Known as Beida, Beijing University is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in China, and one of the most prestigious and politically active as well. Originally Capital College, it was founded in 1898 by the Qing emperor Kang Xu in a short-lived attempt to modernize China. It was renamed in 1911 when the Qing Dynasty was overthrown by reformist activists.

The May Fourth Movement originated from Beida in 1919, when a series of student demonstrations against Japanese aggression flowered into a full-blown embargo against Japan, forcing China to toughen up against the growing Japanese menace. In the 1920's Beijing University became a breeding ground for almost every significant political movement in China for the next 50 years. Two founders of the Chinese Communist Party, Li Dazhao and Chen Duziu, were part of the faculty. Lu Xun, the famed Chinese author, delivered lectures on Chinese literature there. A young Mao Zedong studied Marxism under Beida's influence.

In 1966, the Red Guards were born in the Beida campus and in Shanghai's Jiao Tong University, another prestigious institution. Education was all but halted in the turbulent years of the pursuit for Maoist purity.

The June Fourth Movement, aka Tiananmen Square, that resulted in a massacre, started in this university to urge further reforms in government, and was soon joined by various other colleges in China. However, it was the Beida student extremists that radically shifted the agenda of the protests, in the eye of the Western media, to the demand for democracy that culminated in the showdown on June 4, 1989. Exiles from that incident can still be found today in Harvard, MIT and Stanford. One woman I particularly dislike, the most visible student radical, who broadcasted the lies about the "demands of the people" to BBC and CNN, still haunts the halls of Harvard. Unfortunately, I forgot her name.

It is a very good university, and has a beautiful campus. The best and the brightest Chinese students go there, and often end up going to the United States for further education.