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Teachers’ Day Special | Wisdom from PKU

SEP . 10 2020
Peking University, September 10, 2020: Held annually on September 10 since 1985, Teachers’ Day in China recognizes our educators’ contributions to educating individuals within a society. For generations, the teaching professionals at Peking University (PKU) have taken on the responsibility of conveying knowledge which enriches the minds of their students, who will one day become professionals and leaders in their chosen fields. They have also played an important part in leading students towards developing skills that can help them to tackle real-world issues, as well as shaping their moral compasses which can guide them towards fulfilling lives. PKU is incredibly diverse, with educators who come from vastly different backgrounds, with their own methods and theories for teaching!

Let’s take a deep breath as we delve into the world of teaching with the following PKU professors, obtain insights into their understandings of the world and life, and learn more about their academic departments and fields of study.

“Philosophy seeks to understand how humans fit into orders, such as the natural order or social orders.”
 - Professor Li Meng

Professor Li Meng joined the Division of Social Sciences at PKU after finishing his master’s program at Peking University. He returned to academia after working for some time, and in 2008, received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. His research interests include political philosophy, ethics, ancient Greek philosophy, early modern philosophy, and social theory.
“The marker of one who has studied philosophy is that they know a question may trouble them for their entire lives and may haunt their every thought, and they may not even have a final answer, but they will still ponder it and find ways of approaching it. That is the challenge of philosophy.” These words from Professor Li both highlight the difficulty and thrill of philosophy, a field that tackles some of the deepest and most difficult questions we face.

“The true spirit of Peking University is to think and to know how to think. The ability to think is a treasure that will accompany you for life, and no one can take that away from you.”
- Professor Dai Jinhua

Professor Dai Jinhua, director of the Center for Film Studies and Cultural Studies at PKU, is one of the most popular lecturers at the university. Professor Dai studied at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Peking University from 1978 to 1982. After graduating from the university, she taught at the Beijing Film Academy and subsequently returned to Peking University. Throughout her career, she has contributed to various academic fields, such as literature, cultural studies, and film studies.
When introducing the department to prospective students, Professor Dai says: "If you believe that imagination is the channel towards understanding the world, then the Department of Chinese Language and Literature is the right place for you to do so."

“We observe the beauty of nature, but at the same time, we tackle conflicts in the human–nature relationship. It’s the most challenging.”
 - Professor Lv Zhi

Professor Lv received her Ph.D. in Zoology from Peking University and has conducted extensive field research on the giant panda. In 1992, she worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the world's most prominent medical research centers. From 1995 to 2000, she was a programme officer at World Wide Fund for Nature China, and was in charge of the protected species and areas programme. Currently, Professor Lv works as the Deputy Director of the PKU Center for Nature and Society.
Professor Lv shares her experiences to encourage students to study life science and says that: “From being a naive child who loved to observe giant pandas, to researching complicated ecological systems and its inter-connectivity with human behavior, my worldview changed during the transition.”

“The purpose of education is not limited to teaching skills; it also requires students to have zero tolerance for hypocrisy.”
 - Professor Che Hao

Professor Che is one of the most popular lecturers at the university. He has a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Criminal Law from Peking University which he obtained in 2003 and 2007 respectively. Interestingly, he believes that the law is the art of balancing kindness and justice, and freedom is an attitude, the attitude of doubting what has been proven true.
When explaining lawmakers’ responsibilities, Professor Che says: “A lawmaker sets, explains, and utilizes rules to create an orderly and secure society as their way to understand and change the world.”

“Leadership means to sacrifice, serve, and guide. If we must conceptualize leadership, I would say that it signifies your impact.”
 - Professor Xu Xinzhong

Professor Xu teaches Corporate Finance and International Financial Management at both undergraduate and graduate level at the Guanghua School of Management, including teaching MBA and Executive MBA courses. Before joining the school in 2002, he had held various positions in the UK as Chair Professor of Finance at Lancaster University Management School, Senior Lecturer at Alliance Manchester Business School, and as an economist at the Bank of England. Professor Xu has also led several major research projects supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
Professor Xu shares his perspective on the missions of universities, saying that: “A university must help students to develop thinking and communication skills and decision-making skills concerning morals and values.”

“Peking University Third Hospital delivers clinical treatments while also advancing education and research, in the hopes that we can solve difficult questions in the field of medicine.”
- Professor Qiao Jie 

Specializing in the diagnoses and management of infertility and reproductive endocrine diseases, Professor Qiao has published 192 Science Citation Index (SCI) papers as the first or corresponding author in numerous influential journals such as Cell, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Nature, Lancet, and Nature Genetics.
Professor Qiao's advice for her students is “Persistence is crucial. You need a strong mind and body to keep learning and exploring (in the field of medicine) because you have the responsibility to take care of the lives of others.”

“This subject made me who I am, and this is the beauty of education.”
 - Professor Dong Qiang

A laureate of La Grande Medaille de la Francophonie awarded by the French Academy, Professor Dong Qiang is a pioneer in French writing and French poems and has published numerous works, as a Chinese scholar in France. He also helped to set up a publishing house called "China Blue" in Paris, which has become an important platform for people from French-speaking countries to understand Chinese literature and culture.
Academically, Professor Dong did ground-breaking and authoritative research on Henry Michaud, a well-known French writer and painter, and on symbolism in 19th-century French literature and art. He has also contributed to exchanges between Chinese and French literature.
Professor Dong shares his experiences as a way to encourage students to study French language and literature, as he believes that we need more talent in the field of linguistics to bridge different cultures. This way, China can understand the world better, and people from other countries can better understand China.

From all of us at Peking University, we would like to wish a very Happy Teachers’ Day to all the teachers who have broadened our horizons and shaped who we are today!

Written by: Xu Haolun
Edited by: Shannon Lim, Amanda Hu
Photo credit to: Peking University Media Center