Bryant University in Smithfield, RI will soon have something not found anywhere else in the world except in the Forbidden City of China. In April ground will be broken for the construction of a replica of Shu Fang Zhai (漱芳斋).
The university historically has focused on the study of business and with that comes the ever expanding need of a cultural understanding for global marketing. In 2005 Bryant University recognized the importance and growing role of China as part of their curriculum and established a U. S. – China Institute.
Students and professors have rapidly expanded their exposure to China through internships, foreign exchange and travel. Bryant added a Confucius Institute in 2006 to enhance offerings and opportunities on campus.
It was an historic event when in 2008 President George H. W. Bush attended the ceremonial announcement that Bryant University would be receiving approval and cooperation from China to replicate a building from the Forbidden City. This is the first time China has allowed such project anywhere in the world.
Shu Fang Zhai is a palace not open to the public in China and was originally constructed as part of a 15 year project to build the Forbidden City during the early 1400’s. The Forbidden City required over 1 million workers to construct. Shu Fang Zhai, once a palace for opera productions has most recently been used as a reception chamber for visiting heads of state and dignitaries.
The Bryant reconstruction will be fabricated in China using the same historic techniques employed in the 1400s when the original structure was built, taken apart, put into containers, and shipped to Rhode Island, where it will be reassembled.
The project is not only intricate and complex, in terms of architecture and construction but also in terms of securing government approval. When completed, the structure’s buildings and courtyard will cover approximately half an acre on the Bryant campus and will be used as part of Bryant’s U.S. – China Institute.
Bryant University celebrates their 150th anniversary this year and expects the Shu Fang Zhai project to be completed by year end but it is not the end of Bryant’s ever expanding cooperation with China. Recently a Bryant delegation met in Zhuhai and Beijing with directors of the Beijing Institute of Technology, Zhuhai to continue discussions on a joint academic venture that will result in Bryant developing a branch campus in China.
Plans for this unique joint facility will be the subject of continued meetings among the universities, their accrediting associations, and the Chinese government. It is expected that the Chinese partners will provide all capital investments, including land and facilities, in this new joint venture.
While the growth in technology and information systems may be shrinking our world the expansion of educational opportunities and cultural understanding is expanding our minds. A tip of the Quill goes out to Bryant University for their accomplishment in reconstructing a part of the Forbidden City of China in New England.