Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 68.djvu/103

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY



FEBRUARY, 1906.




THE PASSING OF CHINA'S ANCIENT SYSTEM OF
LITERARY EXAMINATIONS.

By CHARLES KEYSER EDMUNDS, Ph.D.,

CANTON CHRISTIAN COLLEGE.

IN a previous paper we reviewed the subject matter of Chinese education and recalled the fact that there is not, and practically never was, a school system in China, though a characteristic method of instruction has prevailed for ages, which by reason of its imitative and servile nature has repressed originality and drilled the nation into a slavish adherence to venerated usage and dictation without supplying real or useful knowledge.

Without doubt, the heart of China's nationhood thus far has been her system of literary examinations, and the place given to scholars in all phases of the nation's life combined with the inefficient character of the learning they possessed has been the primary cause of the nation's peculiar course and its present weak condition, from which happily it is awakening through the adjustment of education to the real needs of life.

The darkest days of the west, when Europe was wrapped in the ignorance and degradation of the middle ages, were the brightest days in the east. China was then probably the most civilized country on earth and exercised a humanizing influence on all surrounding states. Had she kept the lead she then held, instead of presenting to the world as she now does the most remarkable case of arrested development within historic time, China would be in fact what for so many centuries she has so fondly but mistakenly considered herself to be, the mightiest of the mighty powers.

It is indeed striking in a country which can count back to schools more ancient than those of any other living race that the scholars of