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14 - The development of the Confucian schools

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

Robert P. Kramers
University of Zürich
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When we speak of the development of the Confucian schools in the early phases of China's history, the various meanings of this term should be carefully distinguished. First of all, there is the concrete aspect of the word “school,” a rendering of the word chia which also means “home, family.” As schools began to develop toward the end of the Spring and Autumn period (fifth century B.C.), they consisted of a master, an intimate circle of disciples, and a greater number of students. It is highly likely that such schools originated in the need to instruct young nobles in the necessary arts of court life, to prepare them for the role they were to play as leaders of the community.

At the time of Confucius (the end of the sixth and the beginning of the fifth century B.C.), these arts consisted on the one hand of religious and civil accomplishments: ritual and music, and connected with them a knowledge of certain written traditions shared by most centers of power, especially the Book of songs and the Book of documents; and on the other hand they consisted of military skills, notably archery and charioteering. Such centers of instruction must have been attached to many of the larger courts of China at this time, and they must have been entirely dependent on the whims of those in power. Confucius too, despite traditions telling of his growing fame as a teacher, was during most of his active life a vassal in the service of the powerful Chi-sun family which furnished the virtual rulers of his home state, Lu.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1986

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