A Summer Day at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing

  • The 7th Chinese Political Sociology Workshop

  • Psychology Research Surveys

  • Maxime Kpangbai

  • Calvin Zhu visiting the Forbidden City with Summer Language Program students

  • Kyle Chan

  • Professor Wu at the opening reception for Wu Jian'an's exhibition

July 28, 2017

As over 160 graduate students, professors, and scholars settled into their seats in the event space at the UChicago Center in Beijing, Dingxin Zhao, Max Palevsky Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, and Shizheng Feng, professor of Sociology at Renmin University of China, gave the opening words for the seventh Chinese Political Sociology Workshop. The workshop is a three-day crash course in Political Sociology. This year's focus is on ideology. Fifteen speakers from the UK, the U.S. and China address various aspects of ideology from different perspectives.

Many of the attendees are graduate students and young scholars from prestigious Chinese universities. They started to apply to participate in the workshop early April and were selected through a competitive process. "I'm not very familiar with the study of ideology, so I am here to learn… [I am here for] inspirations," a Ph.D. candidate of Sociology at Peking University said.

Some undergraduate students are also attracted to the workshop. "The lectures are very similar to my classes in the U.S….However, the first lecturer [Professor Breuilly], is a historian who studies nationalism, something very rare at my college; the second lecturer is very concerned with methodology, something that I have not leant as much from my school," a rising junior at Vassar College said. Interning with a history professor at East China Normal University this summer, he had heard of the workshop and decided to attend it as an auditor.

Across from the lecture hall and past a conference room, two student interns have set up a small experiment station with surveys for a psychology research on the relationship between multilingualism and decision-making. It is a part of Keysar Lab, named after Professor Boaz Keysar at the University of Chicago. Jingru Wang and Hanson Lu, both rising sophomores at the University, are responsible for recruiting 400 subjects for the study. "We still have two thirds to go, but it's only the third week of our ten-week internship," Wang said.

Wang is majoring in psychology and music, while Lu is majoring in computer science and linguistics. "The lab is not strictly related to linguistics, but I'm really interested in the research project," Lu said.

In the same staff area, another intern from the University of Chicago has the luxury of occupying an office all to herself. Maxime Kpangbai, a rising sophomore and a double major in economics and visual arts, is working at the center as an Admissions Fellow, representing the Chicago admissions office by interviewing applying students and providing information sessions. "For my future, I could envision myself staying in China, so it was a great idea for me to intern in China and also practice my Chinese," Kpangbai said.

Kpangbai is interested in non-profits and education, and has experiences in education-related volunteer work. She looks forward to learning more about higher education. "I wanted to use this as an opportunity to experience, and to maybe open a new field or opportunity for myself," she said.

Some of Kpangbai's friends are participating in the Study Abroad Program in Beijing, studying different levels of Chinese. Half of the Center in Beijing is composed of classrooms and multi-media conference rooms. Every summer, the center hosts University students who pursue an intensive eight-week study of Chinese language. They live at the international student dormitory of Renmin University, which is adjacent to the center.

Calvin Zhu, a rising sophomore, is a potential economics and computer science major. Having completed an entire year of Chinese, Zhu is currently taking second-year Chinese. Zhu explained that he really wanted to visit Beijing and continue with the language. Every weekend, he goes on an excursion to historical sites with the program. "During the week, after the classes, we also have a lot of time to explore Beijing. With Renmin University here, there are a lot of shops and restaurants nearby. Everything you need," Zhu said.

Besides students of the language program, some PhD students are also sharing the quiet study spaces. Kyle Chan, a current student of Sociology at Princeton University and an alum of the University of Chicago Class of 2009, is working on his dissertation project centering around high-speed rail in China. Just a few days ago, he gave a talk on the same topic at the Center in Beijing. "I emailed one of the staff members, and checked with the faculty director of the Center, who enthusiastically gave her approval for the talk," he said.

"I come here almost every day to work. It's a really nice, big space and the people are friendly here. And there are some other Ph.D. students here…people made the center their home," Chan said.

Back in the office area, one of the interns' desks is empty for today. Messaging through WeChat, Colin Garon says that he has been shadowing a gynecologist at No.3 Affiliated Hospital of Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM). On Friday, he will shadow Li Chengwei, a professor at BUCM, with whom he was connected through Judith Farquhar, a professor of Anthropology and the Faculty Director of the Center in Beijing .

A rising senior, Garon plans to use this field work opportunity to prepare for his B.A. thesis. Garon is majoring in History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science and Medicine (HIPSS). He is particularly interested in the foundational theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). "I am evaluating various approaches within intellectual history and their applications to the classical history of Chinese medicine, learning from and interacting with BUCM graduate students and undergrads, and shadowing TCM physicians in their clinics in order to understand the modern situation of TCM," Garon said.

On the way to the elevator, the Center's gallery generously showcases the art of Wu Jian'an, which is a fusion of Chinese folk art and other innovative forms of artistic expression. By creatively rearranging random strokes of paint on Xuan paper through papercut and collage, the artist has brought vibrant colors to the Center in Beijing.

Only last week, the exhibition "Daydream Forest: Wu Jian'an's Image World" opened at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing, curated by Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History at the Department of Art History and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. More than 120 people attended the opening ceremony, including some UChicago students interning at the center.

Professor Wu is also using the Center as his research base. Communicating with local artists and visiting their studios, he is preparing for an exhibition on contemporary Chinese art opening in 2019 at the Smart Museum back on UChicago campus. Meanwhile, he is working with Chinese archaeologists and art historians to study ancient tomb art. In August, he and his colleagues will have a conference on the same subject at the Center in Beijing. "We have this conference every two years. This year will be the fifth one. The center has provided a space to develop this kind of projects," Wu said.

But, according to Wu, the Center provides more than only space. The staff here helps organize, publish, and connect researchers with local resources. "Each time when there is a meeting or a conference, the center has provided very important and very crucial support. The team is wonderful," Wu said.


By Feng Ye, Class of 2019


芝大北京中心的讲座大厅座无虚席,在近160名研究生、本科生、各路学者就座后,芝加哥大学社会学系 赵鼎新教授和人民大学社会学系冯仕政教授为第七届中国政治社会学讲习班致欢迎词。讲习班一共有三天,邀请了来自英国、美国、中国的十五位学者,作为演讲人。此次讲习班主题是“意识形态”,给与会者提供了学习和交流的机会。

讲习班的大多学员来自中国各顶尖高校和研究机构。从四月初起,感兴趣的学员需要经过申请和遴选, 获得邀请后才能参加本次讲习班。“我不是很了解“意识形态”方面的研究,所以我就是来学习……寻找灵感”,一位北京大学社会学系的博士生说。


在讲座大厅的对面,经过一间会议室,是两个芝大本科学生设立的一个实验站,帮助芝加哥大学Keysar心理学实验室研究多语言与决策力之间的关系。王静茹(Jingru Wang)和鲁瀚翔(Hanson Lu)都是即将大二的学生,他们的工作主要是在北京完成四百位实验对象的测试工作。“我们还剩下三分之二要找,但是这仅仅是十周实习里的第三周”,王同学说。


在同一个办公区,另一位芝大的学生幸运地得到了一间独立的办公室。Maxime Kpangbai也即将进入大学二年级,双修经济和视觉艺术。她在北京中心做招生助理,代表芝加哥大学招生办公室面试申请的学生、开宣讲会。“今后,我可能会希望在中国工作,所以来中国实习、练习中文是一个很好的主意”,Kpangbai说。



Calvin Zhu也快升大二了,他打算学习经济和计算机专业。大一学习了一年中文后,Zhu正在读第二年的中文课程。Zhu说,他一直想来看北京,并在这里继续学习中文。每个周末,他都和语言项目的老师及同学一起远足,参观历史遗迹。“工作日的时候,课后我们也有很多时间体验北京。在人民大学附近,也有很多商户和饭店。这里应有尽有”,Zhu说。

除了语言项目的学生以为,一些博士研究生也在教学区看书学习, 从事研究工作。Kyle Chan 2009年毕业于芝加哥大学本科学院,目前在普林斯顿大学攻读社会学博士。他的博士论文主要讨论中国的高速铁路。就在几天前,他在中心做了一场关于中国高铁的报告。“我和这里的工作人员、主任进行了沟通,他们都很支持我”,他说。


在办公区,一位实习生的桌子今天是空的。通过微信,Colin Garon告诉记者,自己正在北京中医药大学第三附属医院随一位妇科医生见习。周五,他将随北京中医药大学的李成为教授出诊。据他说,通过中心的主任、芝加哥大学人类学教授Judith Farquhar的介绍,他认识了李教授。


去电梯的路上,中心的美术展览厅正在展出艺术家邬建安(Wu Jian’an)的作品。这些作品融合中国民间艺术和其他的创新表达方式。通过剪纸和拼接艺术,艺术家将随意挥洒在宣纸上的多彩笔触重新编排,为北京中心增添了一抹活泼的色彩。

就在上周,邬建安名为“白日梦森林:邬建安的图像世界”的展览在北京中心开幕。展览由芝加哥大学Harrie A. Vanderstappen特别贡献艺术史、东亚文化教授巫鸿(Wu Hung)主持。超过120人参加了开幕式,这其中也包括在北京中心学习和实习的学生。

巫教授也将中心作为他做研究的主要驻扎地。巫教授正在为一个将于2019年在芝大校园Smart Musuem开幕的中国当代艺术展览做准备。他通过参观和访谈加强与当地的艺术家联系和交流。同时,他也在和中国的考古学家、艺术历史家一起研究古代墓室艺术。八月份,他和他的同事们将在北京中心召开围绕这个课题的会议。“我们的会议每两年进行一次。今年是第五次了。中心为这样的活动提供了相应的空间”,巫教授说。