A cross-disciplinary project involving academics from a range of departments at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University is hoping to better understand Suzhou and the changes the city has experienced in recent decades.
The Suzhou Project, coordinated by Beibei Tang from the Department of China Studies, is bringing together 26 XJTLU researchers from a range of academic disciplines to create a platform to facilitate multi-disciplinary research.
All the academic staff involved are conducting, or hoping to conduct, research related to Suzhou as a site, an object or context. They come from the departments of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design,Industrial Design, English, Culture and Communication, and China Studies, bringing with them a range of experiences and perspectives.
Using a mixture of research project presentations, field trips, reading groups and discussions, the project aims to spark ideas for new research, develop existing work and better understand the University’s home city.
The project runs through one semester of each academic year and there is a specified research theme for each semester. The theme for this semester is ‘Suzhou as the field site: change and development’.
Through collective research activities, the Suzhou Project will develop understandings of Suzhou from historical and comparative perspectives.
The six-week project runs through the University’s Semester Two and Dr Tang hopes it will be repeated next academic year, looking at Suzhou from the perspective of its history and culture.
The project will also include language classes on Suzhou’s dialect, also organised by the Department of China Studies, to give participants a greater appreciation of local culture. Suzhou’s dialect, also known as Suzhounese, is a branch of Wu Chinese, one of the group of Chinese linguistic varieties.
Dr Tang, whose own research looks at social change, social inequality and local governance, said: “XJTLU is located in Suzhou and we wanted to make the most of being here in this fascinating city. Suzhou is an excellent case study, an interesting mix of old and new. It’s really a microcosm of the huge changes that have taken place in China over the past 20 or 30 years.
“Through this project we’re seeking to understand better the context in which Suzhou has developed and changed. Looking at this as a group of researchers from a range of disciplines and perspectives gives us the opportunity to develop new ideas and look at things we might already be familiar with in different ways.”