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IN CONVERSATION WITH… SIXIAN LU, INTERNATIONAL VISITING SCHOLAR AT FUDAN UNIVERSITY 

February 2024

Sixian Lu is one of 7 PhD students at Fudan University selected in Autumn 2022 for the International Visiting Scholars programme

Sixian Lu is one of 7 PhD students at Fudan University selected in Autumn 2022 for the International Visiting Scholars programme to conduct research in a university abroad. From Shanghai, she travelled to the University of California in Berkeley, Northern California, where she lived and studied for a year.

Her doctoral studies focus on History. During her undergraduate degree at Sun Yat-sen University, she studied Language, Literature, and Art of China. She quickly realised, however, that she preferred empirical research and explored the history of the Qing dynasty and the culture of Academies of Classical Learning during her master’s degree at Wuhan University, before embarking on her PhD at Fudan

Sixian is writing her dissertation on what is referred to as Shuyuan or Academies of Classical Learning during the last decades of the Qing dynasty.  Shuyuan were private schools that originated in 725 in Imperial China located outside cities to provide quiet environments for scholars to pursue their studies, similar to the American university campuses. These establishments were also centres where Western science and technology were taught and were eventually abolished under the Hundred Days’ Reform in 1898 at the end of the Qing dynasty. Her dissertation aims to analyse the development of scholars’ perspectives of historical knowledge before and after the reform of the imperial examination, a civil service examination system, in the late Qing dynasty, based on Shuyuan articles.

Now back from Berkeley, she describes her 12 months there as happy and productive: “As a visiting PhD student, I didn’t have any classes to attend except for my weekly seminars with my advisor, Professor Wen-Hsing, and fellow Berkeley PhD studies. We shared notes and suggestions, and answered questions which were sometimes quite difficult! At Berkeley, students welcomed feedback and were open to sharing their research topics and opinions. I would otherwise spend most of my afternoon at Berkeley’s East Asian Library which had an incredible collection of digitized books. It is one of the top three East Asian libraries in the United States with a million books from East Asia, including 600,000 Chinese volumes. Inter-library also meant I could borrow books from other institutional libraries across the country.

Sixian Lu at the Association for Asian Studies 2023 Conference

Her advisor often recommended seminars and conferences to attend that were related to her topic, a highlight of which was a trip to the Association for Asian Studies in Boston: “I was able to visit Boston for the first time and attend panels hosted for scholars whose research focused on Asian Studies.”

Though Berkeley and Fudan are very different places, I didn’t feel a culture shock with the support of my tutors and colleagues. I did feel lonely when I first arrived in the United States, especially around the Chinese holidays. The language barrier was difficult, English is my second language, so it was sometimes hard to express myself. But my year at Berkeley was the most interesting and entirely worth it! I’m very grateful to the ҹѰ for this opportunity.”

As Sixian is settled back in China, she is finalising her research: “My goal is to finish my dissertation next year as I’m summarising the findings from my time at Berkeley. The material I gathered deepened and broadened the scope of the subject. I found all sorts of archives, including political, military, and economic records from the Qing dynasty to the early Republic of China. She also admits she is still learning how to be a history student: “I have to read more historical monograph!”

In 2021 HFF pledged $1.2M to the International Visiting Scholarship Program for Doctoral Students in Liberal Arts at Fudan University. In 2022 7 PhD students were selected for the Scholarship, and in 2023 a further 17 PhD students have been selected. The award allows students to conduct their studies in selective institutions abroad.