Education in Ancient China: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Education in ancient China was important but was only available for some people. This lesson will teach you about ancient Chinese education, who went to school and who didn't, what they learned, and some other interesting facts.

Education in Ancient China

Imagine jumping into a time machine and ending up in ancient China. You find yourself in the middle of a class full of boys who are learning to shoot with bows and arrows. Today, all boys and girls have to go to school but in ancient China, girls weren't allowed to go at all. And they definitely didn't get to learn cool things like archery!

Boys

In the beginning, only older boys in ancient China were allowed to go to school, but not all older boys. Boys from rich, important families got an education, but boys from poor families didn't. Even young boys from rich families stayed home with their mothers until they were old enough for school.

When they were young, boys learned their numbers and directions like north, south, east, and west. They also learned to respect and obey adults.

When they got older, wealthy boys learned from a master, which is like your teacher today. They needed to learn important things to prepare them for taking part in things like government, religion, and war.

Just like you, the older boys who got to go to school learned about math, reading, and writing. But they also learned about important ceremonies in their culture, music, and how to drive a two-wheeled vehicle pulled by horses called a chariot.

Boys in ancient China learned special dances and how to have respectful conversations, too. But they couldn't just pick up a piece of paper and pencil to take notes the way you do in class. They had to write on sticks made of wood and bamboo scrolls joined together.

Chinese bamboo book
Chinese bamboo book

When paper was invented more than 2,100 years ago, books could finally be printed and used to teach in schools. And students had certain books that they had to read, the same way that you do.

Many of those books focused on the teachings of Confucius (pronounced kun-FYEW-shus) who was a famous Chinese teacher. He believed that all boys who wanted to learn should be able to, even if they were poor.

Confucius
Confucius

His teachings were important and all students had to learn the Five Virtues of Confucius, which were manners, kindness, loyalty, honesty, and understanding wrong from right.

Girls

Girls couldn't go to school even if they had rich, important families. They stayed in the home with their mothers, learning how to work in and take care of the home and their family.

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