This spring, Michael Szonyi, Director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, visited SCU, where he checked on recent developments at the joint Fairbank-Sichuan University Research Center for the Study of West China and learned about progress being made on two current research projects, “Historical Survey and Research on Society in Rural Western China since the Ming and Qing Dynasties,” and a jointly launched project entitled “Caught between Rivers and Mountain Ranges: Building Immigrant Communities in Modern Sichuan.”
On this visit, Professor Szonyi joined two separate field research expeditions, participated in a research seminar, and also met with SCU leadership to discuss further cooperation between Sichuan University and the Fairbank Center. The Vice Dean of SCU’s history department, Professor Wang Guo, joined Szonyi in leading the first visit to eastern Sichuan. Their investigations here focused mainly on transport, coal mining, the salt trade, various ethnic groups, and related themes, leading them to northern Chongqing’s Beibei and Hechuan districts, as well as to Shehong county, Xingwen county and surrounding villages.
(Touring the ancient capital of the Bo)
Following the first research trip, Professor Szonyi joined a seminar with the “Society in Rural Western China” group to summarize early findings and discuss the next stages of the research. Professor Wang Guo and Professor Li Deying of the history department, along with other faculty members and a number of students, joined the meeting, during which Professor Szonyi offered helpful suggestions on the methodology employed and how to gauge results.
Together with Professor Li Deying of the history department, Professor Szonyi led another research tour, this time of western Sichuan, looking at water irrigation systems, agriculture, the Daxi state in Sichuan and society during the Ming and Qing dynasties, immigration, and clan culture, among other topics. The group conducted research in Chengdu, Dujiangyan, Xinjing county, Pengshan county, and Chengdu’s Longquan and Newtown disctricts.
(Touring western Sichuan)
During his stay, Professor Szonyi also spoke with SCU’s Vice-President Yan Shijing, the head of the department of social sciences, Fu Qilin, and the dean of the history department, Huo Wei. The two sides discussed further research cooperation plans and a proposal to establish a joint historical resources database.
The joint research center had been established following the signing of two MoU’s between a group of Harvard professors and SCU in December 2016 and September 2017, respectively. This April, Vice President Yan Shijing and Professor Huo Wei paid a return visit to the Fairbank Center to discuss matters of cooperation. Professor Szonyi’s visit this time marked further progress in the important research cooperation between the two universities.