Known as Beida, Beijing University is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in China, and one of the most prestigious and politically active as well. Originally Capital College, it was founded in 1898 by the Qing emperor Kang Xu in a short-lived attempt to modernize China. It was renamed in 1911 when the Qing Dynasty was overthrown by reformist activists.

The May Fourth Movement originated from Beida in 1919, when a series of student demonstrations against Japanese aggression flowered into a full-blown embargo against Japan, forcing China to toughen up against the growing Japanese menace. In the 1920's Beijing University became a breeding ground for almost every significant political movement in China for the next 50 years. Two founders of the Chinese Communist Party, Li Dazhao and Chen Duziu, were part of the faculty. Lu Xun, the famed Chinese author, delivered lectures on Chinese literature there. A young Mao Zedong studied Marxism under Beida's influence.

In 1966, the Red Guards were born in the Beida campus and in Shanghai's Jiao Tong University, another prestigious institution. Education was all but halted in the turbulent years of the pursuit for Maoist purity.

The June Fourth Movement, aka Tiananmen Square, that resulted in a massacre, started in this university to urge further reforms in government, and was soon joined by various other colleges in China. However, it was the Beida student extremists that radically shifted the agenda of the protests, in the eye of the Western media, to the demand for democracy that culminated in the showdown on June 4, 1989. Exiles from that incident can still be found today in Harvard, MIT and Stanford. One woman I particularly dislike, the most visible student radical, who broadcasted the lies about the "demands of the people" to BBC and CNN, still haunts the halls of Harvard. Unfortunately, I forgot her name.

It is a very good university, and has a beautiful campus. The best and the brightest Chinese students go there, and often end up going to the United States for further education.

the name of the woman that DMan was thinking of is Chai Ling. She now has an internet company in Boston. I think she must be over 30 now- how quicky time passes...

Theories abound that she and other student leaders from 1989 were funded by the US Government, due to the fact that after everything happened, she managed to escape to the US and got to study at Harvard (and B.U. too I think), whereas the average student demonstrators simply went back to school in China or went on the run.

Some people I talked to said however that the reason that she was able to leave is that the student movement was actually funded by overseas Chinese, and people from Hong Kong and Taiwan and that when everything went to pieces she "took the money and ran".

There is an excellent documentary called "The Gate of Heavenly Peace" made by PBS about the events that took place there.

I have never been to Beida, however I know many people that went to school there due to the fact that mainly students from good schools like Beida, Qinghua University, Jiaotong University or Fudan are the ones that are allowed to go abroad for schooling. (I used to work in the Physics Department here and one of my main jobs was to help prepare mailings for graduate school applicants- I think in total we had applicants from no more than 10 schools total in China, but there were hundreds of applicants altogether)

Beida is known more as being a liberal-arts school("The Harvard of China"), whereas Qinghua University, also in Beijing, is the "MIT". IIRC the best departments in Beida are foreign languages, Chinese and History. (Note that when you are taking college exams in China you test for a department, not for the whole university and changing your major is next to impossible. Because of this testing scheme, it is harder to get into certain departments than others (i.e. a friend of mine was a Japanese major simply because when she was taking the entrance exams for college her parents feared that she would not be able to get into the international Finance department, so they told her to take the test for an "easier" department.)

Although the name of the school in Chinese translates to Beijing University, its official English name is nevertheless Peking University. At the time that China made the transition to Pinyin romanization, it was felt that some traditional spellings were important to keep. This was one of them.

At its founding in 1898 it was named Jing1-shi4 Da4xue2 Tang2 (Metropolitan School of Higher Learning). It occupies the campus of the former Yanjing University, an American missionary college.

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