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PKU's hidden corners: The study room of Wang Shicheng

OCT . 12 2020
Peking University, October 12, 2020: Hidden among the beautiful and traditional architecture of Peking University lies humble-looking corners filled with precious and pleasant riches of knowledge, enveloped with row after row of neatly lined up books towering towards the tall ceiling.

These mysterious hidden corners of Peking University are in fact the study rooms of generations and generations of Peking University scholars and professors. Here, we invite you to explore with us various study rooms on PKU campus through the lenses of five prominent PKU scholars Wang Shicheng, Cao Wenxuan, Han Maoli, Zhu Qingsheng and Zhang Fan. Embark on this journey with us and you'll be given insights into some of the most brilliant minds of PKU as you hear them share stories of their study rooms- the place where all the magic happens.


Wang Shicheng
School of Mathematical Sciences, Peking University
As a mathematician par excellence, Wang Shicheng is a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a professor and doctoral supervisor of School of Mathematical Sciences, director of the department of Mathematics of Peking University. He is engaged in the research of low-dimensional topology, involving geometric group theory, fixed points, dynamical systems and algebraic topology. 
 
 
As we follow Professor Wang into his cosy study room located on the fourth floor of the School of Mathematical Sciences, he laughs, "I am a playful person and I don't work hard. In fact, I love to travel and I like to do a lot of idle reading."

We notice that although the study area isn't very spacious, the furnishings are one of a kind! Neat calculations and math formulas fill the entire area of the gigantic push-pull blackboard. Opposite the blackboard, there lies two huge maps marked with neatly sketched out shapes which indicate Professor Wang's footprints around the world.
 
"I enjoy observing the maps! I have been to many places, so I will always plot the routes I have travelled."

 
Elaborating about his other hobbies, Professor Wang proudly states, "I personally asked for a blackboard to be installed here. I usually write and draw on it when I'm feeling inspired, and then I'll take a photo of it and save it on my mobile phone. Students love to come here to chat with me. We'll spend time together discussing and solving the problems in front of this blackboard."

 
From the old photos and tickets plastered on the door panels of the study, to the world map with mottled curled edges, this place brings back a sense of nostalgia. What is particularly interesting to us is that right next to the door are a few inconspicuous bookshelves filled with ordinary looking books. But if you look closely, you will notice that there are practically only two kinds of books on the bookshelves: English books related to mathematics and old literature books sporting battered and yellow covers.
 
 
When asked about the books, Professor Wang joked, "These books were bought in the sixties and seventies! Back in those days, some of them were sold for only a few cents. Now, they are estimated to be worth a lot." Professor Wang extracted his book collection from the bookcase with a wide grin on his face. He flipped through the pages, showing us the thin and fragile pages which have worn out throughout the years.
 
Much to our surprise, Professor Wang also shared with us his love for reading poetry and history. He says, "Reading about mathematics is more for me to inquire and find information systematically." He prefers to read books about Chinese History, to which he exclaims cheekily, "I also like to read Yuefu poetry, which is not what I am expected to be doing as a mathematician!"
 

Written by: June Tan Rui Min
Edited by: Amanda Hu, Pu Hairui
Photo credit to: Lv Chen