ChinaKnowledge.de -
An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Mengxue 蒙學, Elementary Learning

Feb 17, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

The term mengxue [méng!] 蒙學 "teaching for the ignorant" refers to elementary learing in traditional China. During the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE), it became common for children of the higher classes, to obtain education at latest in the age of eight sui (corresponds to six or seven years according to Western reckoning). In special preparation schools (waishe 外舍) they started learning Chinese characters and how to read and to write. This was called the small learning (xiaoxue 小學), or learning the smaller arts (xiaoyi 小藝) i. e., not the Confucian Classics. The schools were called waishe, waifu 外傅, xueguan 學館 or shuguan 書館, the teachers were called shushi 書師. As textbooks served character dictionaries like the Cangjiepian 倉頡篇 or Jijiupian 急就篇, but also some Confucian Classics like the Xiaojing 孝經 "Classic on Filial Piety" or the "Confucian Analects" Lunyu 論語.
The traditional bibliographic categories of China do not include a section for elementary learning. Books for this purpose were either totally neglected in the compilation of catalogues or included in other sections, like the Confucian treatises, the arts section, the stories, encyclopedias sections, or in the poetry sections of the category of belles-lettres.
For girls, there was an own tradition of a small corpus of writings because girls did not attend schools until the early 20th century. Girls were educated at home by their mothers, and there were some books on girls' education compiled by female writers. The content of such books was an explanation of the duties of a women before and after marriage towards her parents, her husband, and her parents-in-law. Managing the household and overseeing the servants was another important issue of the small canon of books for female education. These books were to be used additionally to the primers used for learning reading and writing. Not one of the books for female education is included in traditional collections of writings, and except Ban Zhao's 班昭 Nüjie 女誡, and such books are not easily accessible.

Table 1. Books of Elementary Learning (mengxue 蒙學)
Don't confound the genre of "Elementary Learning" with that of "Lesser Learning" (xiaoxue 小學, i.e. lexicography).
史籀篇 * Shizhoupian (Zhou) attr. 史籀 Shi Zhou
弟子職 Dizizhi (part of Guanzi 管子) (Zhou) attr. 管仲 Guan Zhong
倉頡篇 CangjiepianLexicography (Qin) 李斯 et al.
埤倉 * Picang (Wei) 張揖 Zhang Yi
廣倉 * Guangcang (Liang) 樊恭 Fan Gong
千字文 * Qianziwen (Liang) 周興嗣 Zhou Xingsi
蒙求集註 Mengqiu ji zhuEncyclopaedias (Tang) 李瀚 Li Han
師說 * Shishuo (Tang) 韓愈 Han Yu
三字經 * Sanzijing (Song) 王應麟 Wang Yinglin
百家姓 * Baijiaxing (Song) anon.
小四書 * Xiao sishu (Song) anon.
(御定)小學集注 (Yuding) Xiaoxue jizhu (Xiaoxue) → Confucian books (Song) 朱熹 Zhu Xi
朱子童蒙須知 (童蒙須知) * Zhuzi tongmeng xuzhi (Tongmeng xuzhi) (Song) 朱熹 Zhu Xi
名賢集 * Mingxianji (Song) NN
六藝綱目 Liuyi gangmuLexicography (Yuan) 舒天民 Shu Tianmin
四字經 * Sizijing (Ming) 肖良友 Xiao Liangyou
童子禮 * Tongzili (Ming) 屠羲英 Tu Xiying
訓蒙駢句 * Xunmeng pianju (Ming) 司守謙 Si Shouqian
小兒語 *
續小兒語
Xiao'eryu
Xu xiao'er yu
(Ming) 呂得勝 Lü Desheng
(Ming) 呂坤 Lü Kun
了凡四訓 * Liaofan sixun (Ming) 袁黃 Yuan Huang
菜根譚 CaigentanBooks on miscellaneous issues (Ming) 洪應明 Hong Yingming
鑒略妥注 (五字鑒) * Jianlüe tuozhu (Wuzijian) (Ming) 李廷機 Li Tingji
蒙文旨要 * Mengwen zhiyao (Qing) 賽尚阿 Saišangga
養正類編 * Yangzheng leibian (Qing) 張伯行 Zhang Boxing
學規類編 Xuegui leibianConfucian books (Qing) 張伯行 Zhang Boxing
三字鑒 * Sanzijian (Qing) 余懋勛 Yu Maoxun
初學備忘 * Chuxue beiwang (Qing) 張履祥 Zhang Lüxiang
幼學瓊林 * Youxue qionglin (Ming) 程登吉 Cheng Deji; (Qing) 鄒聖脈 Zou Shengmai
聲律啟蒙 * Shenglü qimeng (Qing) 車萬育 Chen Wanyu
弟子規 * Dizigui (Qing) 李毓秀 Li Yuxiu
增廣賢文 * Zengguang xianwen (Qing?) NN
唐詩三百首 * Tangshi sanbai shouAnthologies and collections (Qing) 蘅塘退士 Hengtang Tuishi (Sun Zhu 孫洙)
宋詞三百首 * Songci sanbai shouAnthologies and collections (Qing) 上彊村民 Shangjiang Cunmin (朱祖謀 Zhu Zumou)
元曲三百首 * Yuanqu sanbai shouAnthologies and collections
千家姓文 * Qianjiaxing wen (Qing) 崔冕 Cui Mian
治家格言 * Zhijia geyan (Qing) 朱用純 Zhu Yongchun
笠翁對韻 * Liweng duiyun (Qing) 李漁 Li Yu
教童子法 * Jiao tongzi fa (Qing) 王筠 Wang Yun
Elementary Learning for Girls and Books for and about Females
女四書 * Nü sishu
女孝經 * Nü xiaojing (Tang) 鄭氏 Ms Zheng
女論語 * Nü lunyu (Tang) 宋若莘 Song Ruoxin, 宋若昭 Song Ruozhao
訓女蒙求 * Xunnü mengqiu (Song) 徐伯益 Xu Boyi
女兒經 * Nü'erjing (Ming) anon.
女小兒語 * Nü xiao'er yu (chapter of Xiao'eryu 小兒語 (Ming) 呂得勝 Lü Desheng
女學 * Nüxue (Qing) 藍鼎元 Lan Dingyuan
女三字經 * Nü sanzijing (Qing) 朱浩 Zhu Hao, 文星源 Wen Xingyuan
教女遺規 Jiaonü yigui (part of Wuzhong yigui) (Qing) 陳宏謀 Chen Hongmou
* not included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, the catalogue Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目題要, nor the Xuxiu siku quanshu 續修四庫全書.