China's oldest library revives lessons of Confucius

Updated: 2008-02-22 19:25

NINGBO - China's oldest folk library, Tianyige, resumed sinology classes here after a 70-year interruption on Thursday in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

At the library, 70 students in red Chinese traditional costumes recited proverbs, including one that said: "We should get up at dawn and clean up the court to keep order both inside and outside." It was as if they had stepped back in time.

The children learned to sit still, chanting ancient Chinese works and writing characters with brush pens, just like students in old-style private schools did decades ago.

The students came to school carrying lanterns for the opening ceremony and learned ancient traditions associated with the Lantern Festival, which fell on Thursday.

The first term will be a public welfare training course, with students paying a nominal fee to cover costs. They are divided into four classes: pre-school, a combined class of grade one and two, a combined class of grade tree and four, and a class for the senior grades of elementary school.

The library will open classes for junior middle school students soon.

The students will have class every Saturday for four months. The study plans ask them to learn to recite Mencius, Confucius, Three Character Primer and many other ancient Chinese literary works.

"Childhood is the best time for memory and reading. Maybe the children cannot fully understand the truth in the works; however, it is good for them to memorize them and build a foundation for future understanding," said Yu Haoxu, curator of the Tianyige Museum.

"Sinology is usually considered to include ancient Chinese literature, playing musical instruments and chess, calligraphy and brush painting. Actually, ancient traditions and folk-customs are also part of it," said He Yuhong, deputy curator of the museum.

Tianyige was built in the 1560s during the Ming Dynasty by an official named Fan Qin (1506-1585). Classes were halted when Japanese troops entered the city in the 1930s.

"After a long interruption, Tianyige finally again has pleasing chanting voices. The sinology class must be a memorable event in the students' lives," said Yu Haoxu.

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