Baijiatuan is a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of northwest Beijing. Located near the mountains, this area is filled with Western-style mansions. In two of them there is a school that teaches Chinese classics.
In one room, children as young as three read the Analects of Confucius aloud with teaching monitors. They point to each character as they read so that they will eventually recognize them.
In addition to learning the teachings of Confucius and calligraphy, the students also learn wushu and how to grow vegetables. They also make weekly hikes to the mountains for fresh air.
Founder Feng Zhe believes it’s important for students to get an education similar to Chinese scholars from centuries past:
[QUOTE of Feng Zhe]
Now so-called ‘new way of education’ in China is learned from the west. The curriculum is divided into subjects. But it was different in ancient China. Arts and science were not separated. It’s hard to tell whether “I Ching” is a humanities or natural science subject, and whether “Tao Te Ching” is medicine because it offers guides to living a long life. I believe this is the most ancient but also most advanced education style in China.
Not only do the students follow a classical curriculum, but also live in dorms, eat vegetarian meals and don’t have much access to televisions or computers like regular kids.
But that doesn’t bother them too much.
[QUOTE of two kids]
Boy: I get to know how to be a morally righteous person through the classics. For example, the classics teach us to be modest, things like that.
Girl: And “Di Zi Gui” (the Confucian rules for being a good student and child) teaches us to be filial to our parents.
Boy: Sometimes, When I understand the meaning of a sentence, I feel really happy
The curriculum is what attracted several teachers to the Confucius School. Chen Qiong
is one of them. After living and working in the United States for 10 years, after getting a western education, she came back to China recently.
[QUOTE of Chen Qiong]
Before I came there I was so attracted by western culture. But after I studied for about four or five years, I kind of, I feel the shallow and emptiness inside. So I think, from that time, I started to search and to look back.
But she is not the only one trying to fill a void in her education and identity. Actually there is a growing trend in today’s society to look towards the classics for guidance in daily life:
[QUOTE of Feng Zhe]
For some 100 years China has been learning from the west diligently. And it is till now that we find western values, as well as their knowledge can’t solve all the issues of the Chinese people, including those of the Chinese government. So we must refer back on our 5,000-year history.
Despite the school attracting many students and teachers, it has only opened for a few years and none of its students have graduated yet. It will be interesting to see if the classics really can help them fulfill their career aspirations and also adjust to normal post secondary institutions once they leave here.