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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.

Books of Elementary Learning
Don't confuse the genre of "Elementary Learning" (mengxue 蒙學) 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 * Cangjiepian (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 zhuEncyclopedias (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 (小學) (Yuding) Xiaoxue jizhu (Xiaoxue) (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 * Xumeng 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 * Caigentan (Ming) 洪應明 Hong Yingming
鋻略妥注 * Jianlüe tuozhu (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 leibian (Qing) 張伯行 Zhang Boxing
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 shou (Qing) 蘅塘退士 Hengtang tuishi (Sun Zhu 孫洙)
宋詞三百首 * Songci sanbai shou (Qing) 上彊村民 Shangjiangcun min (朱祖謀 Zhu Zumou)
元曲三百首 * Yuanqu sanbai shou
五種遺規 * Wuzhong yigui (Qing) 陳宏謀 Chen Hongmou
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
列女傳 LienüzhuanBiographies (Han) 劉向 Liu Xiang
女誡 * Nüjie (Han) 班昭 Ban Zhao
女師箴 * Nüshizhen (Han) 皇甫規 Huangfu Gui
女史箴 * Nüshizhen (Jin) 張華 Zhang Hua
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
女則 * Nüze (Tang) 長孫皇后 Empress Zhangsun
奩史 * Lianshi (Song) 丁升之 Ding Shengzhi
婚禮新編 * Hunli xinbian (Song) 丁升之 Ding Shengzhi
訓女蒙求 * Xunnü mengqiu (Song) 徐伯益 Xu Boyi
女訓 (內訓) Nüxun (Neixun) → Confucian treatises (Ming) 仁孝文皇后徐氏 Empress Renxiaowen Ms Xu
閨範 * Guifan (Ming) 呂坤 Lü Kun
女範捷錄 * Nüfan jielu (Ming) 劉氏 Ms Liu
女兒經 * Nü'erjing (Ming) anon.
婦女雙名記 * Funü shuangming ji (Ming) 李肇亨 Li Zhaoheng
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
妝史 * Zhuangshi (Qing) 田霡 Tian Mo
宮閨小名錄 * Gonggui xiaoming lu (Qing) 尤侗 You Tong