2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Transforming the Nation: Late Qing Textbooks and Citizen’s Readers

Joan Judge

Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara

The centuries-old Confucian emphasis on the transformative power of education remained central to the promotion of new national and citizenship ideals in modern China. This paper focuses on the ways the educational process served to reproduce cultural values and inculcate a new political ethos in early twentieth century China. It uses an analysis of late Qing textbooks to explore this relationship between education, culture, and political transformation, examining how late Qing political reality was conceived and interpreted through this new genre of texts and how the perceived urgency of national strengthening in turn influenced the social function and political meaning of these materials. The paper specifically analyzes the genesis and content of three different sets of materials: elementary level ethics textbooks, citizen’s readers, and textbooks specifically written for girls and women. It first outlines the intent of textbook publishers and editors in producing these materials and then offers a close reading of a number of specific texts, focusing on three particular issues: the explicit connections they drew between ethics, education and nationalism; the often tension-ridden conception of citizenship which they put forward; and the precise prescriptions for China’s new citizen which they promoted. Througout the analysis, the question of how the citizenship ideal was gendered is foregrounded.


Keywords: citizenship, late Qing, education, textbooks, nationalism, gender