China Rhodes scholar artfully fields question

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 12:00am

Shelley Zhang Tianyu's mind briefly went blank when a judge for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship asked her to gauge the age of a painting hanging in front of them.

'We were enjoying a meal in the China Club, which took place during the selection process,' said the Chinese University of Hong Kong student, who has been awarded the scholarship to do postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford later this month.

Quickly composing herself and drawing on her powers of recall, Ms Zhang, 23, made an educated guess that turned out to be correct. The picture was the work of a Taiwanese painter in the 1990s.

'I looked at the painting carefully to observe its content and style. It consisted of a combination of abstract things, people and buildings that is typical of the style of its time,' said the native of Shenyang who moved to Shenzhen when she was 13.

Ms Zhang, an integrated business administration student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is the first mainlander at the university to receive the scholarship.

At Oxford she will be entering Oriel College where she will read a master of science degree in financial economics.

The Rhodes Scholarship was established in 1902 for students from Commonwealth countries, the US and Germany to pursue postgraduate studies at Oxford. Each year one student from Hong Kong is selected.

Ms Zhang said she was particularly interested in the management of financial institutions.

'At Oxford I'll get to know more about new financial products, tools to manage financial institutions and ways to apply mathematics, statistics and computer programs for this purpose,' she said, adding that she would like to work in Hong Kong after completing the course.

'I've learnt how to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds,' she said.

'If I have the opportunity to do a PhD, I'll come back and teach here.'