Peter Smith

Peter Smith head and shoulders shot wearing a navy shirt on white background

Oxford-Ko Cheuk Hung Graduate Scholarship

Joining us from: UK

MSt Traditional China (2020)

I came to higher education as a mature student to pursue a long held interest in Chinese culture and history. These interests arose from an early encounter with Daoism and a number of trips to explore the temples and mountains of China. Over time this developed into a broader interest in Chinese culture, past and present, which inspired me to pursue a BA (Honours) in Chinese with a focus on classical language and literature at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Upon completing this degree, I was delighted to find that a Masters course on Traditional China at Oxford’s Faculty of Oriental Studies offered a natural progression. An offer of the Oxford-Ko Cheuk Hung Graduate Scholarship from St Cross College was a pivotal moment for me, making it possible to take a place at Oxford and complete this course of study.

My research relates to the Zhuangzi, a classic of ancient Chinese literature associated with Daoism that has achieved a level of popular interest outside of China. This text, often humorous and subversive, has inspired a range of responses throughout Chinese history. My specific research focuses on medieval commentaries to the text with an aim to understand the interpretations of particular individuals. These commentaries have significantly influenced current interpretations of the text but are poorly understood, especially in Western scholarship.

Despite the challenges of study under the pandemic, I have benefitted greatly from this year of study and have established the essential skills needed for further research. My place at Oxford has also made it possible to gain a Baillie Gifford AHRC Scholarship, enabling me to continue my studies at DPhil level. Although my research is rooted in ancient history, immersion in university life during recent years has also inspired a much greater engagement with the issues of the modern world.

I look forward to future years at St Cross and the chance for new collaborations and friendships amongst this diverse community of students. Both the scholarships I received have enabled me to follow my passion, I would not have been able to continue in higher education without them.