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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 6.2 (2023): 30–64;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Local Society)

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The Pedagogical Philosophy of a Village Schoolteacher in Nineteenth-Century Sichuan

Johanna LIDÉN
Stockholm University / University of Hamburg

Abstract: There is abundant research on the examination system, and to a lesser degree, some research on the lower level of the educational system in late imperial China. The extant sources are predominantly written from above—that is, administrators and officials setting the aims of schooling in counties and villages—but the voices of the pupils/students and their teachers are absent. Therefore, compared with earlier sources, the book Cunxue jiuyu 村學究語 [Words of a Village Schoolteacher], written by Liu Hengdian 劉恆典 (1809–1884) and published in 1864, gives us unique insight and a different perspective. Here, Liu describes his own experiences of teaching, and comments on other teachers, attitudes of parents, and dynamism of students. Furthermore, he develops his philosophy of pedagogy. The text shows that he rests on a long tradition of how to read the classics and that this method is intertwined with the aims of self-cultivation. It also shows that he follows the Neo-Confucian tradition of both Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming, and that he is searching for an authoritative teaching style rather than an authoritarian one.

Keywords: village schools, pedagogy, self-cultivation, Neo- Confucianism, Wang Yangming, Liumen tradition


About the Author: Johanna Lidén is a postdoctoral researcher at Stockholm University and University of Hamburg. She wrote her thesis on the Taizhou movement in the Ming dynasty, focusing on the social and religious dynamism of the Ming period. As a postdoctoral researcher she combines her knowledge of late imperial China with her interest in education and pedagogy in a project titled ‘Neo-Confucianism as ritual and educational praxis’. Her knowledge about education comes from her long experience of teaching Chinese and religion as a high school (and university) teacher in Sweden. Her recent publications include ‘Charitable Schools as a Social Welfare Project in the Ming Dynasty’, Ming Qing Yanjiu 26 (2022) 1–29; ‘The Taizhou Movement’ entry in The Database of Religious History, University of British Columbia (Published September 27, 2021); and her 2018 dissertation, ‘The Taizhou Movement: Being Mindful in Sixteenth Century China’.


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