An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Tongmengxun 童蒙訓

Jul 14, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Tongmengxun 童蒙訓, also known as Lüshi tongmeng xun 呂氏童蒙訓 "Master Lü's guide to child enlightenment" or Xiyuan tongmeng xun 西垣童蒙訓, it book on the education written during the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126) by Lü Benzhong 呂本中 (1084-1145), courtesy name Juren 居仁, style Donglai Xiansheng 東萊先生 or Ziwei 紫微, from Shouzhou 壽州 (today's Shouxian 壽縣, Anhui). Lü was the offspring of a long line of Confucian scholars and compiled books presenting the anecdotes and teachings from his teachers and friends on personal conduct, social interaction, studying, and governance, with the title Donglai Lü Ziwei shiyou zazhi 東萊呂紫微師友雜志. He is also known the for a book on "instructions to state officials", Guanzhen 官箴.

His book Tongmengxun consists of 3 juan. It contains principles of education and exhortations to diligence in studying, making the work a suitable guide for early eduction. It was therefore widely used as a textbook in traditional family schools and presents insights into the educational practices of the upper class of ancient times. The book covers various aspects such as self-cultivation, scholarly pursuits, and governance. It emphasizes introspection and self-improvement (fanxing neiqiu 反省內求), and advocates learning from the past to reach higher achievements in the present. It encourages starting with petty matters of daily life and suggests to proceed with the elaboration of diligence. The text quotes from contemporary masters like Lü Xizhe 呂希哲, the author's grandfather, or the famous scholar Lü Zuqian 呂祖謙 (1137-1181), the author's grandson.

The book extensively quotes from esteemed Confucian scholars, expounds on fundamental moral teachings, collects various sayings from Lü's teachers and friends, and promotes discussions on righteousness and proper conduct.

Students should begin with the Confucian Classics Xiaojing 孝經 "Book on Filial piety", Lunyu 論語 "Analects of Confucius", Zhongyong 中庸 "The Doctrine of the Mean", Daxue 大學 "The Great Learning", and Mengzi 孟子 as the foundations of learning, and then to explore the Classics Shijing 詩經 "Book of Song”, Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents", Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes", and Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals". By following this order, students would attain the correct understanding of social life. Having established this solid foundation, one can go on to read the teachings of the various schools of thought.

There is a surviving edition from the Shaoding reign-period 紹定 (1228-1233), as well as a reprint published by Tao Xiang 陶湘 (1871-1940, style Sheyuan 涉園) in 1925. 42 paragraphs are included in the collection Song-Yuan xue'an 宋元學案.

Chen Ying 陳瑛, Xu Qixian 許啟賢 eds. (1989). Zhongguo lunli da cidian 中國倫理大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 653.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1551.
Wang Zhaoxian 王兆先, Cheng Changzhu 程昌柱, Gao Xuegui 高學貴, eds. (1992). Jiating jiaoyu cidian 家庭教育辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 115.