Schools in Ancient China
Origin and Characteristics of Schools in Ancient China.
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Education has always been very closely finked with culture. Only through education can a nation's cultural Tradition and spirit be spread. developed and renewed. Therefore. if we are to properly understand the age-old Chinese culture and grasp its spirit. it would be helpful to look at some of the characteristics of schools and additional education in ancient China.
Ever since ancient times. schools have been the primary means of cultivating talents. though schools are not the only form of education. What sort of talents can be trained by schools depends on the nature and type of School and its purpose and content as well as the method of education. in addition to the coordination of the whole society and the practice and hard work of those being taught. In ancient China. there existed two types of school, operated either by government or individuals. Over the course of history, at times one type might predominate over the other. but mostly they complemented each other, and both accumulated rich experience as providers of education. We shall give a brief account of their origins and make a general analysis SO as to find the unique style and appeal of each.
Primitive Society and the Dawn of Schools
Over the course of China’s long history of development, the forefathers of the Chinese people acquired various kinds of knowledge and experience in their life and production. Archeologists have shown that half a million years ago. Peking Man knew how to make simple stone tools and how to cook food by using fire. These things seem easy and simple today, but they were closely linked to the lives and development of the people of that time. giving them more confidence in hunting and battling against the challenge of nature. In order to help the younger generation to survive. their elders naturally passed on their experiences in the use of fire and tools to their offspring. The primary form of education was thus established. According to historical records, "Sui Ren taught people to cook food with fire and Fu Xi taught people to hunt game as there were so many wild beasts." Then "people were taught to plant crops by Shen Nong." All These activities might be included in the scope of education. But this was basic and simple form of education for production and living without a regular place of instruction or specific receivers and occurred randomly according to the demands of a particular time and place.
In the late primitive period society advanced into matriarchal clan communes and patriarchal clan communes as the social productive forces developed to a degree where they could accumulate greater wealth. The content of collective life in the clan communes became richer as well. Apart from education for simple production and living. naturally ideological education relating to some aspects of collective ideology, customs and morals appeared. Archeological excavations at the ruins of the Banpo Village at Xi'an revealed 50 houses closely laid out in a commune. in the center of which was a house for public activities. This was a place for the people of the commune to discuss public affairs and conduct ideological education. People elected their leader. discussed clan feuds. and held religious and celebrational activities there, thereby forming their sense of collectivism. customs and ways of life. At this time. however. they had no official organization of education.
Only at a time when human civilization and the spoken and written language had developed to a certain degree and when the first great division of agriculture from animal husbandry had developed into the great division of the handicraft industry from agriculture. particularly when the social product of labor had increased enough to surpass the needs of society, so as to enable a number of people to quit physical labor and work instead with their minds. and when These people felt it necessary to hand down certain special knowledge and experiences to their offspring intentionally and in a planned way, could schools as special educational institutions appear.
Slave Society and the Rise and Fall of Government Schools
According to historical records. schools first appeared During the Xia Dynasty (c. 2100 -c.1600 BC). However. due to a lack of archeological materials. we know very little about such schools. During the Shang Dynasty (C. early 17th century to 11th century BC), China's slave society made further progress in politics. economy and culture. The existence of schools can be found not only in historical documents. But is also evidenced by archeological findings. particularly from inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells from the Yin ruins. The schools at the time were called Xiang, "Xiao" or "Xu." Others were called "Xue", "Da Xue" or "Gao Zong." During this period. official schools appeared and further developed. Writing and mathematics were taught and education in religion. military affairs. rituals and, especially, music were also stressed. The worship of gods and ghosts was important at this time. When people went to war or conducted ceremonial activities, a certain ritual accompanied by music would take place. Education in rituals and music was therefore given great attention.
During the Western Zhou period (C.11th century -771BC). a real School system began to develop. At that time. there were two types of School systems：national schools and local schools. National schools were central government schools located in the region of the king and the capitals of the vassal states. Local schools were local government schools. and were located in local administrative regions. National schools included high schools and lower schools. High schools were built in the city of the King of Zhou and in the capitals of the vassal states. They were usually enclosed by walls. and surrounded by water on three sides. with one side leading to a forest. Lower schools were divided into two types. One was for the children of nobles and located close to palaces. and the other was for common people and was located on the outskirts of cities.
According to historical records. 1ocal government schools for the children of nobles had appeared During the Western Zhou Period. but there was still no widespread local School network.
From the time of the Western Zhou. a Tradition of the "unity of officials and teachers" and the "unity of government and education" began in schools. It should be noted that this feature was closely linked with the social nature of such education. Nobles, with support from the government. established schools and special Officials were appointed to oversee their operation. In this case, teachers in These schools naturally blended with officialdom. Assuming the role of both teacher and official. they not only taught students in the school. but also conducted various social activities there. In the high schools in the kingly city were often held ceremonial rituals for the worship of gods and ancestors, military meetings. celebrations for capturing prisoners of war, military training and musical performances. Local schools were not only places of education. but also for discussion about local government affairs. This "unity of government and education", produced a significant impact on later generations. Though schools of later periods were separated from the government and teachers worked on a full—time basis. local officials still paid attention to education. This can be regarded as an important feature of traditional Chinese culture.
During this time. education centered around the "six arts. " that is propriety, music. archery, chariot driving, writing and mathematics.
"Propriety". concerned politics and morals and taught the political and moral standards of the hierarchy of the patriarchal society. "Music" included not only music. but also poetry, songs and dances. It was closely related with ritual. Music was said to train the inner passions. while propriety trained outward manners. enabling the acquisition of flexibility in rule. which would bring about a positive effect on social stability and alleviate the acuteness of social problems. Propriety and music were the cornerstone and core of education in the "six arts." Archery and chariot driving were military training courses. Writing and mathematics were basiccultural courses. The "six arts" were the basic courses in government schools in the Western Zhou period. They were compulsory courses in both national and local schools. though the precise content differed according to the school. The purpose of government schools was to cultivate talents. either to safeguard the county with skills in archery and chariot driving or to administer it with capabilities in "propriety and music" and "writing and mathematics."
The beginnings of an administrative system for education were established in the Western Zhou. An examination system was instituted. to be held every other year in national high schools. In the first year. students were examined on their analysis of the classics and their ability in differentiating their aims in studies. In the third year. they were examined on their ability to concentrate on their studies and get on with their fellow students. In the fifth year. they were examined on their ability to continue an extensive study and whether they respected their teachers. In the seventh year. they were tested on their ability to debate. and on their ability to associate with good learners. In the ninth year, they were tested on their ability and flexibility in putting knowledge into practice giving them the foundation to live and work. All These examinations stressed the cultivation of learners in both their studies and morals. setting a good example for schools in later years. Those who passed the examinations would be appointed as officials by the Son of Heaven while those who failed, did not respect their teachers and could not be reformed. would be dispatched to a remote place and be permanently denied such employment. A similar examination system with standards for rewards and punishment was also set up in local schools.
To stress the importance of education, the Son of Heaven would visit schools four times each year to worship forefathers of education and inspect the school. This is the "unity of government and education" in another form. with the highest ruler encouraging his people to observe the existing social order through education and to cultivate qualified talents needed by the nobility.
Government schools had reached their highest level of development in the Western Zhou period. By the end of this period, they began to decline because of the weakness of the royal family and the scramble for power among the various vassal state rulers. As the government School system declined. classics and historical documents which had been held secretly by government offices began to leak out into society. The government being unable to manage schools, a new situation began to appear. During the mid to late Spring and Autumn Period, private schools emerged, and quickly sprang up everywhere.
The unified Feudal Society and Diversified School Network
The outstanding cultural achievements of the Chinese people were created over the course of more than 2,000 years of feudal society, and These were spread. developed and renewed through education in schools. During this long period of feudal society, the School system was quite different from that of the Western Zhou. The long Tradition of official schools was preserved. but privately run schools diversified and spread. In many respects privately run academies particularly distinguished themselves.
The government School system in the Xia, Shang and Western Zhou dynasties eventually disappeared along with the collapse of the aristocracy. As soon as this happened, privately operated schools sprang up. With the gradual formation of a unified feudal empire, a new type of government schools was born. The Jixia School run by the State of Qi near its capital Linzi can be regarded as a prototype for the new type of government schools. The old ways of running government schools During the previous three dynasties were abandoned. and the newer. more liberal thought of privately run schools was adopted. This produced a profound impact on the development of the later government School system.
Emperor Qinshihuang. who unified China in 221 BC. decreed that "law is education," belittling the functions of both government and private schools. The first formation of China's feudal government School system dates from the period of Emperor Wudi (r.140—87 BC) of the Han Dynasty, being perfected over the course of various dynasties. Generally, government schools in feudal society reflected the social stratification of the time and there were a number of such schools of different types. Here we give only a brief account of the various modes of teaching, examination and administration.
The national university (the highest School in the capital) of the Han Dynasty (206 BC –220 AD) introduced a teaching mode in which teaching of classics in class was combined with private study outside of the classroom. At that time, students had to study by themselves after class. During the Song Dynasty (960—1279). a new mode of teaching appeared. Hu Yuan (993—1059), a great educator. introduced the disciplinary teaching mode. He opened two courses —classics and special learning. Six classics were taught to those with a strong ability to handle state affairs. Special learning meant professional skills such as civil and military affairs, water conservation and calendar calculation. Later, Hu introduced this mode of teaching into the national university where he taught. Students were divided into different groups according to their different pursuits of learning. This method was popular among the students because they could fully develop their individual personalities and specialties. Many talented people were trained in this way.
During this period. the organizational form of teaching was a particular characteristic of professional schools. The use of models for teaching and practice were first introduced in the teaching of medical science. Wang Weiyi. a specialist in acupuncture and moxibustion, invented a bronze model of the human body for training in acupuncture and moxibustion. On the model. he marked out all the acupuncture points. For the teaching of medical science. a special garden was planted with various kinds of traditional Chinese medicines and herbs for students to learn to differentiate. A new practice system was also set up. which required the students to make a regular visit to schools to See those who were sick. and take notes on their diseases and treatment.
During the Ming Dynasty (1368—1644). a new type of probationary system was set up in the Directorate of Education (the highest institute of learning). Students studying in the institute would be sent to government offices for a probation period of three months or half a year. Then. after examinations. they would be divided into three groups according to their records. Those who got the highest marks would be selected for office. and the rest would be sent back to the institute to continue their studies. This was a very important means of promoting the quality of teaching and producing more competent personnel.
A strict examination system was also established in government schools in the feudal society. The system of examinations held every other year in government schools During the Western Zhou Dynasty was gradually perfected through long practice in government schools in feudal society. The national university in the Han period paid much attention to examinations. not only to ascertain how much the students understood the classics. but more importantly, to decide the opportunities for students’ development in the future.
The typical method of examination in the national university was to answer questions. Two groups of questions were carved on bamboo sheets for students to choose to answer. Students would be assigned to an official position according to their test records. During the Tang Dynasty (61 8—907), more examinations were regularly held including a quarterly test. a yearly test and a graduation test. The Ministry of Rites would assign positions to those students who proved themselves qualified in the test. or got them participate in the imperial civil examination. During the reign of Emperor Shenzong (r. 1 067—1 085) of the Northern Song Dynasty, Wang Anshi (1021—1086). a statesman. writer and thinker, carried out a reform of the examination system of government schools. introducing the "three colleges method." He divided the national university into three parts：external. internal and supreme colleges. Children of high officials above the eighth rank and good and competent children of commoners. after being tested and qualified. would be enlisted as the students of the external college. These students. after an examination. to be held once every two years. and a check on general professional skill and behavior. would then go up to the supreme college to study if they passed the examinations. Qualified students of the supreme college would be directly assigned to official positions. This system also examined the general professional skills and behavior of the students. and so promoted the quality of their studies and morals. As a result. it was adopted by many other professional schools. even in many local schools. Students of local schools might be upgraded after examination step by step to the highest local college and then to the top college of the national university. In this way, government schools and local schools became closely linked for the first time. forming the beginning of a real education system. This was of great significance in the history of education in China.
1. A school administrative system with its own characteristics was also established in feudal society in China.
A certain administrative system is indispensable to a regular school. but what type of administrative system will be established is important. Generally speaking. the government schools had a special educational administrative organization which was controlled by officials of the ritual department in the central government together with local officials. This was clearly not suitable for the coordination and development of all the schools in the country. During the Sui (581—618) and Tang (618—907) dynasties. the directorate of education was set up to control the government schools at the central Level. Local government schools. however. did not create special administrative organizations until the Song Dynasty. At the same time. educational fund was also to be guaranteed. As a rule. feudal government schools had strict regulations and other rules for ad ministration. All These show the autocratic aspect of the education. However, there were some aspects that can be learnt from by later generations.
For instance. a strict selection of teachers and a tough examination system were first introduced in national university in the Han period. At that time. teachers of the national university were strictly selected according to their level of knowledge and morals. During the reign of Emperor Shenzong of the Song Dynasty, the imperial court ordered the creation of an examination system for teachers. Under this tough examination system. the total Humber of teachers in local schools across the country was only 53. A fairly objective standard for selecting teachers was conducive to guarantee of the quality of teachers. After the Song period. this practice continued without lessening the requirements. Teachers play a very important role in educational achievements. so strict selection of teachers, a traditional practice in ancient government schools, is a practice that 1ater generations can well learn from now 1et’s turn to the subject of the privately run schools.
Private schools were a new form of education originating from the decline of government schools under the slave system. Their appearance not only brought prosperity to academic research and culture. creating a flowering of different schools of thought. but also cultivated a great many distinguished and talented people who contributed to the formation of a centralized feudal dynasty. Though they themselves focused on the operation of government schools. rulers of the various dynasties neither prohibited nor limited the operation of private schools. resulting in the continuation and development of private schools over the course of more than 2,000 years. Private schools developed their own unique features, differing from those of government schools. and to some extent, they helped reduce the burden on the feudal state in the operation of schools. In general. private schools in feudal society were characterized by the following two aspects:
A relatively free policy of operation and a unique teaching style were created. which promoted a comprehensive development of Chinese feudal academic thought. science and technology, culture and education in feudal society.
If the hierarchy and class character of feudal government schools were generally expressed by the unification of its purpose, receivers and content of education. private schools. on the contrary, was characterized by a relative flexibility and freedom in their operational policy, content and mode. This feature was particularly apparent in many private schools run by scholars before the Qin Dynasty. The scholars of different academic doctrines at the time spread and developed their educational thought through teaching. They broke from the bondage of hierarchy created by the entrance system for government schools practiced in the Western Zhou period and introduced open education in society for anyone. Confucius said that in education there should be no distinction of social status. while Mo Zi advocated a mobile educational system to expand his influence of thought. The private schools run by both Confucians and Mohists were known far and wide at the time.
After the appearance of the unified feudal patriarchal society, particularly after Emperor Wudi (r.140—88 BC) of the Han period actively advocated the exclusive practice of Confucianism. Confucianism became the dominant system of thought through the ages. It influenced society through education in all types of schools. All schools were obliged to teach Confucianism. to a greater or 1esser degree. However, private schools had more freedom in their teaching with 1ess interference from political influence and control of thought. When they taught Confucianism. they paid more attention to the study and discussion of its academic aspects. rather than the direct moral and political preaching in government schools. For example. Han Dynasty masters of ancient script classics (a School of Confucian classics research. Ancient script classics were classics of Confucianism written before the Qin Dynasty and explained by scholars of the Han Dynasty) were very interested in the operation of private schools. in an attempt to popularize the texts of the classics and research findings of its investigations and proofs. They were bold enough to contend with the scholars of modern script classics (a School of Confucian clas sics research. written and explained by the Han scholars) in the politicized national university and promoted the development of classics research and education. There were also various schools of Confucianism in the Song Dynasty due to the booming of private schools. Government schools. limited by their unified teaching requirements. lacked the basic conditions for academic debate. For instance. during the period that Wang Anshi (1 021—1 086) was in office. he proposed that the teaching content in the national university be unified under the "new explanation of the three classics," and a new policy should be practiced. Cheng Hao (1032—1085) and Cheng Yi (1033—1 107). philosophers and educators of the Northern Song. who were political adversaries of Wang. retired to Luoyang to set up private schools. teaching Confucianism in their own way. The Northern Song Zhang Zai (1020—1077) also set up private School to preach his own doctrine. All These private schools at the time promoted academic and educational thought.
New teaching methods were also introduced in the long development of private schools. such as the method of the most capable student teaching other students. Dong Zhongshu (1 79—104 BC). philosopher and master of modern script classics of the Han period, adopted the method. Ma Rong (79—1 66). a classics scholar of the Eastern Han period. also adopted this method of teaching. With 400 students in a school. only about 50 were taught by Dong personally, the others being instructed by this method. which was one way to solve the shortage of teachers. meeting the development demands of private schools and contributing to the spread of Confucianism and its culture.
To meet the demand of the time for philosophical explanations of Confucianism. Song Dynasty masters of the Neo—Confucian School (or School of Principles) focussed more on enlightenment and guidance in their teaching. For example. Zhou Dunyi (1017—1073). founder of the Neo—Confucian School of the Northern Song Dynasty, often raised thought—provoking questions with his disciples Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi. Zhu Xi (1130—1200), philosopher of the Southern Song Dynasty, often took his disciples out after class to ramble in the woods and by the waterways, discussing philosophical problems to deepen their understanding of Neo—Confucianism.
The freedom of teaching in private schools was not only Seen in the creative popularization of Confucianism. but also in the diversification of the courses offered by the schools. including quite different doctrines of Confucianism. Buddhism and Taoism. For example. during the Wei. the Jin and the Southern and Northern Dynasties, owing to the social upheaval and frequent wars, feudal government schools began to decline. but private schools mushroomed. As well as Confucianism. Buddhism and Taoism were also taught in schools. bringing a greater variety to academic thought.
Moreover, private schools played an important role in the popularization of ancient Chinese science and technologies and art and literature. Although professional schools in areas such as medical science. mathematics and painting were set up in feudal government schools. their number and scale were limited. Many students who were interested in These skills could therefore only learn them in private schools. The most common way of teaching, however. was the one whereby professional skills were taught and passed down from father to son.
2. Private schools. with some success. undertook the task of primary education in feudal society, supporting the limited effort rendered by the state.
Generally, the development of education is closely linked to the social and economic structure. Along with the development of feudal society and its economy, the scale and types of government schools also expanded. During the Song Dynasty, local government schools at the prefecture and county level were prevalent. After the Yuan Dynasty (1271—1368). the government ordered the establishment of primary schools (community schools) below the county level. But restricted finances and capability meant that the government could not afford all the funds and personnel. These community schools. therefore. were in fact special private schools. The so-called government schools in the mid and late period of feudal society could only be set up at the prefecture and county levels. At lower levels. the government had difficulty in affording the operation of primary schools. so the task was taken over by private schools. These schools formed the foundation of education in feudal society, over the centuries attracting a great many educators who gradually produced a complete set of texts combining knowledge. ethics and interest. They also made valuable explorations in teaching and School management.
The key problem of primary education for many educators was the content of books. They gradually came to understand through practice that texts should be tailored to the immature psychology, physiology and thinking of children. Then they should become acquainted with basic general knowledge. history, poetry, songs and moral principles. Abstract ideas and empty theoretic preaching should be avoided. These ancient rudimentary readings for children can be divided into two categories：general readings. such as Three-Character Classics, The Names of a Hundred Families, and A Thousand-Character Classic, and specialized readings, such as A selection of Poems from a Thousand Poets, Seventeen Historical Stories for Children, The ABC of Nature and Ethical Teachings.
Whether the content was general or specialized. all These books stressed the combination of knowledge. moral principles and interest. sometimes specially illustrated with fine pictures. Some of the contents concerned feudal ethics which are obviously out-dated now, but many teachings on learning. making friends. and discussion are still useful for education today.
It cannot be denied that serious corporal punishment was practiced in the primary education in feudal society. But it should be noted that genuine educators who understood how to teach a child refused to do such things. pursuing instead creative ways of cultivation. taking into consideration the child's age. Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi proposed that teachers should stimulate the interest of a child. They proposed that ethical principles could be written in the form of jingles for children to sing and memorize. Children would enjoy singing them and. through daily repetition. they would be gradually influenced by the teaching.
Zhu Xi also noted the features of the age and mind of children. He advocated that a child's mind should be influenced through figurative stories and proverbs. Wang Shouren (1472-1528). philosopher and educator of the Ming Dynasty, pointed out that "generally a child likes to play rather than being constrained." He said that education should take full consideration of a child's temperament. interest and psychology. At the same time. educators of ancient times also emphasized that education should maintain strict cultivation and training in good behavior with high morals. In this respect. Zhu Xi proposed strict requirements of dress. language. hygiene. reading and writing. and so on. Certainly some of the requirements were unreasonable. being affected by feudal ideology. But some were sensible. For example: "A person who is reading aloud. is required to do three things: concentrate the mind. focus the eyesight and move the tongue and mouth. If a persons mind is not present. then he cannot See properly what he is reading. Without the concentration of the mind and eyes. one cannot memorize anything even though reading aloud. As to writing. no matter how well one can write characters, he must first of all write each character distinctly and right. and never scribble."
Wang Yun (1784-1854). a primary educator of the Qing Dynasty, stresses in his book The Methods of Teaching Children the importance of rudimentary training. pointing out that each stage of training. for example. learning to recognize characters. writing. reading. and composition. should be"strictly carried out step by step."Such education should bear in mind the features of a child's body and mind, and at the same time remember to set strict requirements for them. These were the two major problems that many primary educators of ancient China wanted to solve in their teaching.
Finally, a few words about academies (Shu Yuan)
Academies were a unique form of higher learning. which appeared gradually after the late Tang period. At first. they were government Offices to collect, store and revise books. Sometimes, out of vanity, individuals called their private studio or study an academy. Later. due to the inadequacy of government schools, academies began to become places of teaching by private scholars. Genuine teaching academies appeared in the later years of the Five Dynasties (907—960). Through their initial stage of development in the Northern Song period (960—1127) and their flourishing in the Southern Song period (1 127—1279). a number of well—known academies. such as Bailudong Academy, Yuelu Academy, Chongshah Academy, Shigu Academy and Yintianfu Academy came to the fore. They established their own styles of operation. making all important contribution to the cultivation of talents and the richness of academic studies.
In general. early academies were privately operated by scholars. When they made achievements in education. they would be honored and supported by the government of the time. After the Yuan Dynasty, most academies became government—run or controlled schools. When we talk of the characteristics of academies: what we are referring to were the practices in the early stage of their development. The fact that These were passed down over a period of more than 1,000 years suggest that they established some worthy traditions. which were inherited. spread and developed by many educators. Differing from both government and ordinary private schools. academies were a higher form of private schools with their own unique style of operation.
Firstly, they emphasized the integration of teaching and academic research. and a free atmosphere in debate on academic problems was fostered. Education in ancient China was dominated by Confucianism. and the academies did not abandon the teaching of Confucian classics. However, they differed from government schools, in that academy teachers did not only teach knowledge of the classics. Their teaching methods included research. and so, through teaching, they imparted the results of their own research and also deepened their own understanding. In places where the research work was well developed. so was the academy, and the leading researchers in a place naturally ran the local academy.
Most striking was the creation of a free atmosphere in debate on academic issues and research. For instance, in 1175, Zhu Xi and Lu Jiuyuan (1139—1193). philosophers and educators of the Southern Song period, representing different schools of thought, convened a new type of symposiums in which both criticized each other's viewpoints. In spite of their different academic opinions. they were still intimate and sincere friends in the study of academic problems. Later, when he was sponsoring the Bailudong Academy, Zhu Xi invited Lu to teach in the academy and Lu was happy to accept his invitation. Lu gave a lecture on the subject of "the superior man is concerned with righteousness and the mean man with gain." The lecture was so sincere and vivid that many of the students were moved to tears. Zhu appreciated the lecture so much that he asked Lu to leave the text behind and had it carved in stone.
In another example, Wang Shouren of the Ming period, and philosopher Zhan Ruoshui (1466—1560) taught in the same academy and diligently studied their own academic subjects although their views differed. Gu Xiancheng (1550—1612) and Gao Panlong (1562—1626), of the late Ming Dynasty, both stressed the importance of free debate on academic problems, usually holding a big debate once a year, and a small one once a month. They even agreed to hold discussions on the promotion of justice and righteousness. respect for knowledge. and on critiques of imperial affairs, contemporary personages and current state affairs.
Free debate brought about different views on some problems. But discussions and debate in turn furthered the understanding of the problems. This was commonly acknowledged by many leaders of academies. As a contemporary philosopher put it, "If there is a difference in views. it will be taught and discussed. If all are in agreement, what need is there to teach and discuss it?" Free debate and discussion became a fine Tradition that substantially improved the development of academic studies.
Secondly, academies emphasized the combination of students’ private studies and guidance by the teacher, stressing the importance of cultivating the students’ ability to pursue their own independent studies. This practice of independent study combined with the teacher's guidance dates back to the period before the Qin Dynasty when private academies from various schools of thought prevailed. During the Han period. in the national university, apart from lectures given to big classes. independent study was a primary task of the students. Academies in later periods inherited and developed this precious educational tradition. which had previously been widely practiced. True, academies did give group lectures, but more importance was given to guiding students in their own studies. A teacher's function was that of a guide and a provider of acknowledgement. If any questions were raised, they could be discussed. Zhu Xi would take his students outside to ramble and investigate. giving them lectures freely in a relaxed and beautiful environment. When the students studied indoors, they had enough books and materials to consult in the academy’s library. Zhu Xi particularly stressed the ability to raise questions. When a student could not solve a problem after thinking about it deeply, he could go to ask the teachers. Zhu created a "learning method" from his rich teaching experience in the academy, and his students summed it up as "progressing step by step," "learning a thing by heart and thinking about it deeply," "being modest and broad—minded," "personal practice and investigation," "working hard," and "holding respect for others and persisting in one’s own goal." These six principles won recognition from later intellectuals and they produced a far—reaching influence. Students in the academies also developed their own independent academic research work. producing theses which were printed and published by the academies.
Thirdly, they aimed to establish an ideal natural environment (campus construction) and a harmonious cultural environment (the relationship between students and teachers). inheriting and developing the fine Tradition of students respecting their teachers, and teachers loving their students.
Most of the famous academies were located in remote, quiet uplands amid beautiful landscapes. For instance, Bailudong Academy was built under the Wulao Peak on Mount Lushan in Jiangxi Province; Yuelu AcademB under the Baolong Cave on Yuelu Mountain in Changsha Hunan; Cangzhou House of ExceHence, Zhulin House of ExceHence and Kaoting Academy were all located on Mount Wluyi; and Xuehm Hall was located on Yuexiu Mountain.
In addition to the selection of a beautiful natural environment, academies also stressed the creation of a harmonious cultural environment. or an amicable relationship between students and teachers. Confucius set the example for students and teachers of "never being satiated with learning and never being fired of teaching." He also built up a harmonious and profound friendly relationship with his disciples and followers on the basis of pursuing the "Tao" (or the "way"). As time went on. however. as more worldly practices were introduced into government schools, this friendly relationship between students and teachers dwindled, or even disappeared. "They treat each other like strangers in the street, "to quote Zhu Xi. In contrast, students and teachers of academies cherished a sincere affection for each other. They lived together happily, discussing their feelings as well as academic problems. For instance, Zhu Xi studied together with his student Cai Yuanding (1135—1198), a scholar of the School of Neo—Confucianism. in the academy. They would often debate a problem well into the night. When Zhu Xi learned that Cai was demoted and banished from the court. he led more than 100 students to See him off. There were tears in the eyes of the students over the wrong that had been done to him, but Cai remained calm and collected as usual. Said Zhu Xi with deep feeling: "There are two striking strong points about Cai Yuanding: heartwarming fraternity and unfaltering determination," showing the sincere love and care of a teacher for his student.
To sum up, the School system in feudal Chinese society was mainly composed of government schools. private schools and their higher form. academies. Government schools played the main role in feudal society, but when at times they declined. along with the decline of a dynasty, private schools would develop. At other times, under the control of an enlightened government, government, schools were developed and the number of private schools might dwindle. Mostly, however, these two types of schools advanced side by side, supplementing and supporting each other, constituting a diversified School network to undertake the lofty task of cultivating talents for the nation.
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- Chinese Culture Faces Challenges
Western Culture: Its Spread and Influence Traditional Chinese Culture.
- Chinese Culture in 21st Century
The 21st Century and Traditional Chinese Culture. Prospects for World Culture.
- Chinese Custom
China is a united multi-ethnic country with 56 ethic groups with rich traditions and customs.
- Chinese Literature
China has a very old and rich tradition in literature.
- Chinese Opera
Chinese opera is a traditional dramatic form which sizes literature, music, dance, fine arts, martial arts and acrobatics.
- Chinese Philosophy
- The Soul of Traditional Chinese Culture. The Study of the Universe and Man.
- Chinese Religion
There are five major religions and philosophies in China: Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.
- Chinese Tea Culture
Chinese Tea culture is one of the common traits shared by all the 56 ethnic groups in China.
- Critical Examination of Chinese Culture
A Review and Critical Examination of Traditional Chinese Culture.
A meal in Chinese culture is typically seen as consisting of two general components.
- Dragons in Chinese Culture
Dragon - a Symbol of the Striving Ethos of Chinese Culture.
- Education and Culture
Traditional Chinese .
- Farm Produce of the South and North
Long before farming and animal husbandry came into being, human beings had lived and thrived for a million years.
This is the body of vocal and instrumental music composed and played by the Chinese people.
- Schools in Ancient China
Origin and Characteristics of .
- Science of History
The Features of the Chinese .
- The Learning of Absorption and Assimilation
During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, no thesis could be established without debate and no authority could exist without being tested through argument.
- Traditional Chinese Art and Crafts
Chinese art, like Chinese literature, goes back many centuries.
- Traditional Chinese Culture in Modern Times
Achievements and Value of .
- Traditional Chinese Festivals
China boasts a variety of unique and attractive Folklores thanks to the long history and nationalities.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine
(TCM) has a recorded history dating back over 2,000 years.
- Traditional Chinese Virtues
China has always been known as an ancient civilization, and a land of propriety and righteousness.