Ancient China Education

Ancient China education was first prevalent in the Shang Dynasty when “school” was first mentioned on the oracle bones.

Unfortunately, the bones did not mention much about what was school or what was taught. Researchers believe the first schools concentrated mainly on martial arts and archery.
Chinese School

Boys and Men

Originally ancient China education was only for the sons of noble families. Young men would enter school to learn about the teachings of Daoism, Mohism and Confucianism.

They would also learn how to read, write, mathematics, culture and music. The sons of noble families would later be able to become Gentry Scholars and obtain better jobs within the government.

Girls and Women

Girls were not allowed to attend school. They were expected to learn how to take care of the household from their mothers.

Mothers taught their girls to cook, clean and about child care. Sometimes girls were taught by their mothers to read and write but not often.

Subjects of Interest

One of the earliest known schools in ancient China was the Jixia Academy where students learned the difference between Daoism and Confucianism. Only Confucianism would have an impact on ancient China education.

In the Han Dynasty, Emperor Wu believed that Confucianism was the best thing to teach students. Wu also made school available to every boy in China.

Wu developed what is known as The Origins of Statecraft in China. The learnings enforced the teachings of the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism.

The Four Books included Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, Analects and Mencius, The Five Classics were named the Book of Rites, Classic of Poetry,

Book of Documents, the Spring and Autumn Annals as well as the I Ching.All of these books focused on the teachings of Confucius.

The Five Virtues of Confucius included manners, kindness, loyalty, honesty and knowing what is right and wrong.

Types of Schools

There were several types of schools of in ancient China. At first families needed to hire a tutor. Confucius was a tutor. At this time only wealthy boys went to school.

During the Shang Dynasty schools were called Xiang and in the period of Zhou they were called Xu. During the Zhou period there were East Xu and West Xu.

The West Xu schools were similar to elementary schools for ordinary children. East Xu was only for the children of noble families.

Schools were also separated into state and village schools. State schools were only for nobility and entitled elementary school and higher-level colleges.
Higher Learning

Village schools were divided up into four levels and students continued their education when they passed each level.

Imperial College

Imperial College was an important institution in ancient China. These schools prepared students for important government jobs. Only the sons of wealthy or noble families were able to attend Imperial College.

Graduates from Imperial College were then able to take the state examination. Passing the state examination allowed students to gain a better job within government which led to a better lifestyle.
Jesuit China Missions

Important facts about ancient China education

  • Not all children went to school in ancient China.
  • Only sons of wealthy or noble families went to school.
  • Girls did not attend school.
  • The Five Virtues of Confucius included manners, kindness, loyalty, honesty and knowing what is right and wrong were taught in school.
  • The earliest known school in ancient China was Jixia Academy.
  • Confucius was a tutor in ancient China.
  • Overtime, the Han Dynasty allowed all boys to attend school.
  • School taught the teachings of the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism.


1. Who were the only children allowed to attend school?

Boys from wealthy or noble families

2. What was the name of the earliest known school in ancient China?

Jixia Academy

3. Who was a tutor in ancient China?


4. Which dynasty in ancient China allowed all boys to attend school?

Han Dynasty