Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China/Ceremonies/School Days
A small ceremony characterises the first entrance of a Chinese boy of the upper and middle classes to school. It begins with a form of religious worship, viz., the worship of Confucius and Wun Chang, the god of literature. A "school fee" is paid to the teacher who imparts the first lesson to the pupil, a dinner is generally given to celebrate the event, and the child receives his "school name."
Formerly the aim of all study was the passing of State examinations, in which a series of degrees were conferred for literature and composition, but these examinations are rapidly being done away with throughout China, for it is becoming recognised that a knowledge of the classics or the ability to write elegant composition does not by itself fit a man to occupy a high position in the State or in the commercial world. Gradually the superior advantages of Western education are becoming recognised, more especially in official circles. Students are satisfied now with one of the minor degrees, and, after passing the first degree, are only examined once more if they obtain a diploma from a foreign university or acquire a profession abroad. This second examination takes place in Peking, and the student receives rank and office according lo the proficiency he displays. Girls are taught at school just as much as is necessary to fit them for their social station in life. When they are small children they attend the same school as the boys, but at the age of about eleven or twelve they are, as a rule, withdrawn from the society of boys. At that age the path of study for the two sexes begins to diverge; boys continue to attend school and pursue a higher course of study for State examinations, while girls remain at home, probably under a governess, and learn, in addition, those domestic accomplishments necessary to qualify them for the management of their future households. When grown-up girls form their own society of girl friends, so accustomed are they to the exclusive association of their own sex that it becomes a habit, as well as a rule of etiquette, among them to abstain from the society of the other sex. So strictly is this rule adhered to that no young girl at the marriageable age would ever see a young man unless he be either a brother or cousin. Even her intended husband would be denied an interview.