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Peking University

is a major Chinese research university located in Beijing and a member of the C9 League. It is the first modern national university established in China, founded as the “Imperial University of Peking” in 1898 as a replacement of the ancient or Guozijian, or Imperial Academy It also served as the highest administration for education in China at the beginning of its founding. By 1920, it had become a center for progressive thought. Alongside Tsinghua University, Peking University has consistently ranked as the top higher learning institution in mainland China. In addition to academics, Peking University is especially renowned for its campus grounds, and the beauty of its traditional Chinese architecture.


When it was established on July 3, 1898, the school was known as the Imperial University of Peking 京师大学堂. It was established to replace Taixue or Guozijian, or Imperial Academy, as part of the Hundred Days’ Reform. In 1912, following the Xinhai Revolution, the Imperial University was renamed “National Peking University” 国立北京大学. The noted scholar Cai Yuanpei was appointed president on January 4, 1917, and helped transform the university into the country’s largest institution of higher learning, with 14 departments and an enrollment of more than 2,000 students. Cai, inspired by the German model of academic freedom, recruited an intellectually diverse faculty that included Hu Shih,Chen Duxiu, and Lu Xun. In 1919, students of Peking University formed the bulk of the protesters of the May Fourth Movement. Efforts by the Beiyang government to end the protests by sealing off the Peking University campus led to Cai’s resignation. In 1920, Peking University became the first Chinese university to accept female students.


After the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 (and the resulting expansion of Japanese territorial control in east China), Peking University moved to Changsha and formed the Changsha Temporary University along with Tsinghua University and Nankai University. In 1938, the three schools moved again, this time to Kunming, and formed the National Southwestern Associated University. In 1946, after World War II, Peking University moved back to Beijing. At that time, the university comprised six schools (Arts, Science, Law, Medicine, Engineering, and Agriculture), and a research institute for humanities. The total student enrollment grew up to 3,000.

In 1949, after the People’s Republic of China was established, Peking University lost its “national” appellation to reflect the fact that all universities under the new socialist state would be public. In 1952, the Chinese government re-grouped the country’s higher education institutions with individual institutions tending to specialize in a certain field of study. As a result, arts and science faculties of Tsinghua University and Yenching University were merged into Peking University. At the same time, however, the university lost its Law, Medicine, Engineering and Agriculture schools. These schools and faculties were either merged into other universities or to found new colleges. During the re-grouping, Yenching University was closed and Peking University moved from downtown Beijing to the former Yenching campus.

The first disturbances of the Cultural Revolution began at Peking University in 1966; education there ceased between 1966 and 1970.

In 2000, Beijing Medical University was merged into Peking University and became the Peking University Health Science Campus. Peking University now has eight affiliated hospitals and 12 teaching hospitals.

Yuanpei College, named in honor of a highly respected former university president Cai Yuanpei. The college hosts an elite undergraduate liberal program for select students.

In 2001, Peking University set up a satellite campus in Shenzhen. The university’s second business school was launched on this campus in 2004.

In 2014, Peking University announced Yenching Scholars, a new global graduate leaders program, which will be launched in 2015 and will be located in the recently completed residential Yenching Academy in the center of campus. The program will offer 100 elite students full scholarships for one-year of interdisciplinary studies leading to a master’s degree.

In 2014, Peking University joined the Asian Future Leaders Scholarship program, which will begin in 2015. The program will offer 100 students from East Asia a full scholarship for a MBA or MPA at a few leading universities in Asia, including Peking University.

Peking University is a national key university. The university consists of 30 colleges and 12 departments, with 93 specialties for undergraduates, 2 specialties for the second Bachelor’s degree, 199 specialties for Master’s degree candidates and 173 specialties for doctoral candidates. A leader in basic sciences research and teaching, the university has successfully developed applied sciences research and teaching as well.

At present, Peking university has 216 research institutions and research centres, including 2 national engineering research centers, 81 key national disciplines, 12 national key laboratories. With 4.5 million holdings, the university library is the largest of its kind in Asia.

The university has made an effort to combine the research on fundamental scientific issues with the training of personnel with high level specialized knowledge and professional skill as demanded by the country’s modernization. Peking University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Emory University jointly administer the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering Program, which is ranked the 2nd in the United States.

Peking University has been becoming a center for teaching and research, consisting of diverse branches of learning such as pure & applied sciences, social sciences & humanities, and sciences of management & education.

Over the past century, more than 400 Peking University alumni had become presidents of other major Chinese universities, including former Tsinghua President Luo Jialun, Renmin University President Yuan Baohua, Zhejiang University President Qian Sanqiang, Fudan University President Zhang Zhirang, Nankai University President Teng Weizao, Chinese University of Science and Technology President Guan Weiyan and many others.

Many domestic rankings have placed Peking University among the top universities in mainland China, alongside Tsinghua University. In 2015, the Chinese University Alumni Association in partnership with China Education Center considered it 1st among national universities.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Peking University 39th in the world which is the best within Greater China. It also topped the newly launched Times Higher Education BRICS & Emerging Economies.

Campus, art and culture

The campus of Peking University was originally located north of the Forbidden City in the center of Beijing, and was later moved to the former campus of Yenching University in 1952. The main campus is in northwest Beijing, in Haidian district, which is also home to other well-known colleges and universities.

The Peking University’s campus site is near the Summer Palace and the Old Summer Palace; the area is traditionally where many of Beijing’s most renowned gardens and palaces were built.

The university campus is in the former site of the Qing Dynasty imperial gardens and it retains much traditional Chinese-style landscaping, including traditional houses, gardens, pagodas, as well as many notable historical buildings and structures. There are several gates that lead into campus — East, West and South gates, with the West Gate being the most well known for the painted murals on its ceiling. Peking University is known throughout China, with its neighbour, Tsinghua University, for their beautiful campuses. Weiming lake is in the north of the campus and is surrounded by walking paths and small gardens.

The university hosts many museums, such as the Museum of University History and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology. Notable items in these museums include funerary objects that were excavated in Beijing and date back thousands of years from the graves of royalties of the Warring States period. There are ritual pottery vessels as well as elaborate pieces of jewelry on display. There are also human bones set up in the traditional burial style of that period.

Beyond its main campus, Peking University Health Science Center (PKUHSC) is on Xue Yuan Road where the country’s most distinguished colleges are. The PKUHSC’s campus is less aesthetically appealing than the main Peking University campus but is nonetheless a fitting site for academics and research.

In 2001, Peking University’s Shenzhen campus, the Shenzhen Graduate School, opened its doors. The campus is located in the northwest part of Shenzhen City.

In 2008, the THE-QS World University Rankings ranked the Peking University as the 23rd best university in the world in arts and humanities; it is also the highest ranked university from Asia in this field. The Peking University was ranked as the 18th (2007 rankings), 10th (2006 rankings), 6th (2005 rankings), and 7th (2004 rankings) best arts and humanities university in the world.

Peking University is well known for its contribution to modern Chinese literature, poetry and art, and for the publications of groundbreaking modern Chinese books such as Hong Zicheng‘s A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature. Peking University has participated in many joint art-research projects, such as the Center for the Art of East Asia (CAEA) with the University of Chicago, and developing the Peking University, Department of Digital Art and Design with UNESCO.

Peking University partners with Stanford University for its Asian cultural studies programs such as the Stanford Program in Beijing and the Stanford-Peking University Summer Program, which encourages Stanford students interested in exploring Chinese language, history, culture, and society to study on campus at Peking University.

National School of Development (NSD)

The National School of Development (formerly China Center for Economic Research) is ranked amongst the top five most influential think tanks in China. It organizes comprehensive interdisciplinary research and gathers top-notch academic intelligence in proposing forward-looking strategy, systems, policy and basic theory concerning the sustainable development of China and evolution of world patterns and nurturing talent to fuel this national development.

The National School of Development (NSD) was founded as the China Centre for Economic Research by six returning professors of Peking University including Justin Yifu Lin, Hai Wen and Yi Gang in 1994. Over the years, NSD has made innovative contribution to China’s economic education, scientific research and international academic discussion, especially for national policy consultancy.

In 1998, Justin Yifu Lin et al. jointly founded the Beijing International MBA at Peking University (BiMBA), which is ranked among the top six MBA programs by Quacquarelli Symonds in its TopMBA ranking of the best MBA programs in Asia Pacific for the year 2014-2015. BiMBA has also been ranked as the second most valuable full-time MBA in China by Forbes (after CEIBS) and among Asia’s best business schools by Bloomberg Business.

International students

The dormitories for international students at the main campus are located at Shao Yuan (勺园). Every year, Peking University has approximately 2,000 international students studying on the Beijing campus and about 50 at the Peking University HSBC Business School, located at the Shenzhen Campus. Its international students are made up of students from most countries in the world including most of Western Europe, North America, South America, all parts of Asia, Australia as well as many countries in Africa.

In 2005, Peking University and Cornell University signed an agreement formally establishing the China and Asia-Pacific Studies major at Cornell, which requires students to spend a semester studying at Peking University while working at internships. One year later, Peking University launched a joint undergraduate program with Yale University; students will spend a semester overseas, living and studying together with the host institute’s students. Peking University’s School of International Studies also launched joint degree programs with London School of Economics, Waseda University, Seoul National University, and the University of Tokyo. Peking also has a longstanding relationship with Stanford University, which operates a joint research center and base for Stanford students and scholars at the Stanford Center at Peking University, located in the Lee Jung Sen Building. The Peking University HSBC Business School has joint degree programs with University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The university maintains a partnership with the Freie Universität Berlin since 1981.