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China’s C3’s

January 16, 2012

I went to China on an educational exchange. I work for the City University of New York (CUNY) and between 2009 and 2011 CUNY offered eight library faculty resident scholarships at Shanghai University and Shanghai Normal University. Another CUNY librarian and I were the last two to travel. During the two years of the exchange program, CUNY also hosted visiting Chinese librarians.

My visit to China focused on academic libraries but I also learned other things about higher education in China.

I learned that China does not have an ivy league, but they do have the recently established C9 league. I visited one of the C9 league schools while in Shanghai, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The C9 universities include:

Fudan University, Shanghai
Harbin Institute of Technology, Heilongjiang
Nanjing University, Jiangsu
Peking University, Beijing
Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai
Tsinghua University, Beijing
University of Science and Technology of China, Anhui
Xi’an Jiao Tong University, Shaanxi
Zhejiang University

I learned later on the trip that older pronunciation of the name of the Chinese capital of Beijing as Peking has stuck to two things: Peking University and Peking Duck. Add to that list the Peking Opera.

Try renaming “Hah-vud” in Cambridge or “hot dawgs” in the Bronx when new accents take over the hood and it just won’t work. Long-standing pronunciations in certain contexts are here to stay. So Peking University is Peking University and not Beijing University and it holds its esteemed position as one of the spokes in the wheel of the C9 league.

I like the feel of the expression “C9” on my tongue and practice saying it as I imagine it is said in Chinese: Tsee-joe, Tsee-joe. I push my tongue up against the back of my top front teeth, shouldering the “T” forward to where it can’t help but to jolt the “S” which in turn sends the long “E” sound sailing out of my mouth in a breath. I tighten my nose, my mouth rounds like a fish and and the “joe” drops out like a coin from a return slot. “Joe” is a character in my son’s Chinese name and I take ownership of it whenever I say it. “Tsee-joe, Tsee-joe,” I say the name of the C9 league and repeat myself, confirming that I have said it. Saying it in Mandarin to attach myself more firmly to China, China the birthplace of my son, China where I have been sent to discover my own profession dressed in Asian garb.

Having discovered the C9 league, I decide that I can view my China trip also in a rarified organization based around the letter “C.” “C” makes sense because it is the “C” in the word China, though the Chinese word for China is Zhong Guo, meaning “Middle Kingdom,” and pronounced with a “J” sound and not a “C.” But I will use the Roman letter “C” and divide my Chinese experience into three parts. The C3 lense of my trip I decide will include Consumption, Connection and Contribution.

I will begin my next blog entry with Consumption. As the Chinese say in greeting one another, “Have you eaten yet?” We shall begin with food, most everyone’s favorite consumable.

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