Youth in Chinese History

Video Papers Series

A series of short video-papers on the education and representations of young people in Chinese sources between tradition and modernity during imperial and early-modern time by the member of the YCH research group.

YCH Video Papers Series no. 01
Renata Vinci (University of Palermo), Developing Creative Skills through Interactive Content in Chinese Children Magazines between the 19th and 20th Centuries

The 1875 Xiaohai yuebao 小孩月報 (Children’s Monthly) was the first periodical to exclusively address young readers. Thereafter, a wide range of magazines which purported to provide content for a young audience sprung up and flourished all over China, produced both by locals and foreigners. These publications followed the footsteps of the early pictorials, whose aim was to make knowledge available to the least educated, including villagers and women, but also children and youngsters. The idea that figurative content and entertaining topics could support written text in engaging all kinds of readers and conveying useful knowledge was also expressed in the 1895 Shenbao editorial Lun huabao keyi qimeng 論晝報可以啟蒙 (On the Educational Role of Pictorials). Moreover, Liang Qichao’s 1897 essay Lun youxue 論幼學 (On Children’s Education) emphasised how employing methods of education that stimulated children’s creativity was important in the development of a modern nation, as was the case in Western countries. Liang proposed that instead of memorising the Classics and learning how to write eight-legged essays, the knowledge useful for becoming an active citizen had to be made accessible by means of entertaining and motivational learning activities, including songs and games. By providing a panoramic view of the features and social purposes of the main children magazines that took up the initiative of Xiaohai yuebao, this paper will analyse the earliest forms of non-textual content that offered young readers practical and ludic activities, conceived of as a way to develop their creativity, intuition and everyday skills.

YCH Video Papers Series no. 02
Cai Danni (Hangzhou Normal University), Models of Manners: Epistolary Knowledge for Young Readers in Republican China

Among the various pedagogical sources that flourished in early twentieth-century China, epistolary manuals for young students have received little attention. Knowledge of letter writing has long been regarded as essential to Chinese everyday life across the spectrum of literacy and class. Guides to letter writing in the Republican period (1912–1949) developed new categories and topics as well as novel linguistic and rhetorical features. The high-scale production of letter-writing manuals was embodied not only in the prodigious quantity of copies that were printed and circulated but also in their inclusion of sample letters to offer examples for children and youths. The Guangyi 廣益 and Shijie 世界 book companies, in particular, were successful in producing and marketing epistolary primers among young readers. Some of their sought-after titles were reprinted multiple times throughout the Republican period. By focusing on three popular letter-writing manuals for young readers published by these two book companies (i.e., A Preteens’ Guide to Letter Writing 童子尺牘, A Children’s Guide to New Letter Writing 兒童新尺牘, and A Children’s Guide to Vernacular Letter Writing 兒童白話尺牘), this paper aims to offer an outline of the moral, social, and interpersonal instructions therein. A close reading of these manuals suggests epistolary knowledge was crucial in the socialisation of children and youths, which partly explains the widespread popularity of epistolary knowledge in Republican China.

YCH Video Papers Series no. 03
Alexandra Magdalena Mironesko (University of Granada), A Journey through Women’s Education: From Tradition to Modernity

When China had to face, back in the 18 century, the imminent fall of their supremacy in the world as the Celestial Empire, education was one of the biggest bet to play in order to achieve modernity and, therefore, the strengthening of the country. Not looking only for survival, education was one of the main pillars that would allow China to be at the same level with the Western countries, but this would rise new and controversial questions in a nation that was influenced for centuries by the most traditional way of thinking. One of the biggest issues was the women’s education: for a long time, the role of the woman was tied to the domestic and familiar labours, and even the richest of girls had very little chance to reach a fraction of what their male partners would even learn. With the new Republic of China in 1912, the education of the whole Chinese population became a must, and so did the question of women’s education rise. Great debate and discussion bloomed around this issue, at the same time that feminine schools were founded and intellectuals of every kind fought for these changes. Thinkers and reformists of this period, such as Cai Yuanpei, were crucial for the upbringing of one of the most important achievements in the Republic of China, from mixed education to the feminine presence in the Universities of the country.

YCH Video Papers Series no. 03
Giulia Falato (University of Parma), Voices from the Inner Quarters: A Preliminary Investigation of Female Education in the Late-Tang Period

This study proposes to explore moral precepts, daily duties and ritual practices addressed to young girls in the late Tang 唐period (eight to tenth century). It relies on selected texts from the nüxun 女訓 genre, which gained new popularity towards the end of the dynasty and eventually contributed to spread precepts of the Confucian female education also to other East Asia countries like Japan and Korea. These works were written for women by women, and on one hand reproduced some of the female tasks and virtues codified during the Han dynasty, but on the other introduced a number of time-specific innovations. By intercepting and highlighting such elements of discontinuity within preexisting tradition, this paper will reconstruct the physical and ideal domain of agency young girls possessed within the family and the broader society of the time. Moreover, through the examination of moral and ritual elements of the female education, this work will provide fresh insights into how the roles of daughters, wives and mothers were perceived in the late Tang period, with a particular emphasis on their complementarity of, rather than subordination to, male figures.