An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xiao'eryu 小兒語 and Xu xiao'er yu 續小兒語

Sep 14, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Xiao'eryu 小兒語 "Words for young boys", also called Lü Jinxi xiansheng xiao'er yu 呂近溪先生小兒語, is a textbook for primary education written by the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Lü Desheng 呂得勝 (d. 1568), courtesy name Shougong 壽宮, style Jinxi 近溪 or Yuyin Xianweng 漁隱閑翁.

The book consists of three parts written in four-syllable verses, six-syllable verses, and such with various lengths. The text focuses on moral behaviour and the basics relations in Confucian society, like filial piety and a desire for learning. Young boys were adorted to be unruffled, modest, prudent, honest, generous, pitiful, diligent, willing to train hard and to practice, to discipline themselves, to live a frugal and ungrudging life. One of the chapters focuses on girls (Nü xiao'er yu 女小兒語) and adhorts them to be industrious, cleanly, immaculate, homely and to respect the elderly and (later) their husband. These contents were transmitzed in the shape of many proverbs and popular sayings. The words are very simple and easy to remember. It was probably the most widespread schoolbook during the Ming period. The book was finished in 1558.

There is a continuation called Xu xiao'er yu 續小兒語 that was written by Lü Desheng's son Lü Kun 呂坤 (1536-1618). Lü Kun incorporated the philosophy of the Confucian Classic Zhongyong 中庸 into his text, according to which man has to keep the golden mean in his thoughts and actions, which is actually not a teaching for small children, but for educated adults. His book was published in 1593.

Lü Kun also wrote a short text called Yan xiao'er yu 演小兒語. Both books are included in Lü Kun's collected writings Lü Xinwu quanji 呂新吾全集 and the series Quweizhai quanshu 去僞齋全集, Yihai zhuchen 藝海珠塵, Wu zhong yigui 五種遺規, Lüheguangrentang suokan shu 律河廣仁堂所刻書, Dongtingyutang kanshu 東聽雨堂刊書, Xijing qinglu congshu 西京清麓叢書 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編.

The preface of the Xiao'eryu is quoted in the educational collections Wu zhong yigui and Yangzheng leibian 養正類編.

Cui Yanjie 崔艷傑 (2010). "Xiao'eryu zhong de pinxing xiuyang jiaoyu 《小兒語》中的品行修養教育", Changzhi Xueyuan xuebao 長治學院學報, 2010 (8).
Duan Baolin 段寶林, Qi Lianxiu 祁連休, ed. (1988). Minjian wenxue cidian 民間文學詞典 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei jiaoyu chubanshe), 597.
Jiaoyu da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 《教育大辭典》編纂委員會, ed. (1991). Jiaoyu da cidian 教育大辭典, Part 8, Zhongguo gudai jiaoyu shi 中國古代教育史 (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 214.
Li Ming 黎明 (1993). "Xiao'eryu 小兒語", in Zhongguo xiaxue jiaoxue baike quanshu 中國小學教學百科全書, Vol. Yuwen 語文卷 (Shenyang: Shenyang chubanshe), 90.
Ma Yong 馬鏞 (1996). "Xiao'eryu, Xu xiao'er yu 小兒語、續小兒語", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Jiaoyu 教育 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 370.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 60, 824.
Xu Yu 許鈺, ed. (1992). Zhonghua fengsu xiao baike 中華風俗小百科 (Tianjian: Tianjin renmin chubanshe), 344, 384.
Zhou Fazeng 周發增, Chen Longtao 陳隆濤, Qi Jixiang 齊吉祥, ed. Zhongguo gudai zhengzhi zhidu cidian 中國古代政治制度史辭典 (Beijing: Shoudu shifan daxue chubanshe), 440.