Xiong Zheng, China / Master’s Course

Both Hokkaido and Hokkaido University are wide, open areas, making it easy to relax and study in peace. I’m currently researching the Chinese six-dynasties era poet, Tao Yuanming. Every week, I have a one-on-one study session with Professor Hiroyuki Kondo. I am grateful for the warm advisory he has given me. Thanks to him, I was able to write two papers over the course of one year as a Master’s Student.

When did you come to Japan?

Before coming to Japan, I studied Japanese at the Dalian University of Foreign Language, with an emphasis on Linguistics and Japanese Culture. After graduating, I came to Japan in September 2017. I started off as a research student at Hiroshima University. After that, I passed the entrance exam at  the Graduate School of Letters* in Hokkaido University and began my Master’s Program in April 2018.

What is your current research theme?

I’m currently researching Tao Yuanming, a poet from the six dynasties period of China. Tao Yuanming has been critiqued from many different perspectives in both China and Japan since antiquity. I have been reading and evaluating these critiques. My current research interest is the differences between the critiques made in Japan and China.

Why did you choose to study at the Graduate School of Letters*?

Ever since I was young, I’ve been interested in classical Chinese literature and thought. Hence, I decided to apply my knowledge of Japanese by researching the Chinese classics in Japan. The reason I chose to study at the Laboratory of Sinology here at Hokkaido University is, first and foremost, that I was very interested in the research themes of the professors here, especially Professor Hiroyuki Kondo. When I looked for information on his webpage, I noticed he wrote that “no matter what research theme a student chooses, the professor must stick with them.” I was moved by how broad-minded he was and wanted to study with him. Also, the image that I had of Hokkaido as a wide-open and relaxed place where I could study in peace proved to be the deciding factor for me.

At the Graduate School of Letters*, international students are usually encouraged to start off as a research student. However, after consulting with Professor Kondo, I decided to take the entrance exam for the Master’s Course directly. If that hadn’t gone well, I would have tried to become a research student. At any rate, I used former test problems and books that professors of Sinology had written in order to study for the test. Luckily, I was able to pass without any problems.

What has been good about studying at the Graduate School of Letters*?

Professor Kondo’s warm advisory has been the best part. Every week, we have a “one-on-one” study session. He listens very attentively to what I am trying to say and carefully helps correct my papers. Thanks to him, I was able to write two papers as a first-year Master’s student. My goal is to keep learning and eventually continue on to the doctoral program.
In my research room, there are many competent Chinese students. There are also many Japanese students who can provide help when necessary. The fact that Japanese and Chinese students are able to have this kind of intercultural exchange is another good point.

What has it been like to live in Sapporo/Japan?

Hokkaido is a wide-open place, with beautiful nature and good weather. Of course, in the winter, the temperature gets cold and snow starts to fall, but you can stay warm as long as you are indoors. Plus,  the snow is pretty. Otherwise, the weather is quite nice from spring to autumn. Moreover, Hokkaido University is also close to Sapporo Station, making it easy to go about my life. I really like Sapporo.

Have you had any problems since coming to Hokkaido University?

Last year was the first time I ever experienced an earthquake, so that was quite scary. I gathered together with some of my Chinese friends and we evacuated together. Still, I was moved by how orderly the town remained after the earthquake, and how some places were handing out free food.

What support did you get that was helpful for you?

The supporter system is very helpful for putting the minds of international exchange students new to Japan at ease. In my case, I had already been living in Japan since before I came to Sapporo, so I didn’t need to use this system. However, I myself became a supporter, and have tried to help students new to Japan. Helping expand the network of international exchange students in this way has made this a good experience for me as well.
Also, I think that the tutor system is very nice. Thanks to the tutor system, students will have a dependable upperclassman available to check their Japanese when writing papers and preparing materials for seminars, or otherwise just to give advice.
As for support that I think would be good to have, I would suggest a shared system between research rooms for books that people don’t use anymore.

Do you have a message for students who want to come to the Graduate School of Humanities and Human Sciences, Hokkaido University?

Hokkaido is a land with plentiful nature and many tourist attractions. There is a good balance between modern culture and ancient traditions. It is a hugely appealing place. Both the surrounding area and Hokkaido University are very open places, making it easy for international students to get accustomed to them. I believe that Hokkaido University is a great place to study humanities. I would very much recommend Hokkaido University’s Faculty of Humanities and Human Sciences to anyone looking to study abroad.

* In April 2019, the Graduate School of Letters has been reorganized as the Graduate School of Humanities and Human Sciences.

(interviewed in April, 2019)