Fairbank Center inaugurates new collaborative partnership with Sichuan University

On Monday, December 12, 2016, a delegation from Harvard University’s Fairbank Center joined Sichuan University’s Research Center for the Study of Western China (四川大学西部中国研究中心) in Chengdu to inaugurate a new collaborative partnership.

XIE Heping (谢和平), the President of Sichuan University, met with a Harvard University delegation led by opens in a new windowMark C. Elliott, Vice Provost for International Affairs and former Fairbank Center Director, and Michael A. Szonyi, the current Director of the Fairbank Center. Sichuan University Provost YAN Shijing (晏世经) also greeted the Harvard delegation, which included Leonard van der Kuijp, Rowan Flad, Jinah Kim, and James Robson.


Image (left to right): Professor Deng Xiang 邓翔, Professor Guan Ping 关平, Professor Zhang Changhong 张长虹, Professor Yao Leye 姚乐野, unidentified, Professor Cao Shunqing 曹顺庆, President Xie Heping (谢和平), Mark Elliott,Michael Szonyi, Leonard van der Kuijp, Professor Li Yingfu 李映福, Jinah Kim, Rowan Flad,Vice President Yan Shijing晏世经, and James Robson. 

The new Collaborative Partnership Between the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University and the Research Center for the Study of Western China at Sichuan University (四川大学西部中国研究中心、哈佛大学费正清中国研究中心合作研究中心) aims to promote research on Western China and facilitate scholarly exchange between the two institutions.

Initially, the center will focus on four research areas for collaboration: the archaeology and art history of Western China; Tibetan and Buddhist Studies; pre-modern, modern, and contemporary history and society in Western China; and research on the minority cultures of Western China.

The Center was conceived in 2015 by Sichuan University’s Dean Huo Wei 霍巍 and Vice President Yan Shijing晏世经and Harvard’s Professor Leonard van der Kuijp, who then collaborated with Professor Zhang Changhong 张长虹 to work out and establish the foundation for the signed agreement. At the inauguration ceremony, Sichuan University President Xie spoke of the strong foundation for international cooperation shared by both universities, and that the new collaboration would promote cooperation between experts and other research centers on both sides.

Image: Michael Szonyi signs the formal Memorandum of Understanding with LI Yingfu (李映福), Associate Dean of Sichuan University’s College of History and Culture

Mark Elliott noted Southwest China’s indispensable role in Chinese history, and expressed his hope that the new center will not only promote the study of Western China’s history, archaeology, religion, art, literature and other fields, but also act as a model for U.S.-China academic cooperation.

Fairbank Center Director Michael Szonyi said that since the Fairbank Center’s founding in 1955-1956, Chinese and American colleagues have never been so cooperative, the topics of study have never been so wide, and the technological means for cooperation have never been so advanced.

As part of the new partnership’s activities, the Fairbank Center is developing student-teacher meetings, symposia, and a series of lectures and academic workshops.

This year is an important year for both institutions, with the Fairbank Center celebrating our 60th anniversary and Sichuan University celebrating their 120th anniversary.

Image (left to right): A plaque is unveiled commemorating the inauguration of the new research collaboration. Professors Deng Xiang 邓翔, Mark Elliott, Michael Szonyi, Leonard van der Kuijp, Rowan Flad, Sichuan University President Xie Heping谢和平, James Robson, Sichuan University Vice-President Yan Shijing 晏世经, and Jinah Kim.

Xin Wen, a Fairbank Center Graduate Student Associate and Ph.D. Student in the Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies, hopes that this partnership will encourage students to engage further with Western China: “The new joint research center – with its unique location in Chengdu and the rich resources at Sichuan University – would provide an ideal place for Harvard students at all levels to pursue their interests in both Chinese and Tibetan studies.”

Kyle Shernuk, a Ph.D. Student at Harvard’s Department for East Asian Languages and Civilizations who studies classical and colloquial Tibetan literatures, agreed that the new Center will facilitate scholarship between Harvard and China: “It’s very exciting to have institutional support to engage in international conversations about research concerning China’s western regions. To be able to pool resources and knowledge will undoubtedly lead to better defined scholarship and stronger ties between Chinese and American researchers.”