The Dushu fennian richeng 讀書分年日程 "The Chronological Process of Learning", full title Chengshi jiashu dushu fennian richeng 程氏家塾讀書分年日程, also called Chengshi jiashu dushu fenji richeng 程氏家塾讀書分季日程, Dushu gongcheng 讀書工程 or Jinxue guicheng 進學規程, is a school curriculum compiled by the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) scholar Cheng Duanli 程端禮 (1271-1345), courtesy name Cheng Jingshu 程敬叔, style Weizhai xiansheng 畏齋先生. He came from Yinxian 鄞縣 (near modern Ningbo 寧波, Zhejiangg) and was educational instructor (jiaoyu 教諭) of Jianping 建平 and Jiande 建德, later director (shanzhang 山長) of the Jiaxuan 稼軒書院 and Jiangdong academies 江東書院, then again prefectural instructor in Qianshan 鉛山 and finally teacher (jiaoshou 教授) in Taizhou 臺州. Cheng Duanli was a disciple of Meng Qing 蒙卿 and was instructed in the teachings of the Neo-Confucian master Zhu Xi 朱熹. His collected writings are called Weizhai ji 畏齋集.
The 3 juan "scrolls" long book is compiled in a chronological manner and describes the method of how Zhu Xi studied the ancient writings, as explained in the latter's writings Dushu mingli 讀書明理 and Zhuzi dushu fa 朱子讀書法. It serves as a model for the Confucian scholar to read and learn from the ancient classical texts and is therefore a very important source for the history of education in ancient China. A pre-study had been made by Fu Hanqing 輔漢卿 on Zhu Xi's methods of studying books. Cheng Duanli's book is accompanied by a preface (xu 序) and a postface (ba 跋) written by the author himself, and a preface by Zhang Boxing 張伯行 and a postface by Lu Chengqi 陸隴其 from the Qing period 清 (1644-1911).
The book begins with a general introduction in which the teaching statutes of Zhu Xi's White Deer Cavern Academy are explained (Bailudong shuyuan jiaotiao 白鹿洞書院教條), the learning principles of Cheng Duanmeng 程端蒙 and Dong Zhu 董銖 (Cheng-Dong er xiansheng xueze 程董二先生學則) and those of Zhen Dexiu 真德秀 (Xishan Zhen xiansheng jiao zi zhai gui 西山真先生教子齋規).
It explains Zhu Xi's six methods of learning: sitting in reverence and formulating an aim (jujing chizhi 居敬持志), keeping an order and slowly advancing (xunxu jianjin 循序漸進), reading with experience and a refined thought (shudu jingsi 熟讀精思), making free one's mind and "swim as fishes with a clear heart" (xuxin hanyong 虛心涵泳), investigate thoroughly with personal commitment (qieji ticha 切己體察), and make greatest efforts to study diligently (zhujin yongli 著緊用力).
The core text is in fact a kind of curriculum over several years in which a scholar had to study different types of texts with a raising grade of intellectual and linguistic challenges. The first grade are studies to "enlighten" the spirit (qimeng 啓蒙). They are undertaken before the age of eight sui. The pupils have to learn Cheng Ruoyong's 程若庸 Xingli zixun 性理字訓 "Instructions in the lexicon on the human character and the universal order" (in the enlarged version by Cheng Fengyuan 程逢原) and the text Zhuzi tongmeng xuzhi 朱子童蒙須知 "Basics of Master Zhu Xi's elementary learning". The second grade is taken with the age of fifteen sui. These years are filled with the studies of the so-called "Minor Teachings" (xiaoxue 小學), which mainly includes the learning of words and their Chinese characters, beginning with one hundred per day, and ending with a daily pensum of 700 words. Another technique to be learnt is to continuously repeat texts until they are known by heart, up to hundred times per text. With these preconditions the disciples have to study the Confucian Classics Daxue 大學, Lunyu 論語, Mengzi 孟子, Zhongyong 中庸 (called the "Four Books" Sishu 四書), and then the books Xiaojing 孝經, Yijing 易, Shangshu 書, Shijng 詩, Yili 儀禮, Liji 禮記, Zhouli 周禮, and the Chunqiu 春秋 and its three commentaries (Sanzhuan 三傳). These, too, have to be repeated two hundred times. After the age of 15 sui the youth of learning was ended, and the studentes had passed the grade making them able to read Zhu Xi's commentary to the Four Books, Sishu zhangju jizhu 四書章句集注, which took three to four years.
This phase having ended, the study of the historiographical writings Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑒, Shiji 史記, Hanshu 漢書, Jiutangshu 舊唐書, Xintangshu 唐書, and Tangjian 唐鑒 began. While the Confucian Classics provided instruction in social behaviour, the histories were sources to learn how ruler and minister interacted and guided or misguided the empire, how reward and punishment were used, how taxation and government expenditure functioned, how the military was used, the people was nourished, and culture and customs could flourish.
These practical examples from history were enriched by theoretical essays of a high literary quality like those of the thinker Han Yu 韓愈 from the Tang period 唐 (618-907). The study of poetry in the shape of the Chuci 楚辭 "Poetry of the South" followed suit. The last two to three years of studies were dedicated to learning the technique of writing texts, with the help of examples like prose written by Liu Zongyuan 柳宗元 or Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修. On the base of all these studies, young men were ready for the first step of the state examinations. The third part of the book includes Wang Boji's 王柏輯 Zhengshi zhi yin 正始之音, a study on phonetics, and Zhu Xi's Dushu fa.
The book of Cheng Duanli was very widespread in all state-schools during the Yuan and Ming 明 (1368-1644) periods, and was revived during the Qing period in an edition published by Lu Longqi 陸隴其. The Dushu fennian richeng is included in the collectanea Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Dangguicaotang congshu 當歸草堂叢書, Zhengyitang quanshu 正誼堂全書, Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編 and Sibu congkan 四部叢刊.
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