A SUMMARY OF CHINESE EDUCATION: EARLY PHILOSOPHIES AND PROGRESSION THROUGH THE AGES Eric Smith
China has a rich history in education and philosophical presence. For thousands of years Chinese culture had profound effect on the education of its people. Various ruling dynasties brought many different concepts and visions to the realm of education. Many of those concepts and visions still have a profound effect on current Chinese education practices. Exploration through the Chinese educational history covers thousands of years. This paper will focus on two main dynasties and one extremely influential philosophy. The two key periods of study are the Zhou Dynasty and the Han Dynasty, with Confucianism being the most impactful philosophy in the Chinese educational History. In a time of various ruling bodies, some lasting centuries, many schools of thought arose. Educational ideas and concepts were numerous in Chinese history ranging from social aspects to advanced skills in writing. The Zhou Dynasty delivered a large portion of those ideas and concepts and set educational foundations for centuries to come. ZHOU DYNASTY HUNDRED SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT
The Zhou Dynasty lasted from 1046-256 B.C.E. ushering in a wealth of educational knowledge and groundbreaking philosophies. Early educational practices focused on military, agriculture and societal issues. The Zhou Dynasty concentrated on a central philosophy called the “Mandate of Heaven.” This philosophy was created by the Duke of Zhou early in the dynasty’s history. The Duke of Zhou helped to rule during the early years of the dynasty and was regarded as a “wise, enlightened and noble counselor” (Gutek, 2005, p.13). “The Duke developed the concept of the “Mandate of Haven”” (Gutek). The “Mandate of Heaven” allows a king to rule as long as the king rules within the best interest of the people. Heaven would chose otherwise if a king took advantage of his authority. The king’s rule was viewed in a much different respect in the western world. Ruling is the divine right of the king in western culture. In the western world, “if a king was a good man, his subjects enjoyed his rule. If he was evil, however, his subjects had no choice but to endure his rule” (Gutek, 2005). In early Confucianism, this concept is used as a model for a morally sound ruler. The Zhou Dynasty possessed a vast number of philosophies that greatly influenced Chinese education. It was during the Zhou Dynasty that the Hundred Schools of Thought was born. This era, which is referred to as the “golden age” of Chinese philosophies, brought many great teachers and ideas that would shape the educational foundation for centuries. Taoism, Mohism, Ying and Yang, Legalism and Confucianism were some of the many philosophies developed during this reign; the most impactful being the latter. CONFUCIANISM
Confucianism began during the Zhou Dynasty period around 500 B.C.E. Its founder, Confucius, created an educational platform that changed the course of Chinese education for centuries to come. Confucianism eventually became the foundation for education in early Chinese history. Much of the information on Confucius’ personal history is viewed as historical legend. Confucius’ life resembles various ancient stories in the Book of Songs. Most of the ancient Chinese stories represent overcoming and gaining acceptance. Some discrepancies relate to his discipleship as well. Various historical texts claim that number was in the thousands while others claim that there is as little as 70. Regardless of Confucius’ personal history or his number of followers, it is futile to contest his impact on education in China. Confucius lived from 551-479 B.C.E. in a time of social unrest and disorder within the political system. Confucius’ educational focus reflects the struggles that occurred during that time. Establishing a moral and ethical base, doing the right things and following...
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