As a student of Peking University, hanging out in the main campus (Yan Yuan 燕园) is the most excellent opportunity to experience the vivid life and academic atmosphere of this world famous college. Located on a former imperial garden, this campus has been the essence of classical beauty, refinement and scholarship since its founding over 120 years ago.
On the other hand, students of PKU Shenzhen Graduate School, experience the younger campus. Located in the warm southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen, the campus may not have classic architecture, but students come face-to-face with China’s biggest tech companies and can even head to the beach on the weekend.
For those familiar with life at PKU Shenzhen, you will find a lot of differences between Nanyan (南燕, Shenzhen campus) and Yan Yuan, and this article is going to show you a new aspect of PKU.
Bigger the place, bigger the architecture and landscape
The most well-known view of PKU should be attributed to the Boya Pagoda and Weiming Lake on the campus, decorating the school and leaving a place for students’ leisure and relaxing time. Therefore, the Shenzhen campus inherits the iconic landscape from Yan Yuan, with the Wusi Tower and Mirror Lake.
In spring, if you are walking around the lake in Yan Yuan, you will glimpse many Mandarin ducks and carp in the lake. Look up, and you will see a splendid array of flowers blossoming on the trees.
In winter, skating on the lake may be the most beautiful experience. The water is frozen but you are bundled up and sweating from the exercise.
If you are wanting to fully explore the campus in Beijing, you should prepare at least a half a day. Maybe 3 to 4 hours are not enough for your trip to enjoy the fun in every corner of Yan Yuan. For the Shenzhen campus, just 30 minutes to tour Nanyan is enough. In the Beijing campus, you will find a lot of gardens. These gorgeous hideaways might be managed by specific schools and they demonstrate different kinds of styles of Chinese traditional architecture and design.
As you can see on the maps, some of the buildings in Yan Yuan are much bigger than Nanyan, and show significant shapes and appearance, but the blocks in Shenzhen share similar looks and were named by the letters A-H. However, there are some exceptions, for example the School of Law on the main campus and the School of Transnational Law in Nanyan, expressing like twins or counterparts.
Northern and Southern foods
Even though they are in the same country, you will find big differences between the foods in the north and south. The most famous dish in Beijing should be “Peking Duck”, but the production processes and taste of it can give you a feeling and taste totally distinct from the roast duck in Guangdong Province.
In Beijing, a spring roll skin and some veggies will be offered to you to wrap together with the crispy duck skin and soft meat, rather than eating with rice and stewed sauce in a big dish in Shenzhen.
Also, there is an extremely unusual “soy milk” called Douzhi (豆汁) which smells sour and tastes like a bean flavor herbal tea. It is completely different from the normal soy milk you have ever tasted. If you have the guts to try it, you will be respected as a real Beijing “gangster” (老炮).
Nevertheless, apart from the classic Beijing offerings, there are plenty of other selections. You will find good foods from all around China in the canteens, like the clay pot rice (煲仔饭), spicy hot pot (麻辣火锅), Xinjiang-style sauté chicken (新疆大盘鸡), and much more.
Preparing different equipment in different places
The most noticeable difference between living on either of the two campuses is likely the weather. From autumn to spring, Beijing is dry. It is so dry that you will not feel as cold comparably, even if the temperature is lower than in the south.
The main tricks to keep warm outside are to block the wind that attacks your body and have thermal underwear to lock your temperature.
In Shenzhen, due to the high humidity, you will still feel very cold. Even though the temperature is apparently looking good, you may need several pieces of hot pads to warm up your body inside your sweater and thick coat (6℃ in Shenzhen might feel like the -6℃ in Beijing). When summer arrives in Shenzhen, it is hot and humid. The weather stays warm for so long you may think the winter will never come.
Specifically, you will never see the moisture hanging on the wall in Beijing like in Shenzhen. During the long summers of Shenzhen, you can feel the humidity outside and see it when you are inside.
Furthermore, when you look into the sky, you will find that Beijing is hazy and mostly always showing you a grey or yellow background. Due to the big mist and sand storms some days in the spring, the air quality is bad at times. N95 mask may not only be needed as proper epidemic prevention but also to protect your lungs.
But the good news is coming, flowers are bobbing up and bald trees are turning green, coloring the pale surrounding and making the main campus as colorful as the warmed-spring Shenzhen.
Studying in the “Imperial” courtyard
Yan Yuan used to be an imperial garden like the Summer Palace (颐和园). Therefore you can see a lot of old buildings that are over a hundred years old and have the traditional court style. Some of the architectures built afterwards also continues to apply the old style on the wall and roof.
Nevertheless, inside, these buildings from another era utilize the most advanced technology for modern academic study and research.
Nowadays, there are many contemporary structures as well. The cross-over between the young and old is unlike the ultra-modern Shenzhen. The Beijing campus exhibits the history of the development of both PKU and China.
Encountering a variety of people and courses
Studying at PKU means enjoying a vast, advanced platform of academic and technical interaction in China. Yan Yuan is a place that you can witness the exchange of students from different disciplines and backgrounds, especially in classes which combine undergraduates and graduates from various schools.
On the other hand, the Shenzhen campus is for graduate studies and advanced research. It has a smaller selection of main focuses which are unique and well-suited for the global economy, including international law, business and research in frontier applied sciences or cutting-edge technologies.
Interestingly, there are a lot more people on the main campus. To enjoy life at Yan Yuan you must learn to enjoy lining up for everything, like in the canteens, convenience stores or supermarket. Crowds and lines are always forming and growing even when you don’t expect it. If you want to experience the life of Yan Yuan, simply just go enjoy your queue up time!
Checking out Yan Yuan
For Pekingers in Shenzhen, you should absolutely take advantage of opportunities to visit the main campus.
Most graduating students at least attend the commencement ceremony in Beijing. There are other opportunities as well! For example, you can participate in the sports competition that travels to Beijing. Students from the School of Chemical Biology and Biotechnology even spend a semester to study together with their peers at Yan Yuan.
Look into what opportunities might be available for you!
Written by Andrew Fong Tsz Hei