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Primary education

A feudal Chinese would be tested for his literary interest when he was still in his childhood. On the first birthday celebration, he was dressed up and exhibited with various things. Among them was a writing brush. If the little hand grabbed the brush by chance, the family would be delighted by his scholarly choice. He was trained to be comfortable with his right hand if he happened to be left-handed, for all were expected to use their right hand. At age of seven, he was sent to a private school. On the very first school day, he was told to kowtow to a portrait of Confucius and to his schoolmaster, with whom his journey of a learned man began.



The first lesson for the youngster was handwriting. He was taught how to hold a brush that would accompany him all his life. Given a piece of rice paper, he began to write the first character he learned in regular script. He wrote with his elbow suspended, arm bent at a right angle, and the forearm parallel to the surface of his desk. His fingers were sore and his muscles were strained; however, he had to write the same character over and over again to learn its correct proportion. For handwriting was considered a controlled action, nothing casual or flippant was allowed.


  The first known textbook was complied around 1000 BC. Which has not survived. The textbook here is the Book One of children's primer from the second century. It contains 1,394 unrepeated and non-contextually related characters in rhyme.

Upon finishing his primer, the would-be candidate moved onto the Four Books and the Five Classics, the Confucian classics from which the text questions in the imperial examinations were assigned. While he struggled on their lengthy text and classical writing style, he had to improve his handwriting skills each day. Having overcome the initial difficulties and having learned to control the brush, he was ready for making imitation writing after a copybook. He was demonstrated how strokes were executed by old masters and what distinguished a master from others. He was assigned a number of pages to copy or practiced until the reckoning-by-time incense on the schoolmaster's desk burnt down.

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