Con­fu­cian kinder­gartens teach re­spect

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO - Trains are the fa­vored By AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE in Wuhan, Hubei prov­ince

form of trans­porta­tion dur­ing the Spring Fes­ti­val travel rush, which of­fi­cially started on Fri­day this year.

The old photo (above) is a scene in 1981, at Bei­jing’s Yongding­men Rail­way Sta­tion, with pas­sen­gers dis­em­bark­ing from the steam trains, all dressed in sim­i­lar clothes.

Nowa­days, peo­ple can travel on high-speed trains. The new photo (right) shows such a train ar­riv­ing at Nan­tong Rail­way Sta­tion in Nan­tong, Jiangsu prov­ince, in 2016. Pas­sen­gers are dressed in var­i­ous styles. They find go­ing home by rail is faster and more con­ve­nient.

Chil­dren in schol­ars’ hats bow be­fore a statue of Con­fu­cius as par­ents look to in­still his val­ues in their off­spring.

With gov­ern­ment back­ing, hundreds of pri­vate schools ded­i­cated to Con­fu­cian teach­ings have sprung up across the coun­try in re­sponse to grow­ing de­mand for more tra­di­tional ed­u­ca­tion.

At an in­sti­tu­tion in the cen­tral city of Wuhan, about 30 stu­dents ages 2 to 6 chant: “Our re­spect to you, Mas­ter Con­fu­cius. Thank you for the kind­ness of your teach­ing and your compassion.”

Five-year-old Zhu Baichang ad­mits he does not un­der­stand all the max­ims he re­cites but says: “It’s very in­ter­est­ing.”

Opened in 2015, the school has around 160 stu­dents whose par­ents fork out 7,000 yuan ($1,000) a term in the hope their chil­dren will ab­sorb Con­fu­cius’ ideas on fil­ial piety and in­tegrity.

“We don’t un­der­stand ev­ery­thing when he re­cites the clas­sics,” said Baichang’s fa­ther Zhu Minghui. But the dad added that the prin­ci­ples that have “guided China for 2,000 years” were “seep­ing into his bones”.

The teach­ings of Con­fu­cius (551-479 BC) de­mand re­spect for tra­di­tion and el­ders, and were the of­fi­cial ide­ol­ogy of im­pe­rial China.

At the schools, stu­dents start learn­ing them by heart from a young age. “Be­tween 2 and 6 years of age, the ca­pac­ity for mem­o­riza­tion is ex­cel­lent. We plant the seeds of fil­ial piety, re­spect for teach­ers and compassion,” the di­rec­tor of the Wuhan school, who is sur­named Shi, said.

Recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties are also tra­di­tional. Boys learn Chi­nese chess. Girls per­form tea cer­e­monies in the class­room next door.

But af­ter chil­dren turn 6, when state school­ing be­gins, most par­ents en­roll them in of­fi­cial pri­mary schools.

While Con­fu­cian schools are still very much on the fringe of China’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, their pop­u­lar­ity is grow­ing among mid­dle class par­ents. The China Con­fu­cius Foun­da­tion had about 300 such in­sti­tu­tions at the start of last year, com­pared with 223,700 or­di­nary kinder­gartens, and plans to open an­other 700.

An­other Con­fu­cian or­ga­ni­za­tion, Tongx­ueguan, opened its first week­end school in 2006 and now has more than 120 such es­tab­lish­ments across the coun­try, with about 40,000 stu­dents.

“With eco­nomic pros­per­ity, the Chi­nese feel the need for a re­turn to their roots. They also need spir­i­tual el­e­va­tion,” its founder, Li Guang­bin, told AFP.

Recit­ing texts and at­tend­ing moral classes might not in­spire cre­ativ­ity in chil­dren. But Li said it was more im­por­tant for them to “un­der­stand what makes a man, right­eous­ness, so­cial in­ter­ac­tion”.

Michael Schu­man, the Bei­jing-based au­thor of the book Con­fu­cius and the World he Cre­ated, said, the Chi­nese are “look­ing for some­thing more in their lives”.

“They think that Chi­nese so­ci­ety has be­come very wealthy, but, at the same, time is miss­ing some­thing spir­i­tual. And they feel a lot of the prob­lems China is fac­ing are the re­sult of a lack of moral guid­ance.”

XU CONGJUN / FOR CHINA DAILY

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Kids re­cite clas­sics in Rizhao, Shan­dong prov­ince, in Novem­ber.

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