China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This panel combines historical, literary, and anthropological studies to reevaluate how children’s education is constantly navigated towards negotiating ideological and practical concerns in China from past to present. The first paper establishes biographical precepts as a unique form of writing about exemplary childhoods for educational purposes that prevailed in traditional China and traces the sociopolitical milieu that contributed to its popularity in early medieval China (220-589) in particular. The second paper investigates the emergence of poetry primers within the broader social and cultural landscape of the Song dynasty (960-1279) and offers in-depth analysis of the divergent educational agenda behind two Song poetry primers, which responded to different practical concerns. Moving from premodern to modern conditions, the third paper shows how calligraphy education for children underwent significant transformations in Taiwan during the era of Japanese rule (1895-1945), a case that sheds important light on the complex dynamics between political ideology and cultural tradition in educational reforms. The fourth paper, based on ethnographic and textual evidence, reveals how education serves as an essential arena for social comparison in contemporary China and how such social comparison leads to paradoxical childrearing discourse and intensified parental anxiety. Together, the four papers share two intellectual impetuses: first to rethink children’s education in China through the lens of the interplay of ideological and practical factors, and second to unpack the nuanced ways in which educational discourse about children has been both reflecting and reshaping the reality of Chinese society across time and space.