Blazing New Trails to Fulfill Our Dreams
2016 marked the 90th anniversary of Tsinghua University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures (DFLL). For our 128 faculty and staff, 74 retired teachers, and 540 students undergraduate and graduate students, it was a cause for celebration. It was also a festive occasion for all people who are and have been associated with the DFLL, including generations dating back to the year of 1926 and extending forward into the future. Starting in 2016, with the support of the ever-growing Tsinghua University, our department is entering a phase of renewal. We are reshuffling our disciplinary structures and establishing new departmental orientations with the goal of joining leaders in the global humanities and strengthening the discipline by upholding Tsinghua’s world-class standards. While looking back at our history and thinking about the present, we more importantly look forward to the future of the department.
Since its founding 90 years ago, the DFLL has been one of the standard bearers of the university’s academic lineage of “connecting the East and the West, bridging the past and the present, and integrating the humanities and the sciences.” These three principles guide the humanities at Tsinghua. The DFLL’s mission and development centers on the question, “How can Chinese civilization renew and extend itself during the modern world’s rapid transformations?” In order to adapt to the changing situation at home and abroad, we must undertake reform and self-transformation. We should act as innovative participants instead of passive observers.
To establish and develop higher education in China, our predecessors in the DFLL endured great hardships in their pioneering work. Today, the DFLL teachers and students are another generation of path-makers in the department’s long history. Embracing the university’s motto of “self-discipline and social commitment,” we stand firmly prepared to meet the challenges of the future, striving to make continuous contributions to society across historical moments.
2016 was the year that the DFLL initiated and implemented its personnel reform; it is also the first year of the national 13th Five Year Plan. All of the department’s faculty and staff – regardless of their respective positions – are making concerted efforts to improve, in order to produce qualified graduates who possess cross-cultural perspectives, multi-language proficiency, and professional abilities that will benefit Chinese academic development and the overall national strategy. To attain our goals, we will exert ourselves fully, optimize our rank structure, and pool our wisdom to collectively develop our careers. As a talented group of people, we are currently exploring how to best use those talents in actual practice; keeping our dreams in mind, we are prioritizing how to fulfill those dreams. In response to the international situation’s current changes and the increasing need for qualified personnel of foreign studies, we will forge ahead, step by step, with the processes of investigation, research, language cognition, and teaching, ultimately elevating our department into comprehensive first-class ranks. In return, the process of contributing to the university’s overall education and teaching reform may well enrich the careers of each of the contributors.
2016 is indeed a special year. As a component of the DFLL’s personnel system reform, the Institute for World Literatures and Cultures (IWLC), was also established at Tsinghua. Under the leadership and direct guidance of the university authorities, the Institute is one of the important strategies for securing Tsinghua’s rank among world-leading universities. Integrating teaching with research, the Institute inherits and upholds the comprehensive educational tradition of the DFLL and the humanities at Tsinghua, proposing to “tell Chinese stories by interpreting the world” as an innovative practice. Through a humanities teaching and research platform characterized by cross-language, interdisciplinary, cross-cultural features, the IWLC gathers and nurtures a number of prominent scholars who possess the humanistic abilities to grasp the logic of different civilizations in an international environment and the dexterity to apply them in practical situations. Thus its goal is to foster the outstanding talents needed in both the Chinese humanities and the national field, mingling Chinese social cultures and international ones.
In the spirit of “integrating scientific research with teaching, because scientific research and teaching mutually promote each other,” the Institute intends inaugurate and nourish a cross-language, cross-cultural research agenda, strengthening international cooperation in scientific research and substantively participating in the discussion of international issues. Additionally, the IWLC supports the design of multi-leveled courses and teaching strategies that emphasize language skills, the development of critical thinking skills, and the cultivation of interdisciplinary approaches; these systematically improved courses enrich international talents who have multilingual potential. The IWLC teaching and research team is comprised of eight senior Tsinghua professors from the fields of liberal arts, history, philosophy, and foreign studies, with teaching and research experiences at top-tier universities around the world, the three initial post-doctoral fellows from the Tsinghua-Michigan Society of Fellows, and fifteen senior professors from highly-ranked universities in Europe and the United States, including Stanford and Cornell Universities. All of them have been teaching the first undergraduate experimental class for world literature and culture since its launching in 2015.
The IWLC and the Department will work both independently and cooperatively, mutually co-existing for a long time. The IWLC will provide strong support for the DFLL’s transformation and development, and the all-round renewal of the DFLL may serve as an important aspect of the IWLC’s vision. Consequently, the coordinated development of DFLL and IWLC is endorsed by all our faculty. By articulating these goals, we have chosen a professional path that reflects our individual personalities; we have chosen to be aware of this crucial opportunity for the development of the humanities; we have chosen to respond to the historical demands made by globalization, which require the discipline to actively renew itself. What’s more, as scholars of the humanities, we have chosen to shoulder this responsibility in a great era when the humanities are more important than ever, and when China is capable of strongly influencing the course of internationalization.
“So great are the world’s vicissitudes that the seas may dry,But never will my aspirations alter, nor my dreams die.”
For the futures of our diligent Tsinghua students, for the implementation of the strategy to make Tsinghua a “more innovative, more international, more humanities-orientated” world-class university, for generations of Tsinghua people who have been destined to share a common fate with the Chinese nation ever since the university came into being, and for the interaction, communication, and peaceful development of the humanities around the globe, let’s work steadily and take the initiative to blaze new trails of our own.
Happy birthday, Institute for World Literatures and Cultures!
Happy birthday, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures!
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