Education, Culture, and Identity in Twentieth-Century China

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Educational pursuits run like a rich thread through the fabric of China's turbulent twentieth century. From the founding of China's first modern school system in the late Qing dynasty through the republican era to the latest educational developments in the People's Republic of China, this book seeks to understand how developments in education contributed to, and were in turn influenced by, cultural patterns and the ongoing search for identity by individuals, collectivities, and states. Its sixteen contributors explore three themes that have enlivened China studies in recent years: sino-foreign interactions, state-society relations, and gender representation and identification.

Unlike most studies of modern Chinese education that focus exclusively on the post-1949 era, Education, Culture, and Identity in Twentieth-Century China represents a deliberate attempt to break through the 1949 barrier and embrace the entire century. Culture emerges in this study as a deeper level factor that underlay the development of education in each period and shaped certain recurrent patterns, while identity involves a search for individual and collective meaning that went on under different regimes.

The product of a genuinely multidisciplinary effort to promote cross-fertilization among an international team of scholars in a wide range of disciplines, Education, Culture, and Identity in Twentieth-Century China will interest students and scholars of modern China, comparative and international education, educational policy, and international relations. It will also appeal to policy makers and professionals associated with international organizations.

Glen Peterson is Associate Professor of History, University of British Columbia. Ruth Hayhoe is Director, Hong Kong Institute of Education. Yongling Lu is a graduate student in the History Department, Stanford University.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472111510
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 5/25/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 504
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.55 (d)

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Education, Culture, and Identity in Twentieth-Century China

The University of Michigan Press
Copyright © 2001

University of Michigan
All right reserved.


ISBN: 978-0-472-11151-0



Chapter One Part 1

Sino-Foreign Interactions in Education Douglas R. Reynolds

China entered the twentieth century rethinking its educational policies at the highest levels. Directing this effort were government officials guided by Empress Dowager Cixi's Reform Edict of January 1901, which authorized a sweeping review of China's administrative affairs. Over much of the next decade the court instituted fundamental reforms, highlighted by educational reforms. The sustained support of the court for these reforms, it must be said, was extraordinarily important in the context of China's centralized and autocratic political systems. Reforms had been undertaken before 1900, some with a modern educational component such as the Tongwen Guan, the Jiangnan Arsenal, and the Fuzhou Shipyard. These had been sporadic, however, a series of experiments rather than a coordinated movement. The results, though noteworthy, were modest at best.

Militating against sustained reform in the nineteenth century was China's conviction that it was the sole center of the civilized universe. The idea that China was one nation among many in an alien world order had no appeal whatsoever. Although forced to sign unequal treaties after 1842, China's leaders clung to the hope that the Western powers would tire and go away, leaving China supreme in its old world. All hopes of a return to the old order were shattered, however, by China's military defeat by Japan in 1894-95. That defeat was followed by further defeats, the failure of the Hundred Days' Reform of 1898 and the anti-foreign Boxer Uprising of 1898-1900, with its punitive settlement. China, now knocked off its high pedestal and reduced to a subordinate position, suddenly regarded the status of equal as not only acceptable but even desirable. To achieve equality, however, required radical reforms such as those that had transformed Meiji Japan into a Western-style power capable of inflicting defeat on a nation like China.

These developments formed the immediate background of the Qing dynasty's remarkable Xinzheng reforms of 1901-10, perhaps the most consequential of which were educational reforms. Preliminary educational reforms of 1902 and 1904 culminated in the astonishing abolition of China's 1,200-year-old civil service examination system in September 1905. Sponsored by conservative reformers such as Liu Kunyi and Zhang Zhidong, these changes produced revolutionary outcomes. They fundamentally restructured and reoriented China's entire culture of learning. A complex new system of graded formal schooling, teaching unfamiliar modern subjects, replaced China's time-honored keju (examination) system, which was centered around the Confucian classics. The new school system was constructed entirely around a foreign model, Meiji Japan's modern educational system. Never before in Chinese history had the state altered a core element of life so abruptly or so directly from a foreign model. Other foreign models followed. Their collective influence on China was so enduring and transformative that the topic of education and society in twentieth-century China is incomprehensible without a consideration of Sino-foreign interactions.

No essay in the present section catalogs these foreign influences on state education in China. The broad phases and sources of influence are well-known: phase 1 (early 1900s), Meiji Japan; phase 2 (early 1920s), American models associated with John Dewey; and phase 3 (the 1950s), Soviet models. None of these borrowings took hold in China without considerable adaptation, a point stressed by Gang Ding in the last essay of this section and well illustrated in the essay by Yutaka Otsuka. Ironically, in this section it is not state educational initiatives that best illustrate the process of adaptation. It is, rather, nonstate Christian mission schools. The full story of Christian mission schools in China remains to be told. This volume begins the process of a more analytical understanding of foreign mission schools and China, in their mutual adaptations and accommodations at local, provincial, and national levels.

As Russian scholar Nina Borevskaya points out in the opening essay of this section, "Searching for Individuality," her study focuses less on the influence and incorporation of foreign ideas by state and nonstate agencies and more on the approach of liberal educators in Russia and China to individual-oriented educational philosophies, rooted in a Western, and especially American, pedagogy. Her analysis, anchored in a review of the idea of "human being" in the Confucian tradition of China and in the Orthodox Christian tradition of Russia, offers an informed discussion of the search by Chinese liberal educators in the 1910s and 1920s for a new individual in China and by Russian liberal educators of the same time period of education for self-realization and individuality. The new Soviet state of the 1920s endorsed the notion of education as a way to mold a "new person for a new socialist society." Russian liberal educators endeavored to achieve collectivist goals through individual self-realization. In Russia, as in China but for different reasons, the search for individuality through education in the 1920s ended prematurely.

In the 1980s and 1990s, interestingly, both China and Russia revived an interest in individual-oriented pedagogy. Educators drawing from both foreign experience and their own past, including the 1920s, engaged in lively debates, explored by Borevskaya, that reveal at once the complexities of views within China and within Russia, the vastly different cultural backgrounds of the two nations, and the constraints upon both as liberal educators commit themselves to the search for individuality. The topic of the search for individuality might easily have been undertaken for either China or Russia independently. Examining both countries in two similar time periods is a richly rewarding approach. Modern humanistic ideas have influenced educational philosophies in Russia and China in unexpected ways. Particularly interesting is that "Russia's longer humanistic tradition and stronger democratic trends" have influenced Chinese pedagogical liberalization. Going one step further, Borevskaya concludes that in the West, the wellspring of humanism, "individualism as an educational principle has already reached its apogee and pedagogues there are increasingly looking toward the categories of collectivism found in Eastern pedagogical traditions." The time has come, she suggests, for "a dynamic combination of alternate traditions as a means to reinvigorate Chinese, Russian, and Western education."

Douglas Reynolds's essay opens a subset of three essays focusing on foreign mission schools. In the nineteenth century mission schools were associated in most minds with Western gunboat diplomacy and what might be called Christian imperialism. Because of their Christian component, mission schools were objects of Chinese suspicion, unacceptable as models, and subject to attack. Only the unequal treaties protected them. Chinese official unease with mission schools culminated in a 1906 communiqué from the new Ministry of Education declaring mission schools unauthorized and unregistered and their graduates ineligible for public employment and other privileges. (These restrictions were lifted after the Revolution of 1911.) During the 1920s, or phase 2 of state educational reforms, mission schools were required to register with the state and to conform to new government regulations. In phase 3, after 1949, mission schools were essentially nationalized, ending a century of existence in China.

The history of mission schools in China was uneven, arousing occasional waves of criticism and attack. It was these very pressures and attacks, Reynolds argues, that forced mission schools to accommodate and adapt themselves to Chinese demands. As Chinese Christians were entrusted more and more with leadership responsibilities, they acquired a direct stake in a "Chinese Christianity" independent of foreign missionaries and foreign funding. This laid the foundations for the explosive growth of Christianity in China since 1979, long after foreign missionaries had gone. Official reports now put the number of Chinese Christians at about fourteen million in 1997, or "fourteen times as many as in 1949." Former mission schools are perhaps the most important single reason for these unexpected numbers.

Ryan Dunch's discussion of the Anglo-Chinese College (ACC) of Fuzhou, 1881-1956, resonates with many of Reynolds's themes but also raises doubts about certain conventional views about Christianity in nineteenth-century China. ACC, for example, does not fit the mold of a simple foreign "imperialistic" imposition on China. Its founding was the immediate result of Chinese rather than foreign money and vision. Its full English name, Anglo-Chinese College, conveys a foreignness not so apparent in its Chinese name, Heling Yinghua Shuyuan or, after 1928, Heling Yinghua Zhongxue. Its Chinese name highlights the school's specific debt to Chinese benefactor Zhang Heling, a wealthy local merchant who donated ten thousand dollars (U.S.) in 1881 on condition that English instruction be offered. The Methodist Episcopal mission board in New York and a majority of its missionaries in Fuzhou opposed instruction in English. Their view was overridden, however. Local Chinese Methodist preachers, who had been empowered to help make Methodist church policy in the field and who in 1877 outnumbered the foreign missionaries by thirty to five, sided with Zhang Heling and instituted the policy of English instruction against the wishes of the foreign mission board. If this is nineteenth-century imperialism, it is of a very ingenious sort. At the outset of his article Dunch points out that "mission-run schools tend to be neglected in scholarly treatments of the history of modern education in China." The prominent overall place of mission schools in Fujian province, documented by Dunch, highlights the seriousness of this neglect. The Fujian case demands that the scholarly community write mission schools into its research agenda. In this volume Dunch's essay and those of Reynolds, Cui Dan, and Heidi Ross begin to rectify this neglect.

The Anglo-Chinese College offers a particularly fine case study because it both confirms and questions conventional wisdom about mission schools in China. ACC, like most other prominent mission schools, came under anti-Christian and Chinese nationalist attack in the mid-1920s. Steep enrollment declines followed, and in 1927 it closed it doors. It reopened in 1928, registered under Chinese law, with a Chinese president and a majority Chinese Board of Trustees. Another commonality is that, like leading mission schools everywhere, some of its best students were radicals, who after 1939 formed a Communist Party cell within the school. ACC-like Shanghai's McTyeire School for Girls-inculcated an ethos of service to society, nation, and the world. Also like McTyeire, in the 1950s both schools ceased to exist, having been absorbed into China's new educational system. In the 1980s and 1990s, in another commonality, both have been partially revived with funds from generous alumni overseas. A further similarity is that during the Cultural Revolution ACC's president from 1928 to 1948, Chen Zhimei, came under attack not just as a Christian but as a rightist and imperialist spy. The attacks broke Chen's health and contributed to his death in 1972. Officially exonerated in 1979, today Chen Zhimei enjoys an "extraordinary reverence" among alumni. In contrast to most mission school experience in China (or at least to conventional views of that experience), ACC was founded with Chinese participation and a determining voice in setting school policies. As early as 1899, student tuition fees met most of the school's running costs, enabling it to be essentially self-financing. And during the War of Resistance against Japan, from 1937 to 1945, ACC retreated three hundred kilometers into the interior, more in the manner of wartime universities than high schools.

Dan Cui focuses her attention on British Protestant educational activities in China and what she terms the nationalization of Chinese education in the 1920s. Exploring first the social gospel background of British educational endeavors in China, Cui elucidates this major force behind Christian mission education. Her separate discussions of elementary, secondary, and higher education and of medical and popular education (featuring the impressive British museum in Jinan) and her distinction between schools in large cities, smaller cities, and town-villages provide a framework and approach for future studies of mission education in China. Her observation that lower-level schools affiliated themselves with higher mission schools and functioned as feeders reflects the experience of the three Bai sisters cited by Reynolds. British missions, generally less well funded than American missions, actively pursued interdenominational cooperative or union arrangements. This draws attention to the phenomenon of Western mission groups transcending denominational lines, anticipating in a sense China's post-denominational Christian church after 1949, under the rubric of the Three Self Patriotic Movement.

Cui's thesis that the 1920s marked the turning point in "transferring educational administration to Chinese control" is well taken. It is necessary to remind ourselves, however, as Cui herself suggests, that this process of sinification long predated the 1920s. The commitment to Chinese leadership of the Chinese church, exemplified by the Anglo-Chinese College as far back as the 1880s, was a principle affirmed by many foreign missionaries at the turn of the century. The 1920s should be seen not as a sudden and grudging departure, therefore, but as a culmination of forces long in the making.

Yutaka Otsuka's article on Japanese involvement in higher education in Manchuria sets out to look at institutions inherited by Japan after creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. Its primary case is a richly detailed narrative and analysis of the Harbin Polytechnical University (HPU). Founded by Russian initiative in 1920, this school utilized Russian as its language of instruction, was guided by "Soviet-style rules and curriculum," and had a majority of Russian students (Chinese constituted a mere 19 percent of its graduates). Its early organization anticipated changes adopted by many Chinese universities after 1949, when China formally adopted the Soviet model of education.

In the interim, from 1937 to 1945, HPU came under direct Japanese control. During this period it followed the Japanese model of education and utilized Japanese as its language of instruction. To Japan's credit, nearly 50 percent of HPU graduates during those years were Chinese, a contrast with the Soviet era. From 1945 to 1950 HPU returned to joint Sino-Soviet management and a Soviet model of education. Because of its rich experience with Soviet-style education, after 1950 and under sole Chinese control, this university became a model for Chinese state-run industrial universities with a Soviet-style administration. Otsuka's interest in Soviet influences on Chinese education complements Nina Borevskaya, without duplicating the latter's specific interest in "searching for individuality." Although Manchukuo came increasingly under Japanese direction and the Harbin Polytechnical University became more "Japanized," HPU maintained a relatively constant number of Chinese students in its ranks. The Japanese-controlled environment of Manchukuo allowed for the orderly recruitment and integration of Chinese students. This contrasts, ironically, to To-A Dobun Shoin in Shanghai (discussed by Reynolds), which was founded on the ideal of a joint education for Chinese and Japanese. The Shanghai school gave up the idea of a joint education after less than a year. When it tried to reinstitute joint education in the late 1910s and 1920s, it ran into problem after problem. Over the years To-A Dobun Shoin became steadily more Japanese, ending up as a school essentially of the Japanese, by the Japanese, and for the Japanese. Unlike HPU, this unique Shanghai institution exercised no meaningful influence on Chinese education or society.

The final essay, by Chinese scholar Gang Ding, returns to the two time periods investigated by Nina Borevskaya, the 1920s (and 1930s, in the case of Ding) and the 1980s and 1990s. Both authors regard these decades as seminal in the history of education in twentieth-century China. Ding is particularly interested in the 1920s and 1930s and the 1980s and 1990s as "turning points" for Chinese educators in consciously absorbing foreign educational influences. Instead of blindly copying foreign models (as Ding alleges to be the case of late-Qing borrowings from Japan-a misleading allegation, in my view), educators in these decades actively adapted foreign borrowings to Chinese needs and imperatives.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Education, Culture, and Identity in Twentieth-Century China
Copyright © 2001 by University of Michigan . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Sino-Foreign Interactions in Education 23
Searching for Individuality: Educational Pursuits in China and Russia 31
Japan's Involvement with Higher Education in Manchuria: Some Historical Lessons from an Imposed Educational Corporation 54
Christian Mission Schools and Japan's To-A Dobun Shoin: Comparisons and Legacies 82
Mission Schools and Modernity: The Anglo-Chinese College, Fuzhou 109
British Protestant Educational Activities and the Nationalization of Chinese Education in the 1920s 137
Nationalization and Internationalization: Two Turning Points in China's Education in the Twentieth Century 161
Pt. 2 State and Society in Chinese Education 187
The Status of Confucianism in Modern Chinese Education, 1901-49: A Curricular Study 193
Peasant Education and the Reconstruction of Village Society 217
Learning in Lijiazhuang: Education, Skills, and Careers in Twentieth-Century Rural China 238
University Autonomy in Twentieth-Century China 265
The Resurgence of Private Education in Post-Mao China: Problems and Prospects 297
Pt. 3 Gender Representation and Identification 315
Active Citizen or Efficient Housewife? The Debate over Women's Education in Early-Twentieth-Century China 318
Forging a New Role for Women: Zhili First Women's National School and the Growth of Women's Education in China, 1901-21 348
Historical Memory, Community Service, Hope: Reclaiming the Social Purposes of Education for the Shanghai McTyeire School for Girls 375
Ethnic Minority Girls on Chinese School Benches: Gender Perspectives on Minority Education 403
The Women's Studies Movement in China in the 1980s and 1990s 430
Glossary 451
Bibliography 461
List of Contributors 481
Index 483
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