The Ancient Chinese Views of Family Education Recorded in Pre-Qin (before 221 BC) Confucian Classics

Ho-kin Tong


The Pre-Qin family education is a long neglected but important research topic in understanding Chinese education and culture. Although Chinese traditional family education is mostly under the influence of Confucianism there is not sufficient discussion in the Pre-Qin period as there are only scattered records related to this topic in various Pre-Qin classics. In addition, most research outputs in the field are on “jiaxun” (family instruction) which normally refers to family seniors’ commandments to their juniors from a cultural perspective. However, “jiating jiaoyu” (family education) can be defined as a mutual learning process in which individuals are socialized in family settings from perspectives of education and sociology. Based on this definition, the paper aims at exploring the special roles and contributions of the early Pre-Qin Confucian classics to the development of family education in China in terms of principle, aim, pedagogy, and role expectation of family member. The result shows that the Yijing (Book of Changes) brings out the views of strict family management style, supreme status of the father and role differentiation in the Pre-Qin period. The Lunyu (Analects) emphasizes the value of learning the shi (Book of Songs) and the li (Book of Rites) while the book Mengzi proposes a couple of innovative views on the parent-child relationship, role models, mutual education, environmental influence, and moral and role expectations in family education. The practicability of impartiality in family education and effectiveness of direct instruction in education are areas that need special attention from researchers and education policy makers.


Chinese Culture, Chinese Education, Confucianism, Family Education, Pre-Qin Period.

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