Peking University


China's most prestigious institute of learning, Peking University (PKU) is the ultimate dream for millions of Chinese high-school students and their ever-hopeful parents. The leafy campus has an attractive lake and several period buildings belonging to the old Yenching University, an institution that occupied the site in the 1920s and '30s and had an American dean.

PKU moved in after 1949 but it was established much earlier in 1898, a modern place of learning to supersede the old Imperial College (Guozijian) next to the Confucius Temple. With its archaic syllabus of Chinese classics, the Guózǐjiān had come to be seen as an impediment to China's progress.

The students at Peking University and its predecessors have a history of political consciousness. From the May Fourth Movement to the founding of the Red Guards and Tian'anmen Sq in 1989, PKU students have been at the forefront.

The Arthur M Sackler Museum of Art & Archaeology on campus has collections of burial goods from the Warring States period.