14 may 2008

New Oxford China Centre launched

Chinese horse. mid 8th century
A tomb model of a horse from the T'ang dynasty, mid eighth century.

Oxford University is poised to become the world-leading centre for the study of China, following the launch of the University of Oxford China Centre (UOCC) on 13 May.

The new centre will provide a focus for China-related study across the University – connecting academics and university-wide ‘research clusters’ in both the Humanities and Social Sciences Divisions. The centre will also play a key role in the University’s strategy to strengthen its relationship with China and other centres of scholarship in Chinese studies worldwide.

In its initial stage, the UOCC will be a virtual centre with a new director and website to link together the wide range of China-related activities across the University, including those in the existing Institute for Chinese Studies. However, it is envisaged that the University of Oxford China Centre will have a dedicated building of its own in the near future.

The launch of the new centre builds on what has been a dynamic period for Chinese studies over the last five years, as the current number of academic positions has risen to more than 40. Dr Frank Pieke, who is already the Director of Oxford’s Institute for Chinese Studies, is the Director of the new China Centre. Dr Pieke also directs the British Inter-University China Centre (involving Oxford, Bristol and Manchester Universities).

Dr Pieke said: ‘Oxford University is already Europe’s leading centre for the study of China. The UOCC will consolidate what has been a very successful period of recent growth and expand China-related study even further, as well as strengthening the relationship between a world-leading university and a rising global power.’  

To mark the launch, the newly appointed Shaw Professor of Chinese, Timothy Brook, delivered an inaugural lecture at the Examination Schools. His lecture, ‘Ming China and the emergence of a common world’, explored a period at the turn of the 17th century when the Chinese found themselves interacting with people from all over the world. The scale and variety of this interaction was unprecedented, encouraging some Chinese officials to argue that Europeans and Chinese inhabited what they viewed as ‘a common world’. This was a minority view, suppressed after the collapse of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. Professor Brook suggests it is perhaps only now that this view is being recovered.

In the evening, the University Chancellor Lord Patten hosted a celebratory evening reception and dinner at Merton College. A world-leading authority on China, Sterling Professor of History at Yale University, Professor Jonathan Spence, gave the after-dinner speech. The UK’s Chinese Ambassador, Madame Ambassador Fu Ying, was among over 40 guests at the dinner to launch the new centre. Other guests were figures from public life and business with strong links to China, including China specialist academics.

Commenting on the launch, Madame Fu Ying said: ‘Oxford is ahead of many others in promoting mutual understanding between China and the West, by setting up the China Centre for example. This centre will play a very important role in bringing together people from two countries, by promoting knowledge and understanding.’

The Ambassador also talked about the large number of Chinese students now studying abroad, saying: ‘The fact that lots of Chinese students are studying abroad, even in such a world- renowned university like Oxford, is an indication of the economic growth of China. I can foresee that we will have more and more Chinese students, who will be able to go abroad because of the improved living standards in China.’   

Professor Dame Jessica Rawson, Warden of Merton, said: ‘The launch of the China Centre is an important milestone in Oxford’s fast-expanding international role. The Centre will make a major contribution in all areas of the University’s teaching and research.'

The leadership provided by Professor Dame Jessica Rawson, Professor Vivienne Shue and Dr Frank Pieke has secured the rapid expansion in the number of posts in Chinese studies at Oxford. The University has enjoyed major support from the Leverhulme Trust, the Peter Moores Foundation, the Run Run Shaw Foundation, and a £5m grant for the Oxford-based British Inter-University China Centre, which is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Professor Timothy Brook

Professor Timothy Brook, newly appointed Shaw Professor of Chinese, gave an inaugural lecture to mark the launch of the centre 

UK’s Chinese Ambassador, Madame Ambassador Fu Ying with Dr Jon Dellandrea (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Development and External Affairs)

UK’s Chinese Ambassador, Madame Ambassador Fu Ying with Dr Jon Dellandrea (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Development and External Affairs) 

(From left to right) Dr Frank Pieke, Director of UOCC; Professor Timothy Brook, Shaw Professor of Chinese; Professor Glen Dudbridge, retired Shaw Professor of Chinese; and Professor Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History at Yale University

(From left to right) Dr Frank Pieke, Director of UOCC; Professor Timothy Brook, Shaw Professor of Chinese; Professor Glen Dudbridge, retired Shaw Professor of Chinese; and Professor Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History at Yale University 

The Chancellor Lord Patten with the Principal of St Hugh's College, Mr Andrew Dilnot, and Mr Henry Keswick

The Chancellor Lord Patten (centre) with the Principal of St Hugh's College, Mr Andrew Dilnot (left), and Mr Henry Keswick (right)
 

Professor Dame Jessica Rawson, Warden of Merton, Sir Peter Moores, David Ivie and Lord Butler

Professor Dame Jessica Rawson, Warden of Merton, with Sir Peter Moores (on the left), David Ivie and Lord Butler, Master of University College (far right)