|A portrait of Confucius (551-479 BC). [Chinadaily.com.cn]|
Sept 10 is the 35th Chinese Teachers' Day – a festival celebrating the 2,300-year tradition of respecting teachers and education in China. It's similar to the birthday of Confucius or the birthday of private school tutor in ancient China.
The history of Teacher's Day traces back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). According to record, during the Han (202 BC–AD 220) and Jin (1115-1234) dynasties, on August 27 each year, the birthday of Confucius, the emperor would go to Confucius' temple and pay tribute to the ancient philosopher followed by court officials, and would also invite royal teachers to the imperial court for a banquet.
Local officials followed the court, and on this day, teachers around the nation enjoyed a day's vacation and were given dried meat as gifts.
The capital, all states and counties would also stage sacrificial ceremonies to worship Confucius, with local chiefs or the emperor leading rituals. Excellent-performed teachers would be chosen from academies and learning institutions nationwide, reporting to the royal court and given 500 liang (两) silver coins as awards.
Until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the sacrificial ceremony, on August 27, was of a larger scale. The teachers' salaries in schools and academies around the nation were raised, and well-performing teachers would be conferred official titles or promoted to higher positions.
|Students pay homage to Confucius' spirit tablet at Anhui University to mark the upcoming Teachers' Day, in Hefei, Anhui Province, Sept 8, 2016. [Asianewsphoto]|
How were gifts presented to teachers in ancient China?
Normally, an ancient teacher's income included salary, accommodation and festival gifts. There was no fixed tuition fee, generally the parents paid teachers according to their household income. Both money and basic foodstuff could be paid in exchange for tuition.
In private schools, teachers always received money or gifts from the host family at certain festivals or at the beginning and end of each semester.
The festivals in which teachers received gifts varied from region to region, while the most valued ones were the Duanwu, Mid-autumn and Chinese New Year festivals, as well as Confucius' birthday and the private tutor's birthday.
Among all the gift-giving festivals, the first meeting gift was a must. When students met their private tutors for the first time, they had to kneel down to Confucius' spirit tablet and then to their private tutor, before presenting a "gift".