Chinese linguistic cultures and the innovative heritages of Chinese social values. The two goals reinforce each other.”
Yan Haiping noted that the first generation of international scholars cultivated by modern Chinese higher education manage to learn and internalize the essences of modern Western cultures. After coming back to China, they have creatively applied these knowledge together with their professional knowledge to renovate Chinese civilization. In doing so, they have exploited a new path for Chinese humanity subjects and liberal arts cultures to develop. These scholars, as pioneers and founders of Chinese liberal arts, have an over-all understanding of all kinds of civilization systems through diligent study and arduous mental training.
Tsinghua humanity, liberal arts subjects in Tsinghua and the culture of Tsinghua per se are important parts and parcels of modern China. They have been transnational, transcultural and trans-civilization since their birth. The academic guiding principles of “narrating China through interpreting the world; influencing the world through narrating China” are parts of the extensions of Tsinghua’s liberal arts tradition.
Guiding Principles: Building strong academic capacities, emphasizing academic practices, pursuing academic innovations
Yan Haiping noted that the experimental class’s entrance in Tsinghua Xuetang Talents Program has added a new dimension to the guiding principles of the program, namely “building strong academic capacities, emphasizing academic practices, pursuing academic innovations”.
Students in the experimental class are discussing.
“Building strong academic capacities” refers to the transcultural capacity contained in and cultivated by dual language. Yan Haiping noted that foreign language education in Chinese universities, as the academic foundation of professional talents, should never be confined on the level of vocational training, namely the training of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. Instead, the education must aim at improving students’ “global communication capacity”. All of the students in the experimental class were recommended to Tsinghua from either foreign languages high schools or other excellent high schools. They are already profound in basic foreign language skills before they come to Tsinghua. For these students with bilingual and even multilingual capacities and potentials, foreign languages are far more than a tool, but more of a practice and a way of conducting transnational humanity dialogue, recognition and communication. Through learning foreign languages, they have acquired a deeper awareness and understanding of their mother tongue. In return, the awareness and understanding of their mother tongue reinforce and improve their foreign language capacity.
“Language is a medium, through which people enter the spectacular of cultures; culture is a medium, through which people enter the world of civilization; civilization is a path, through which thoughts and values are carried forward. From this sense, the students, in order to meet the goal of having strong academic capacity, must be able to face, to communicate, to compete, to merge and to negotiate with different cultural and civilizational logic. This is what we call the capacity of transcultural communication,” said Yan Haiping.
From the perspective of “emphasizing academic practices”, one of the most important practices for liberal arts students is to communicate with people who are of different cultural backgrounds. The communication should be an in-depth one. “Liberal arts contain not only a general sense of vocation and profession, but also the spiritual disposition of an individual. The spiritual disposition reflects one’s living environment, the essences of one’s culture and all the information of one’s civilization,” said Yan Haiping. For students in the experimental class, the academic practices include speaking at, discussing in and translating for domestic and international academic workshops, such as world literatures and cultures seminars, lunch talk, international academic symposiums.
In December, 2016, Tsinghua launched an initiative, China-UK Association for the Humanities in Higher Education. The Institute of World Literatures and Cultures has staged the first symposium of China-UK Dialogue on the Humanities in Higher Education. This is the first time when Chinese universities (initiated by Tsinghua University) rally with 12 first-rank universities in the world, including University of Oxford, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Peking University, Fudan University, to jointly promote liberal arts fields.
December, 2016, students in IWLC experimental class spoke at China-UK Association for the Humanities in Higher Education Symposium.
In December, 2017, the Institute of World Literatures and Cultures together with University of Oxford China Center has staged a second conference. The constantly reforming world has raised to Chinese liberal arts fields a historical requirement to lead and define a universal topic for global humanity. The establishment of China-UK Association for the Humanities in Higher Education is exactly a response to and implementation of this requirement. The association is a positive motivation to deepen academic communications between liberal arts fields in China and in the world, and to cultivate high-level youth frontrunners who have profound liberal arts background and international outlook. Student representatives from the experimental class have participated in and spoken at the two conferences. Their excellent bilingual capacities, broad international outlook, solid humanity knowledge, passionate expressing style have deeply impressed scholars and attendees in the conferences. They have shown to the world the radiance and power of Tsinghua humanity subjects.
In December, 2017, the Second China-UK Dialogue on the Humanity in Higher Education was held in the University of Oxford. The president of the association, Party Secretary of Tsinghua University, Chen Xu and CEO of the British Council, Sir Ciarán Devane, made speeches in the conference.
Group photo of the attendees in the conference.
Besides, there’s a more specific practice for the experimental class, namely going on an exchange program abroad for a year, which is a treasured life experience to the students. “Professors will specifically give instructions to students on how to effectively use time when they are abroad and on what to expect from themselves. In fact, they should set a highest goal for themselves to pursue when they are overseas,” said Yan Haiping.
In her point of view, the requirements China currently makes on liberal arts subjects are similar with those of Britain’s, when Britain was in the upheaval of Industrial Revolution, or those of the USA’s, after the Second World War. However, China doesn’t have the several centuries’ cultural accumulations inherited from Europe. As a developing country, China is limited in its preparations and resources. But it’s exactly because of this that China is welcoming its most important opportunity that has ever happened in its modern history. “Pursuing academic innovation” refers to us striving for innovations and reformations in facing with this historical opportunity. It requires us to be active in reforming while being resistant to the pressures given by the world. Thus, the reformations must be innovative.
Curriculum system: Integrating Chinese and Western cultures, linking ancient and modern traditions, communicating art and scientific knowledge.
In Yan Haiping’s opinion, it is essential to carry forward the cultural traditions and educational ideas of “integrating Chinese and Western cultures, linking ancient and modern traditions, communicating art and scientific knowledge” , so as to achieve the goals of the experimental class, namely, to equip students with “frontrunning” capacity and to instruct them to fully use the capacity in academic practices.
May, 2017, Tsinghua-Michigan Society of Fellows (TMSF): First IWLC Symposium was held in Tsinghua University. (First left, Vice President of Tsinghua University, Yang Bin; second left, President of Michigan Society of Fellows, Donald Lopez; second right, former Party Secretary of Tsinghua University, Hu Xianzhang; first right, direct of IWLC, dean of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Yan Haiping.)
According to Yan Haiping, the curriculum for the experimental class has synthesized the classic courses in liberal arts fields and in English Department in both Chinese and Western universities. In their first year, students take courses including “Classics of Western Literature”, “Classics of Contemporary Chinese Literature” and “Fictions-reading and Critical Thinking”, using the origin Chinese and English textbooks. Basic courses such as “English Reading” and “English Listening” are based on ancient and contemporary classic literary texts, using the origin textbooks used in Western universities as well.
Courses for the experimental class are given by senior professors in the fields of literature, history, philosophy and foreign languages from Tsinghua University, University of Michigan, Cornell University and Brown University. These scholars form into three “innovative, international and humanity” groupsrespectively teaching in IWLC as basic courses professors, in TMSFas postdoctoral fellows, and in IWLC as international senior professors.
Among professors teaching in IWLC are professor Yan Haiping, professor Chen Yongguo (Vice Dean of the Department of Languages and Literatures), professor Wang Zhongchen (Dean of Department of Chinese Language and Literature), professor Liu Shi (Vice Director of the School of Humanity, professor in Department of Chinese Language and Literature), professor Huang Yusheng (dean of Department of Philosophy), and professor Peng Gang (former Vice Director of the School of Humanity, current President of Academic Affaris, professor in Department of History). TMSF, cofounded by IWLC and MSF in April, 2016, is recognized as mechanism. Starting from September, 2016, every year there will be 3 new postdoctoral scholars, standing out from two rounds of interviews in University of Michigan and two rounds of interviews in Tsinghua,enrolled to start their three-year teaching in IWLC.
Postdoctoral researchers who are currently in TMSF are professional in the Chinese literature, English literature, American literature, French literature and German literature under a global vision. So far, IWLC has invited 18 senior scholars from first-class universities in America as international senior professors in IWLC. These scholars, with broad research fields including comparative literature, cognitive sciences, philosophy, art history, social gender and ethics and Chinese and English linguistics, will give seminars to the experimental class every year on a regular base.
Yan Haiping highlighted that from September, 2018, IWLC will enroll one postdoctoral scholar with both scientific and artistic backgrounds to push forward the constructions of “Communication of Art and Science” course. “It is viable to apply the notion of ‘communicating art and science’ in teaching. We need to construct the project step by step, case by case,” said Yan Haiping.
The interviewer noticed that the experimental class is strict with its courses in depth and distance. Professor Wang Zhongchen, who gives the course “Classic Literatures in Contemporary China” for the experimental class, noted that one of the characteristics of liberal arts in contemporary era is an increasingly specified division to the field. For instance, Chinese language and literature and Foreign languages and literatures are divided as two subjects rather than one. The conception of the experimental class is to reflect upon the issue of over-specifying the liberal arts field, and to create a new liberal arts subject instead. Thus, he instructs students to understand Chinese literature under the framework of world literature since they were freshmen.
Form teacher of the experimental class, professor Chen Yongguo, told the interviewer that students in the experimental class should see close-reading of Chinese and foreign classics, especially the training of critical thinking and academic writing as foundations of their studies. “They have clear and full awareness to the responsibilities that they shoulder the second when they stepped into Tsinghua. They are mentally prepared of how demanding the courses will be,” said Chen Yongguo.
Yan Haiping is especially cautious about the design of the curriculum for first and second year students. In her opinion, the first two years in college is vital to the formation of an individual’s worldview and mentality. It is professors’ job to create a favorable environment for students to build their cognitive map and mentality step by step, in the meanwhile, leaving space for them to find the best way to study. “Of course, leaving students with space to independently make decisions for themselves does not necessarily mean that professors’ instructions are insufficient or superficial,” said Yan Haiping.
Taking the “Classics Reading” course given by professor Yan Haiping as an example, she requires students to write reading diaries, recording those that they think are important and interesting; and then she requires them to take reading notes, reflecting upon the issues that they perceive; they are even expected to compile the reference books that they have read, which are supportive to the professional motives that they have been exploring. Before leaving assignments, Yan Haiping excerpts dozens of paragraphs from students’ reading diaries, notes and compilations ranging across the subjects of literature, history and philosophy, from which she integrates into several topics for students to reflect upon. Based on their reflections, students come up with the topic for their papers. In this way, students develop from reading aimlessly to reading with personal preferences, and gradually form their own way of thinking through condensing and sublimating their ideas.
“After one or two years of study, they develop from lacking of knowledge and experiences to being equipped with not only knowledge and experiences, but also the way of thinking and bilingual capacity. These capacities, which are globalized humanity capacities, can be revealed by the moment when students express their ideas,” said Yan Haiping.
Carrying forward a hundred year of humanity history
Mapping out a brand new pattern of humanity
As chief professor for the experimental class, Yan Haiping knows only too well how heavy the responsibilities are on her shoulder. To her, making this decision in the new century of Tsinghua is not only a carrying forward of the humanity heritage, but also a carrier of the needs and expectations of Chinese modernization.
As is known to all, Tsinghua University used to be one of the birthplaces of Chinese humanity ideas. Tsinghua Sinology Institute, opened in 1925, aiming to integrate Chinese and Western knowledge and inviting the most knowledgeable professors, has updated the profound foundations of liberal arts laid by the “Four Tutors”, namely Liang Qichao, Chen Yinque, Wang Guowei and Zhao Yuanren. The Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, opened in 1926, has cultivated a group of masters including Qian Zhongshu, Cao Yu, Yang Jiang, Ji Xianlin, Li Funing, and Wang Zuoliang. All of them have made historic contributions for the rise and development of Chinese modern academy. During the War of Resistance, Tsinghua University, Peking University and Nankai University cofounded the National SouthWest Associated University, where the liberal arts traditions are fused and elevated to an ever higher level. The National SouthWest Associated University is a symbol of the deep patriotism shared by Chinese universities in the time of national calamity.
Since 1952, due to the adjustment to academic subjects, liberal arts subjects in Tsinghua has experienced a serious decline. This has directly caused an impression that people have always had about Tsinghua, namely, “Tsinghua is a science school”. In 1983, Tsinghua made a comprehensive report on thereconstruction of its liberal arts subjects to the Party organization of the Ministry of Education. Tsinghua identifies itself as “a comprehensive university dominating in technology subjects, supplemented by science, liberal arts and management subjects”, expecting a fast renewal of its liberal arts subjects. However, after the modification of departments, Tsinghua’s liberal arts subjects were merged into other universities. As one can imagine how arduous it was to revive Tsinghua liberal arts, one could as well be overwhelmed by how passionate and determined the scholars were in revitalizing it.
Yan Haiping recalled that leaders and professors in Tsinghua had been keeping concerns about her study and life abroad since the late 1980s when she was a PhD student in Cornell University. They often talked to her about the meanings of revitalizing liberal arts subjects and invited her to join in this reconstruction. When Yan Haiping came back and saw the old library being closed, and the precious 300,000 ancient manuscripts, oracles and bronze wares, left by the then-President Jiang Nanxiang, being untouched, she was filled with thoughts and emotions. In the 1920s to 1930s, China had been through wars and upheavals. But the important books, journals, cultural relics collected by Tsinghua were the proof of its power and foundations to rebuild its liberal arts subjects.
Yan Haiping, being an international scholar who knows too well about Tsinghua’s liberal arts traditions, said that revitalizing liberal arts subjects is a common wish for professors and students in Tsinghua and a historic mission given by the national rejuvenation. Thus, she carefully and seriously responded to Tsinghua’s invitation, and started to give lectures to Tsinghua as guest professor in 1990s. Since 2014, September, when she became dean of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Yan Haiping has led the preparation and construction of IWLC while leading the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures through a structural transformation. It transforms the former teaching and research groups divided through languages to the current subject clusters divided by the developing direction of different subjects. Besides, Tsinghua Language Education Center, exploring English general education teaching and carrying forward the academic principles of “communicating China and the West, liberal arts and science”, is under consideration and construction.
She believes that it is essential to renew our understanding to one of the “Four Tutors”, Zhao Yuanren’s work and experiences. China today needs a language teaching principle and path that emphasizes speaking ability, comprehension capacity and general knowledge. We must construct a “Zhao Yuanren style English teaching system”, namely, a humanity language teaching of English and foreign languages. This system equips students with educated native expressions of a non-native language, based on which their self-learning capacities are developed.
Carrying forward the traditions means bearing with the difficulties. The hundrend-year-history of Tsinghua needs continuous innovations and updates. Over the past years, developing liberal arts subjects has been Tsinghua’s strategy to construct itself as a world first-class university. And cultivating first-class humanity scholars is highlighted as Tsinghua’s education principle. In 2016, President Qiu Yong set the goal of constructing Tsinghua to be more innovative, more internationalized, and more humanity-oriented, showing Tsinghua’s determination to develop its liberal arts subjects.
“China, with its comprehensive developments, is entering the core of international life. In the coming one or two decades, its entrance will modify the landscape of the world and the order of cultures that have been formed over the past five centuries. The influence of the entrance is similar with the changes in the Great Britain and Europe after the Second World War, and the development of the USA to the global structure. Chinese talents with international capacities are the talents in need by not only China but also the world,” said Yan Haiping. “If science and technology are essential to strengthening the national power, then culture is the root of a nation. Liberal arts in Tsinghua has been sharing the same outlook and destiny with China since its birth. There’s no doubt that Tsinghua has its responsibilities to consolidate national power and culture of our country.”
In September, 2014, Yan Haiping has promoted the renewal of subject structures of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. In April, 2016, she has become the president of IWLC. In December, 2016, she has promoted to launch China-UK Association for the Humanities in Higher Education. Yan Haiping has been infusing her understandings of liberal arts given by her 30-years of experiences abroad and her belief in Tsinghua humanity to her everyday work. Just as what she said, “we have chosen a way of existence, namely, seeing the simplest life as the goal of the highest pursuit, and vice versa.”