Like Taylor Swift, Many Chinese Artists Have Honorary US Doctorates

Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou are just two learned Chinese artists with honorary doctorates from prestigious Western universities

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1:20 AM HKT, Fri May 20, 2022 1 mins read

On May 18, ‘Swifties’ worldwide rejoiced as Taylor Swift received her honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from New York University (NYU). In donning her graduation cap and gown, the American singer, songwriter, and producer joined the growing ranks of celebrities — including Chinese artists — with honorary doctorates from prestigious American universities.

Known for its elite film program, one of the best in the U.S., NYU is also the alma mater of one of the world’s most prominent Chinese filmmakers — Ang Lee.

In 2001, the Academy Award-winning Taiwanese filmmaker received the same degree as Swift from NYU, in addition to his MFA in film production.

Lee established a foothold in Chinese filmdom with Lust, Caution (2007) but not before bursting onto the U.S. scene with Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).

Zhang attending his class’ commencement ceremony at Boston University. Screengrab via YouTube

Considered Lee’s counterpart from the Chinese mainland, Zhang Yimou was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Boston University in 2018. Almost a decade prior, in 2010, the famed filmmaker received his Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Yale University.

Zhang, a member of the fifth generation of Chinese filmmakers, has produced legendary and legendarily bad films while reaping awards from Europe’s ‘Big Three — Venice, Cannes, and Berlin — film festivals.

Meanwhile, prestigious universities in other countries have also recognized creatives from Chinese-speaking communities. For example, The University of Edinburgh in the U.K. conferred Maggie Cheung with an honorary doctorate in 2011. The Hong Kong artist has won Best Actress awards from Berlin International Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival.

Going back to Swift: News of the milestone in the 32-year-old’s life has been trending on Weibo, and a related hashtag has amassed more than 170 million views. During her commencement speech, the songstress seized the opportunity to allude to some of her hit songs.

Cover image: screengrab via YouTube

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