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The Tai School System

The Confucian Tai School System

 

At the age of thirteen, children were sent to Tai school, as there were no junior or high schools in ancient China. Tai school emphasized the analysis and discussion of the materials students had already memorized in elementary school. The teachers were experts in their fields and would concentrate on that field throughout their entire career. Each of them taught a small class with ten to twenty students and the lectures were not necessarily given in the classroom with textbooks. During that period, all the textbooks were printed in the universal format: twenty words per column and ten columns per page, with no space in between. The format was standard for the entire country regardless of the publisher. Both teacher and students memorized the textbooks so well that they even knew exactly where the study materials were located. Since everything had been memorized earlier, there was no need for books after elementary school.

 

Teachers often took their students on field trips to broaden their knowledge and experience. As they traveled, knowledge was imparted to them along the way. Thus, the trips were without textbooks or restraints but accompanied with wine and food and filled with joy. The students would attend to the needs of the teacher. Therefore, as they concluded their travels to the many beautiful places, the course would close as well. For many, attending Tai school was the most joyful time of their lives.

 

In Taiwan, those who are in their eighties or nineties may have experienced this kind of education. My late teacher, Mr. Lee, then in his nineties, could still apply materials he had memorized in elementary school when writing articles; no reference materials were needed. This was the method he used to acquire the original wisdom that comes from the pure mind. With the pure mind, true wisdom arises. Having true wisdom is to know a person's past and future and also to understand the laws of cause and effect. One should not judge things by their appearance, but know and understand how events came about. The wisdom of knowing nothing emphasized in Buddhism is the original wisdom. Only when one has a pure mind, which contains nothing, will he also know everything when he is in contact with the external world. Therefore, the practicing and studying of Buddhism begins with eliminating all thoughts in order to obtain a pure mind.

 

All this made me think of our children, who are so pure, so innocent and uncontaminated in their thinking which is why it is best for our children to start learning Buddhism early in childhood. With little effort, children can truly and easily benefit from it. The experiences of a person with a pure mind are so different and profound that no ordinary person can truly appreciate them.

 

source : http://www.buddhanet.net/budasedu.htm