Evolution of textbooks mirrors changes of China

Updated 2017-09-13 09:30:17 Xinhua

An ongoing exhibition in Shanxi Library shows more than 1,000 textbooks reflecting a changing China over the last century.

Jia Dajin, 67, from north China's Shanxi Province, has been obsessed with collecting textbooks since the 1980s.

Simply by wandering about the streets, he has collected more than 2,000 textbooks, some of which date back more than 100 years.

"Luckily, Shanxi people like hoarding old things at home," said Jia, a former barrel maker from Taiyuan, Shanxi's capital.

"Each textbook represents the characteristics of its time," he said.

In a faded textbook issued during the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908), traditional Chinese characters read, "Let me sing a song to praise my school. It is only through establishing schools can we strengthen ourselves."

"It is a textbook that represents the transition from the old to the new," said Jia.

He explained that while the book displayed China's wish to be strong, in the late Qing Dynasty, new schools sprung up with new textbooks on physics, chemistry and geometry. The old book still contains some feudal ideas with a portrait of Emperor Guangxu and words praising him.

After more than 2,000 years of feudal rule was put to an end, education between 1920s and 1930s focused more on practical applications that were good for the economy and industry.

Jia has several textbooks from a Shanxi school that was established in 1919. The school has many textbooks on weaving techniques and military science. "The knowledge was very practical," he said.

During the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945), more patriotic content is found in textbooks.

In a book found in Yan'an, the city that hosted the Communist Party of China headquarters and the center of the Communist revolution from 1935 to 1948, a story tells of a primary school pupil in northeast China.

The student was sent in secret to Beijing after he wrote "defeat the Japanese invaders" on a textbook of the puppet Manchurian regime.

"Conquering the invaders was one of the themes of patriotic education at that time," Jia said.

The People's Republic of China was founded in 1949 when the country entered a new era.

There was an article named "Swallow" in a textbook in 1950s. It reads: "Last year, there were only bare hills; now, big plants were built on the hills. Let's sing in praise of our beautiful hometown and free motherland."

From the view of a swallow who returned home, the text showed the changes of its hometown.

Jia has spent over 100,000 yuan (around 15,000 U.S. dollars) on his private collection, which is a lot of money for a retiree like him.

But he will not stop. "Many collectors do not realize the value of these old textbooks, which are treasures of their time," he said.

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