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The chinese struggle for literacy : villagers and the state in Guangdong, 1949-1976 Peterson, Glen 1992

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THE CHINESE STRUGGLE FOR LITERACY: VILLAGERS AND THE STATE INGUANGDONG, 1949-1976byGLEN PETERSONB.A.M.A.A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFDOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESHISTORYWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIANovember 1991© Glen Peterson, 1991In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degreeat The University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freelyavailable for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying ofthis thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the Head of my Department or by hisor her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis forfinancial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission.HistoryThe University of British Columbia2075 Wesbrook PlaceVancouver, CanadaV6T 1W5Date: 01 December 199111ABSTRACTThis dissertation is a social and intellectual historyof the struggle for literacy in Mao's China from 1949 to1976. The major objective of the dissertation is to assessthe nature and significance of this struggle in one part ofChina: the southeastern coastal province of Guangdong. Inorder to achieve this objective, I pursue three centralaims.First, the dissertation seeks to illuminate eliteinfluences which shaped state literacy policy in the PRC.Since we are dealing with literacy ideologies prescribed bythe state for various social groups, it is crucial tounderstand how those ideologies were formed and articulated.Second, the dissertation attempts to uncover popularmentalites toward literacy in order to bring into focus thetension between two educational worlds: the one that existedin the minds and in the organizational blueprints of China'sstate leaders, and the other that guided village educationalthought and practice. In this way I show the struggle forliteracy to be a process of continuous, dynamic interactionbetween villagers and the state.The third aim of the dissertation is to show howliteracy is related to the social structure. I argue thatit is insufficient and potentially misleading to assess thehistory of Chinese literacy in terms of statistical growth111patterns alone. I demonstrate how changing literacyideologies for different social groups played a crucial rolein the formation and reproduction of social differencesafter 1949.In showing how the literacy map is also a map of theclass structure, the dissertation involves itself withlarger theoretical controversies over the role of literacyin society. In particular, this dissertation adds to agrowing body of critical scholarship that challengesestablished, Enlightenment-derived assumptions about therelationship of literacy and societal progress.ivCONTENTSAbstract^ iiList of Tables^ viiList of Figures viiiAcknowledgements^ ixIntroduction 1The Unstable State of Chinese LiteracyStudies^ 1A Honeycomb Polity and a CellularizedEconomy 11Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away:Guangdong in the Chinese Polity^121^The Stagnation of Early Postrevolutionary MassEducation^ 33A Fragmented State^ 35Early Elite Influences on Mass LiteracyPolicy^ 38The Elitist Nature of Early LiteracyEducation Policy^ 47Influence of Wartime Experience onIlliteracy among Communist PartyMembers in North China and Guangdongin the 1950s^ 57Prohibition of Literacy Education inthe Early 1950s 61Qi Jianhua and the Accelerated LiteracyMethod^ 69Conclusion 762^Minban Schools and the Reaffirmation ofVoluntarism in Village Education: TheGuangdong Experience^ 87The School Crisis of the Early 1950sand the Resurgence of the Sishu^88Rise of the Minban Schools^ 103Limits of State Power and the Reaffirmationof Voluntarism in Village Education^114Later Effects of What Happened in the 1950s 124V3^Changing Literacy Ideologies in Post-1949China and the Continued Reproductionof Rural-Urban Differences^ 137Literacy Definitions as Elite Prescriptionsof Social Order 141Defining Literacy after 1949^ 144The 1950s Debate Over Methods of LiteracyInstruction^ 153Lin Handa and the Ideology of PeasantLiteracy 158The Role of Village Literacy Educationin the Formation of China'sHoneycomb Polity^ 164Literacy Education and the Reproductionof Rural-Urban Differences^1714^The Problem of the Teachers^ 186The Awkward Image of the Village SchoolTeacher^ 187Real and Potential Subversivenessof Village School Teachers^189Conflicts Between Teachers and VillageCadres^ 202The Impoverished Social and MaterialStatus of the Village Teacher^206Conclusion 2115^The Impact of the Collectivization ofAgriculture on the Need for Popular Literacy^218Literacy and the Effort to ReformPeople's Customs^ 219Literacy Expansion Targets Under theFirst Five Year Plan 224Chinese Literacy Levels in the Mid - 1950sand the Debate Over Collectivization^2316^The National Literacy Campaigns of 1956 and 1958 249The 1956 National Literacy Campaign:Aims and Objectives^ 251Problems in the Supply and Distributionof Literacy Primers 259Popular Opposition to the Literacy Campaign 262The Great Leap Forward Literacy Campaign^265Critics of the Literacy Campaign^275vi7^Beijing's Language Reform and Guangdong'sResistance^ 286A Brief Historical Overview of LanguageReform in China^ 286CCPs Support for Dialect RomanizationBefore 1949 289The Changed Policy on AlphabeticWriting After 1949^ 292Guangdong's Resistance 2988^The Agricultural Middle School Experiment,1958-65^ 316Contraction of the Village UnderCollectivization^ 318Elimination of Traditional Stimulito Literacy 323Literacy as a Means of Restricted SocialMobility Within Collectives^325The Agricultural Middle Schools 330State Fears of a New Literate Rural EliteEmerging from the AgriculturalMiddle Schools^ 338Popular Attitudes Toward the AgriculturalMiddle Schools 340The Decline of Literacy from the Early 1960suntil 1976^ 351Contraction of Literacy and MassEducation From the End of the GreatForward to the Socialist EducationMovement^ 353Rise of the Half-Ploughing Half-StudyPrimary Schools in the Countryside^357The Socialist Education Movement and theRevival of Literacy Education inGuangdong Villages^ 362Collapse of Literacy Education Duringthe Cultural Revolution 369Destruction of the Two Track EducationalSystem and the Cultural RevolutionModel of Mass Education^ 371Revival of Literacy Education in 1973^377The Dawn of the Deng Xiaoping Era 386Conclusion: The Struggle for Literacyin Guangdong^ 395Bibliography 412Appendix A^ 513List of Tablesvi iI^Yellow Bamboo School Teaching Plan^108v iiiList of FiguresI^Map of China^ xiiiII^Map of Guangdong xivII^Yunfu County Literacy Primer^ 166III Guangzhou Workpoint Primer 167IV^Eighteenth Century Character Glossary^176V^1972 Character Glossary^ 177VI^Guangdong Cultural Revolution Literacy Primer^379VII Shandong Cultural Revolution Literacy Primer^383ixAcknowledgementsCompletion of a doctoral thesis is a time foracknowledging the debts that one accumulates along the way.At the University of British Columbia, I have benefittedenormously from being in the company of two excellentscholars and friends. Alexander Woodside is one of theworld's outstanding leaders in Chinese educational history.Alex first suggested literacy as a topic and supervised thethesis. I have never experienced a more superb critic. Hisincisive comments and insights at every stage of theresearch and writing played a crucial role in shaping myapproach and understanding of the subject. I would alsolike to express my gratitude for the steady support andencouragement he has given me over the years, and forconstantly reminding me that this was a worthwhile andimportant project.Edgar Wickberg inspired me with his own interest andvast knowledge of Guangdong, which has resulted in a M.A.thesis and now a dissertation devoted to that province ofChina. More than this, Edgar Wickberg has been a source ofknowledge, support and friendship ever since my earliestdays at UBC. First as an undergraduate, then as a graduatestudent and researcher, I am indebted to him in ways toonumerous to mention.Many others also contributed to this dissertation.am grateful to Graham Johnson for sharing his intimateknowledge of the Pearl River Delta with me on numerousoccasions, and for helping to facilitate my research atZhongshan University in China through his many long-established contacts there. I would also like to thankWilliam Wray, whose thoughtful and provocative comments havestimulated me to think in new ways about literacy and modernChinese history, and J. Donald Wilson, whose careful readingof the manuscript sharpened my awareness of comparativeissues raised by the thesis. Last but not least, on thisside of the Pacific, I wish to thank Ruth Hayhoe, HarveyGraff, and Charles Hayford for their support andencouragement.In China I am indebted to a great many friends andcolleagues without whose help this thesis would never havebeen written. First I wish to thank Professor Yuan Dingwhose tireless efforts on my behalf yielded many of thesource materials on which the research is based. QiaoXiaoqin and Zhou Darning of the Anthropology Department atZhongda were kind enough to let me join them in theirresearch forays into rural Guangdong. Professor He Zhaofaof the Sociology Department provided friendship and supportduring the early days and throughout my stay in China. Ixialso thank Huang Shaokuan and Qiu Haixiong of the SociologyDepartment.Zhu Yuncheng, Director of the Population ResearchCentre at Zhongda, answered my questions and allowed meaccess to the Centre's materials. Ren Gaoyu of theGuangdong Social and Economic Development Research Centreprovided valuable assistance, as did Zheng Deben of theGuangzhou Social Science Research Unit. Ye Xianen sharedwith me some of his vast knowledge of the social andeconomic history of the Pearl River Delta and in so doinghelped me to see contemporary rural education in historicalperspective. I am also grateful for the cooperation Ireceived from the staff of the External Affairs Office atZhongda, especially Zhu Mohe, Zhen Ruixia and Hong Shaowen.Without their support much of the research for this thesiswould never have been done.In Beijing I would like to extend my appreciation toZhou Yixian at the Rural Education Research Unit at BeijingTeachers' University. I also thank Wan Dalin, Wu Yongxing,Yin Zhongmin and Yin Zhiliang at the People's EducationPress for their efforts on my behalf. Parts of the researchwere done in Hong Kong where Lee Kit Wah of the ContemporaryChina Collection at Baptist College helped me find my waythrough the Union Research Institute files. I also thankJohn Dolfin and the staff of the 'old' Universities ServicexiiCenter for providing office space and access to the Center'sresearch library during an earlier stay in Hong Kong.Turning from individuals to institutions, I wish toexpress my appreciation to the International DevelopmentResearch Centre (IDRC) for the Young Canadian ResearcherAward which enabled me to spend a year in China doingresearch. Financial support for this thesis was alsoprovided by the Social Sciences and Humanities ResearchCouncil of Canada and by the Commonwealth Scholarship fund.Finally, there are those to whom I owe a different kindof debt. Christine endured countless 'working weekends' andvacations foregone and has somehow remained patientlysupportive of my endeavour throughout it all. To her I ameternally grateful. I am deeply grateful to my father, whounfortunately died a year before this thesis was completed,and to my mother who never lost faith that this was allworthwhile. This is for my parents.120 °80°^ 100°—1/GUANGDONGGuangzhou0^ 1,000 KMInternational boundary- •- - Provincial boundary•••••■c140°.-Beijing•Ps .ye ll0CHINA^Shanghai42yangr--"tr‘4 N)^ Hong KongCHINA20"--Fig.I Map of China110°^ 112°%-%^114°••••••^• •N, • ••■• •^• MEND Provincial boundaryC 24°-GUANGDONGGuangzhouHong Kongel Macao 22°-op•lam1•••• • 0../ •GUANGDONG PROVINCE0^100 KMI IPEARL RIVER DELTA116°Fig. I1 Map^Guangdong province1INTRODUCTIONThe struggle for literacy in China after 1949 is one ofthe least well known and barely studied aspects of China'smodern history. In the pages that follow I set out to tellthis wide-ranging and fascinating story, from the birth ofthe People's Republic until the death of Mao in 1976. Forreasons I will explain, I look at China's struggle forliteracy through the prism of Guangdong province, on China'ssoutheastern coast.What makes the study of literacy in China sointeresting and important is that there are still so fewfirm conclusions that can be drawn about this enormouslydifficult subject. Moreover, what little we do know is fullof controversy and debate.The Unstable State of Chinese Literacy StudiesIn the unstable, topsy-turvy world of Chinese literacystudies, established assumptions and received opinions arebeing overthrown all the time. Until quite recently, forexample, the established scholarly wisdom about literacy inlate imperial China was that the non-alphabetic script wasan insurmountable barrier for the vast majority of Chinesepeasants who had neither money nor time for the long years2of study required to memorize the characters. Fairbankprovided the classic appraisal of Chinese literacy from thisstandpoint. In one of his more often quoted passages,Fairbank claimed that:The Chinese writing system was not a convenientdevice lying ready at hand for every schoolboy topick up and use as he prepared to meet life'sproblems. It was itself one of life's problems.If little Lao - san could not find time for long-continued study of it, he was forever barred fromsocial advancement. The Chinese written language,rather than an open door through which China'speasants could find truth and light, was a heavybarrier pressing against any upward advance andrequiring real effort to overcome-- a hindrance,not a help, to learning.1With the publication of her 1979 book on education andpopular literacy in Qing China, Evelyn Rawski exploded thisview of traditional Chinese literacy. Rawski revolutionizedthe established scholarly conception of Chinese literacy byimporting the twentieth century notion of "functional"literacy and applying it to the study of Qing society. Sheused a wide variety of local gazetteer sources toinvestigate popular demand, costs, availability, and contentof popular educational practices in the Qing.Rawski finds more literacy than we assumed in the Qingperiod. She estimates that as many as thirty to forty fivepercent of Qing males and from two to ten percent of femalespossessed "some ability to read and write."2 On this basis,Rawski claims there was an average of at least one literatemember per family in Qing society.3The key to Rawski's estimates is the definition offunctional literacy upon which they were based. By "someability" to read and write, Rawski included in herdefinition of the literate everyone from accomplishedclassical scholars to those who knew only a few hundredcharacters, enough to "get by" in everyday economictransactions or to master the specialized vocabulary of aparticular vocation.In addition to revising the established scholarlyassumption that the Chinese peasantry was abjectly andhopelessly mired in illiteracy, Rawski made anotherimportant claim. She argued that, far from being animpediment to modernization as previous scholars supposed,widespread functional literacy made Qing China an "advancedsociety" comparable to preindustrial Europe and "helped easeits transition to modernity in the twentieth century."3Rightly or wrongly, many scholars now considerwidespread popular literacy in Qing China as one of the"precociously modern features" of late imperial Chinesesociety. The jointly authored work edited by Gilbert Rozmanon the modernization of China describes late imperial Chinaas having possessed "exceptional local literacy"; itsschools "flourished in all but the most sparsely populatedand poverty-stricken rural areas." Moreover say the authorsof this volume, "if a line (was) drawn in history at theseventeenth century or at practically any time during the4previous millennium, the case could be argued...that nopeoples can lay claim to...higher levels of literacy..."4Whether or not functional literacy of the kinddescribed by Rawski for the Qing period really did "easeChina's transition to modernity" in the twentieth century isopen to debate.5 One certainty, however, emerged fromRawski's work. The publication of Rawski's book introducedto the field of Chinese literacy studies in a lively andprovocative fashion the elementary but vital understandingthat "literacy" is not a simple yes-no condition, somethingthat one either possesses or does not.Rawski's revisionist scholarship underscored the factthat "literacy" is not an absolute condition but anabstraction, a concept whose definition is constructed bythose who seek to explain its significance. In short,literacy lies to a large extent in the eyes of the beholder;it is whatever it is defined to be.When we come to the People's Republic of China (PRC),similar revolution in received opinions about popularliteracy is presently underway. Where Rawski finds moreliteracy than we thought in the Qing period, recentscholarship has unearthed much less of a success story thanwe assumed for literacy inculcation after 1949.In the past, even the most chastened and cynicalobservers of the communist government generally assumedgenuine commitment and achievement on the popular literacyfront. There was little to argue about, except the extent5to which the literacy that was inculcated was mere politicalindoctrination for social control. That the communist statehad succeeded in bringing literacy to the masses was neverin question.Sympathetic observers of the Chinese Revolution hadeffusive praise for PRC literacy accomplishments. In thewords of one such Western observer, "Eradicating illiteracyhas been one of the success stories of Chinese educationalpolicy since 1949. Despite far-reaching fluctuations inpolicy...the proportion of illiterate Chinese has fallenfrom over 80% before 1949 to 20.6% in 1987."6Modernization theorists have also detected greatstrides in mass education since 1949. According to thepreviously mentioned work edited by Rozman, universalliteracy was "virtually achieved" in the PRC.7 AndrewNathan in China's Crisis cites the 1964 census figure ofthirty eight percent illiteracy as evidence that the PRC haddeveloped early on an educational capacity for meaningfulpolitical democracy.8Comparative specialists also lauded China's commitmentand achievement in literacy education. Jay Taylor, authorof a recent comparative study of India and China, haswritten that "one of China's great achievements has been anincrease in adult literacy from 26% in 1951 to 77% in1982...within a generation, China's literacy rate should beover 90%, as close to 93% of primary school-aged childrentoday are enrolled in school."96Finally, the international community also praisedChina's literacy accomplishments after 1949. On WorldLiteracy Day in 1984 UNESCO awarded the Noma Literacy Prizeto rural Baozhong county in Sichuan for its reduction ofilliteracy from 80% in 1949 to under 10% in the 1980s. Thisfollowed the publication of a 1982 report in which a leadingspokesperson for UNESCO praised China's anti-illiteracydrive as nothing less than "clearly the greatest experimentin mass education in the history of the world" which hadenabled a nation of one billion to "become a nearly literatesociety in the space of just over thirty years."10What Evelyn Rawski did for established assumptionsabout literacy in Qing China, Vilma Seeberg has recentlydone for received opinions about the struggle for literacyin the PRC.11 Using the PRC official definition of minimalliteracy as constituting knowledge of 1500 characters forpeasants and 2000 characters for workers, Vilma Seebergfinds less of a success story in literacy inculcation thanwe assumed after 1949. Seeberg's startling conclusion forthe 1949-1979 period is one of "great swings in school-ageliteracy, but very little improvement in both school-age andadult literacy over time. Over the thirty yearsinvestigated, school-age and adult literacy averaged 32percent, and total population "functional" literacy improvedonly by 8 percentage points to 30 percent in 1979." It isclear, insists Seeberg, "that despite much effort ineducation, literacy increased by little" over the thirty7years covered by her study.12 The basic reason, saysSeeberg, was that rural basic education, in both its school-age and adult literacy settings, was "terminal", especiallyin periods when Maoist "Radical Policy" dominated. Terminalbasic education offered little incentive to attend school,to see schooling to completion, or to retain what waslearned afterwards. For these reasons, Seeberg maintainsthat the greatest advances against illiteracy after 1949were made by the regular full time primary schools, locatedmainly in urban environments. Furthermore, says Seeberg,most of the improvement occurred during the first eightyears after 1949. Literacy education experienced decliningexpectations thereafter, as 'Maoist Radical Policy' heldsway for most of the years between 1958 and the late1970s.13Seeberg's startling re-appraisal of PRC literacy is allthe more important because it resembles and ratifies arevisionism that is presently taking shape inside China.Since 1978 and especially since the early nineteen eighties,PRC scholars have been re-evaluating and re-defining thehistory of Chinese literacy education since 1949, often withdevastating results. Few of these scholars have beenwilling to go as far as the Chinese astrophysicist FangLizhi's assertion to Western journalists in 1989 that Maowanted to keep the Chinese peasantry illiterate-- the betterto control them. But the return since 1978 in China of thepossibility of a more complex-- and therefore more mixed--8view of the past has meant that Chinese scholars have beenwilling to turn a harsh spotlight on the educationalfailings of the previous four decades.As a prominent example of this recent criticism, XiaYan, China's famous eighty eight year old writer, dramatistand former Vice-Minister of Culture, publicly proclaimed in1988 that neglect of basic education was one of the threemost serious mistakes (sanda cuowu) committed by thegovernment since the founding of the People's Republic.14The other two mistakes identified by Xia Yan were thegovernment's failure to create a proper legal system and itsfailure to control population growth.Xia Yan's criticisms and the many others like it weregenerated by the stark revelations of illiteracy containedin the 1982 national census in China. The census, the firstsince 1964 and the first ever in China using moderncomputing methods, recorded over 235 million illiterates inChina, equivalent to thirty two percent of persons overtwelve years of age. Among the rural population theilliteracy rate was far higher, forty four percent; while insome localities illiteracy reached astounding levels ofseventy five percent and greater.Every dimension of popular education measured by thecensus seemed clotted with depressing indicators of thefailure of past policies. Many previously cherished notionswere revealed to be cruel myths, none more so than the mythof a revolution in female education. Female illiteracy, for9example, which was especially prevalent in the countryside,was revealed to account for seventy percent of allilliteracy. The female illiteracy rate was forty fivecompared to only nineteen percent for males. Forty to fortyfive million school-age children were not in school, andninety percent of the Chinese population had less than asecondary school education. As one Chinese newspaper writerexclaimed, "What appalling figures these are when you thinkof a world that has sent men into outer space and is on thethreshold of the computerized age."15Compounding the entire debate over Chinese literacyeducation is the vexed issue of how "unique" China must befrom the standpoint of literacy education. The PRC scholarZhang Zhigong argues that because China had no alphabet tofacilitate word and phrase recognition, there had to be morerote memorization and less of a Western "liberal"pedagogical approach to the inculcation of literacy.16 HuYaobang seems to have been saying the same thing when in1955 he explained that China would have to diverge from theSoviet experience in literacy education because of the non-alphabetic nature of the Chinese language and the length oftime it took to memorize the characters.17 Other Chinese,however, disagree, and Charles Hayford shows how a "trans-Pacific liberal" like James Yen was hardly daunted byChina's "uniqueness" when it came to literacy education.18Then there is the whole vexed issue of how "autonomous"the cultivation of literacy is or can be, how free of1 0politics and social conventions which change. There is abroad school of thought which argues that the historicalsignificance of literacy lies primarily in its role intriggering a sequence of changes at the personal andsocietal level which underlie the modernization process.According to this view, by giving individuals "accessto the world of vicarious experience" literacy induces awhole range of previously undeveloped cognitive skills,including empathy, ability to understand abstract conceptsand logical processes, and rationality.19 At the societallevel, literacy performs an important integrative function.Literacy facilitates bureaucratic organization and equipspersons with the interdependent skills that produce whatDurkheim described as the "organic solidarity" of modernindustrial society.Harvey Graff calls this view the "literacy myth."Brian Street refers to it as the "autonomous" model. Bothcriticize the reification of literacy as a neutral skill ortechnology of the intellect which may be studied indetachment from its social context.20Street in particular argues for what he terms an"ideological" model of literacy that sees reading andwriting not as technical skills but as social practices"embedded" in specific social formations. Literacy in thisview can never be understood in isolation from the social,economic and political contexts in which it is practiced.11A Honeycomb Polity and a Cellularized EconomyThe Street view that literacy education cannot beextricated from its local social context is particularlycrucial to Chinese history given Vivienne Shue's recentargument that economically, at least, the post-1949 Chinesestate was characterized by what she terms a "honeycombpolity."21 Shue argues that Mao's restructuring of Chineserural society in the 1950s into thousands of "cell-like"collectivized communities and bureaucratic units ironicallyreinforced and strengthened the autarkic nature of localcommunities which had characterized the premodern Chinesepolity for centuries in the absence of modern industrialcapitalism. Legitimated after 1949 by a state ideology oflocal self-sufficiency, the revitalized "honeycomb"structure of politics made it relatively easy for localpeasant cadres to foment "defensive and dissemblingstrategies" for the protection of themselves and their"cellular" domains against state economic demands. Thus,says Shue, "the Chinese state center through the 1970sremained full of force and loud intention, but wasnonetheless deeply frustrated in execution by thousands uponthousands of practically invisible localist restraints."22Shue's argument concerns state economic demands. Whenone moves from economics to literacy campaigns (bearing in12mind Street's injunction that the two are inseparable) areShue's arguments borne out? My data from Guangdong suggeststhat state literacy demands were also frustrated by localistrestraints. Shue believes that the "insidious adaptation ofprimordial peasant localism to the honeycomb structure ofthe state-socialist polity," was legitimated and stiffenedby a "popular morality of community protectionism."23Richard Madsen, using Guangdong data, confirms Shue-- makingGuangdong a crucial prop for Shue's argument. Generalizingfrom his Guangdong data, Madsen concluded that "members of apoor isolated farming village are not likely to extend theirconception of public responsibilities much beyond theboundaries of their village." As if to confirm that thisapplied to state literacy demands, the two peasant leaderswho dominated the political life of Madsen's Guangdongvillage throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Chen Longyong andChen Qingfa, both "had no formal education and (were) almostcompletely illiterate."24Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away: The Significance ofGuangdong in the Chinese PolityI chose Guangdong as the focus of this thesis becauseit exemplifies the kinds of tensions in state-societyrelations that I wish to emphasize in this study. For someyears I have had an interest in the ways in which political13and economic Cantoneseness have co-existed in dynamictension with state power since the revolution.The efforts of the PRC state to create a unified politytook particular aim at the recalcitrant local peasantcultures of Southern China. Sometimes this took the form ofovert political conflict as in the case, described so wellby Ezra Vogel, of central efforts to conquer Cantonese'localism' when it threatened to subvert the centre's landreform policy in the early 1950s.25In a previous study I explored the tension betweenstate economic policy and political and economicCantoneseness as embodied in the Overseas Chinese 'problem'after 1949.26 This study of literacy education in Guangdongdeals with the effort to create in Guangdong an educationalChina capable of effacing Cantonese cultural-linguisticparticularism.Guangdong, China's southeastern most province,straddles the Lingnan and Southeast Coast macroregions asdefined by Skinner.27 It occupies just 2.21% of China'stotal land area but it contains 5.75% of the Chinesepopulation. Guangdong is the fifth most populous provincein China after Sichuan, Henan, Shandong and Jiangsu. Thepresent population of sixty four million has more thandoubled since 1949. Guangdong is also an overwhelminglyagricultural province. In 1982 the agricultural populationstill represented 81.4% of the total. Guangdong's14proportion of urban dwellers at 18.6% was less than thenational average of 20.8%.28Popularly known as the land of "seven parts mountainone part water" (clishan yishui Hang fendi), almost 77% ofGuangdong consists of mountains, hills and plateaus. Sinceancient times population has congregated in the major rivervalleys of the Pearl, East and West rivers, and alongGuangdong's fifteen hundred mile coast line. In these areasa fertile agriculture developed, sustained by plentifulmonsoon rains, a long growing season, and convenient naturalwaterways which facilitated the early development ofcommerce.The most prosperous and densely populated part ofGuangdong is the Pearl River delta region. Along with thecoastal areas of Shantou and Zhanjiang, the commercial hubwhich is centred around Guangzhou and Foshan accounts fornearly 60% of the population. Outside of the delta areasand river valleys, where terrain is uneven and soil poor,population is sparse by comparison. Principal crops inGuangdong include paddy rice, soybeans, fruits andvegetables, and, in more recent times, potatoes, peanuts,sugarcane, cotton, and rubber.Populated originally by a branch of the non-Sinitic Taipeople whom Chinese rulers referred to as the Yue (meaning'beyond the frontier'), Guangdong was incorporated into theChinese empire in the first century B.C.E. Successive laterwaves of Han migration absorbed or displaced the aboriginal1 5inhabitants of Guangdong into the hilly and remote northernand western parts of the province. The last major group ofHan migrants were given the name Hakka ('guest people') bylocal inhabitants. Hakka settled in the remote andmountainous parts of the province, especially easternGuangdong, where their numbers remain greatest. Today over98% of the population of Guangdong is considered Han. Butthe other 2% includes no less than forty six differentminority peoples, of whom the major ones are the Li, Zhuang,Yao, Miao and Hui.Extreme linguistic variation added to the complexityof Guangdong's social landscape.29 Excluding the minoritypeoples' languages, three major 'sublanguages' or regionaldialects evolved in Guangdong: Yue (Cantonese), Min (thedialect of southern Fujian and northeastern Guangdong, avariant of which is also spoken on Hainan), and the Hakkadialect.Within these broad regional dialects there is almostinfinite variation. Geographic barriers to communicationand ethnic and lineage feuding entrenched local sub-dialects, which often began across the river or over thenext hill. As an example, besides the Cantonese spoken inthe vicinity of Guangzhou there is also the Gao-Lei versionof Cantonese (named after the cities of Gaozhou and Leizhou)spoken along the Leizhou peninsula; the numerous sub-varieties of Cantonese spoken in the siyi (four counties)16area southwest of Canton; plus numerous other sub -dialectsspoken in the border lands and in neighbouring Guangxi.Guangdong's linguistic complexity mirrors thecomplexness of its local society. As Susan Naquin andEvelyn Rawski put it, "The society of Lingnan was thick withhighly structured and complex social organizations."30Frontier settlement by successive groups of migrants and theemergence of Guangdong in the late imperial period as one ofthe most commercially developed regions of the empireproduced a complicated social landscape punctuated bypowerful, fiercely competitive lineages. Especiallypowerful in the delta region, lineages contested one anotherfor control of territory, markets, and for imperial academichonours by establishing private academies to train lineagesons for the examinations.31Notwithstanding the hegemonic power of the examinationsystem, however, Lingnan culture was renowned for itspowerfully distinct qualities. Books have been written toexplicate the relationship between Lingnan culture (Lingnan wenhua) and the wider Chinese culture (Zhonqquo wenhua).32Celebrated by some, lamented by others, the heart ofLingnan's distinctiveness lies in the region's historicallytroubled relationship with the Chinese state centre.Guangdong has had a remarkable history of tension/oppositionto states in Beijing: the anti -Manchu Ming loyalists of the1640s; the anti-Manchu triads; the Taipings and theirHeavenly king (a Hakka schoolteacher from Guangdong). Kang17Youwei and Liang Qichao, the Cantonese reformers who wantedto change the dynastic state; Sun Yatsen who wanted to endit.Guangdong's long tradition of greater openness to theoutside world also made its relations with the central stateproblematic. Guangdong had the thirteen honqs and the onlyport open to foreigners in the eighteenth century and thenineteenth century down to 1842. It was influenced by HongKong after 1842. Guangdong absorbed two thirds of all theforeign capital invested in the Chinese economy between 1949and 1986, and was in first place in China in value ofexports in the 1980s.33 And, Guangdong is the ancestralhome of three quarters of the over twenty million overseasChinese. As a group, the overseas Chinese play a criticaland (as their reaction to the Beijing massacre of 1989demonstrated) problematic role in the present open dooreconomic policy.We can sense some of the ambivalence that modernChinese intellectuals have felt towards this heritage byglimpsing it through the eyes of a major left wing Cantonesecultural figure writing in the early 1950s. In one of themost important articles written in Guangdong immediatelyafter the founding of the PRC, Qin Mu, one of Guangdong'smost esteemed twentieth century writers, spoke at length onthe doomed "feudal" characteristics of Lingnan society andculture.3418Qin Mu was unsure whether there were enough positivefeatures in Guangdong's cultural inheritance that couldserve as a basis for building a modern uniform socialistculture. Guangdong people lacked a uniform language,literature, theatre or music. Besides the nineteen millionCantonese speakers in 1950 there were five million Hakkaspeakers, four million Chaozhou dialect speakers, andanother two million Hainan dialect speakers, each with theirown traditions. Dialect and sub-dialect differencesfrustrated all efforts at fashioning a unified culture fromthe disparate "little traditions" of rural Guangdong.35Guangdong's cultural heritage was double-edged: in thepast century Guangdong had developed a rich revolutionarytradition; but on the other hand, Guangdong still manifestedpersistent "feudal" traditions. Cantonese were possessed ofa "parochial clan outlook" (difanq zonqzu quannian)reflected in their disdainful attitudes towards the Danjia(Tanka) boat people, and in the Cantonese love of storiesabout "brilliant" Cantonese personages. They engaged inabhorrent customs like the buying and selling of femalebondservants. And Guangdong had become the locus of muchsocial decadence in the modern period. Many revolutionsbegan in Guangdong, Qin Mu said, only to reach fruitionelsewhere.Qin Mu also singled out for criticism what heconsidered to be Cantonese selfish individualism. Cantoneseselfishness was summed up according to Qin Mu in the1 9qualities represented by the character lao ( ) which Qin Musaid represented the "spiritual marrow" of Cantonese urbanculture. The character lao has two basic meanings, one 'todig or dredge up,' and the other 'to get by illicit orimproper means.' A laojia was one who "uses one's smartsto trick people in order to obtain personal gain at theother's expense." Such laojia, said Qin Mu, regrettablywere the heroes of Cantonese popular culture, their valuesthe foundation of Cantonese social and economic life.As for Guangdong's heritage of involvement with theWest, it was also contradictory. When Shanghai was still aswamp, said Qin Mu, Canton was already a thrivinginternational trading city. Guangdong's exposure to theWest meant there was an openness to change in Guangdongsociety that was absent in other parts of the country.There was also a tradition of resistance to foreignimperialism in Guangdong.But Guangdong had also bequeathed to modern Chinesehistory compradores and labour contractors. The heritage ofWestern colonialism ran older and deeper in Guangdong thananywhere else in China. And unlike other parts of China,Guangdong still could not be completely insulated fromWestern colonial influences, because of the proximity ofHong Kong. There on Guangdong's doorstep, Qin Mu pointedout in the early nineteen fifties, young Chinese still tookEnglish first names and "think that this is glorious."20Yet, for all these supposedly blighting influences onCantonese culture and despite Guangdong's tense history ofrelations with states in Beijing, literacy education inGuangdong after 1949 is supposed to be a success story. A1990 article by Fudan University demographer Dai Xingyi saysthat China can be divided into three model zones in terms ofliteracy success: Zone A, where illiteracy is minimal, whichincludes Beijing-Shanghai-Tianjin and Liaoning, and Jilin,Heilongjiang, Guangdong, Hunan; Zone B, the middling orrelatively average zone of lesser literacy but considerablecultural richness (Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong, Sichuan,Zhejiang, Shaanxi, Guangxi, Shanxi, Hubei, Anhui, etc.); andZone C, the western border provinces where literacyeducation has floundered (Gansu, Qinghai, Tibet, etc.).36Recent Chinese government statistics support DaiXingyi's claim. In 1988 the Guangdong Yearbook claimed thatonly 539,311 persons between the ages of twelve and fortyremained illiterate in Guangdong. This number works out to2.15%, one of the lowest percentages of illiterates in allof China. If Dai Xingyi is right about Guangdong being afirst zone province in literacy, how did this happen? Thechapters that follow propose to examine these claims andtheir historical background.When I began the research for this study there was nota single English language book written on literacy in thePRC. In fact there was only one Western language work atall on the subject, and it was in German. Klaus Belde's21Saomanq: Kommunistische Alphabetisierunqsarbeit  waspublished in 1982.37 While valuable, Belde's book dealtalmost exclusively with the literacy campaigns of the 1950s.Since then one other study has appeared, Vilma Seeberg'saforementioned book on literacy attainment between 1949-1979. Seeberg's book introduced new data and an expandedtime frame, but I still felt that the subject cried out forthe attention of the historian, who would provide thesubject with a badly needed infusion of social andintellectual history.Up until now, the whole subject of literacy inGuangdong has been virtually uncharted terrain. This is thefirst study ever to look at literacy in China from theperspective of how national policies were received andimplemented within a single province and socio-culturalarea. As such, my project follows an important trend towardregional and local history in recent years. Most scholarswould agree that this represents the most meaningful way ofapproaching questions of social change in China.This study is intended as a contribution to a growingliterature on state-peasant relations in China. Like recentbooks by Jean Oi, Helen Siu, and Vivienne Shue, I amconcerned with the problem of state power and its impact onpeasant communities in Mao's China.38 To their credit,these authors do not approach state and society as if theywere two different things. Instead of casting state andsociety as the antithesis of one another, scholars like Oi22and Siu have emphasized their interpenetration.39 In thisthesis I attempt to construct a picture of how and to whatextent peasant literacy became embedded in the institutionsof rural society. For me, the two most important questionsare the extent to which the state was able to enforce itsliteracy standards and, secondly, what it meant to be a"literate" peasant in Mao's China, economically, sociallyand politically.The main body of the thesis is divided into ninechapters, each of which examines a different aspect orperiod in the history of literacy education since 1949. Thechapters are linked by an overarching chronologicalstructure. The first period, which I call the period oflesser literacy emphasis, lasted from 1949 until the eve ofcollectivization in 1955. During this period literacysuccumbed to other, more urgently defined priorities in masseducation related to the political consolidation andsecurity of the new state. Chapter one examines theseissues and traces the stagnation of literacy educationbetween 1949-55. Chapters two and three address how theliteracy movement was frustrated, first by the fiscalweakness of the state and by the state's inability to imposea national school system on the countryside, and secondly bythe state's tortuous relationship with the very villageschool teachers whom it depended upon to make the literacymovement work.23With collectivization in 1955 the literacy expectationsof China's leaders were revised. I call the following yearsfrom 1956-60 the period of greatest literacy emphasis.During this period China's leaders formulated an ideology ofpeasant literacy to fit their expectations of peasanteconomic and social life in rural collectives. Chapter fourlooks at the construction of this ideology and itsimplications for the continued reproduction of rural-urbandifferences in the PRC. Chapter five analyzes therelationship between literacy and rural collectivization,while chapter six scrutinizes the national literacycampaigns of 1956 and 1958 and assesses their results.Language reform is treated in a separate chapter (seven).Chapter eight completes this section by examining thepopular motives for and uses of literacy in ruralcollectives.The third part of the thesis deals with the decline ofliteracy from the mid-1960s until 1976. Chapter ninefocuses on two developments. First, it traces the increasedpoliticization of the content of adult literacy education,followed by the collapse of the literacy movement during theCultural Revolution years and its limited revival in the1970s. Secondly, chapter nine examines the CulturalRevolution attack on what critics called the 'two trackeducational system' (lianclzhonq jiaoyu zhidu), and treatscritically the Cultural Revolution model of rural schooleducation which briefly replaced it.24The emphasis of the thesis is on the period from 1949through the early 1960s. This is not only because of theinterruption of literacy work during the 'ten years ofturbulence' from 1966- 76, but, more importantly, because Ibelieve that the formative intellectual decisions, policiesand societal developments with respect to literacy all tookplace during the earlier period. If we view the history ofPRC literacy education over the longer duration from 1949 tothe present reform era the Cultural Revolution can appear asmerely an interregnum between two mini-epochs. Butsituating the Cultural Revolution as I have done enables thereader to see the Cultural Revolution as the final, in someways culminating, stage of literacy under Mao, when many ofthe tensions built up over previous years finally exploded.Thus many of the prominent educational themes of theCultural Revolution-- the attack on teachers, the temporarydestruction of the two track educational system, and theobliteration of education's link to physical and socialmobility-- had their origin in previous years, as I hope toshow.This study is based upon pioneering research intopreviously untouched sources. The greatest part of theresearch was carried out at Zhongshan University inGuangzhou during 1988-89. I spent the greater part of oneyear in Guangzhou, with Zhongshan University as my base.The greatest part of my library research was conducted atthree main institutions in Guangzhou: the superb Zhongshan25provincial library in Guangzhou, a virtual treasure trove ofmaterials for virtually any aspect of the social andeconomic history of modern Guangdong; the Guangzhoumunicipal library, which enabled me to locate many valuablecontemporary materials; and the library of ZhongshanUniversity, with its incomparable collection of Guangdongeducational journals.At Zhongshan University I was fortunate to link up withcolleagues in the Anthropology Department there who wereworking on a similar project on changes in cultural valuesin rural Guangdong under the reform period. This fruitfulcollaboration enabled me to undertake field work on a halfdozen occasions in four rural Guangdong counties. Thesefour counties were located in the Cantonese heartlandsurrounding Guangzhou: Hua, Nanhai, Panyu and Taishancounties. Field work in these counties consisted ofinterviews, several dozen in all, with rural adult educationofficials and administrators, school principals andteachers, students and parents. The interviews werevaluable not only as a means of verifying informationgleaned through official sources, but also as a source ofinsights and opinions unavailable from the official media.During my year in Guangdong I was privileged to read agreat many materials never previously looked at by anyWestern scholar. These included local and provincialarchival materials, document collections, literacy surveys,and conference reports, many of them handcopied from the26early 1950s. In some cases, as indicated, I was able toobtain access to previously and currently classifiedgovernment and Party documents.Local sources were particularly useful to this study.I was able to examine literacy primers from many differentvillages and levels of government, as well as localeducational histories, several of which were kindly providedto me when they were still only in draft version. Duringfield trips I was often able to peruse internal countyeducational department bulletins, which supply informationand viewpoints not expressed elsewhere.I have read all of the Guangdong provincial educationjournals for the 1950s and 1960s, and compared the findingsin these with my reading of the major national journals.The most valuable Guangdong journals I consulted wereGuangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua (Guangdong education and culture)and Guangdong jiaoyu (Guangdong education). Guangdong iiaoyu yu wenhua ceased publication in the early nineteenfifties, but it is a vital source for studying efforts totransform popular education during this period, as well asthe debates which accompanied those efforts. Guangdong jiaoyu, the journal of the Guangdong education bureau, isindispensable for all aspects of Guangdong education after1949. Unlike most of the other Guangdong materials used inthis study, copies of these journals are available in someNorth American libraries.27One other Guangdong source which I found to beparticularly valuable is the Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, 1949-85 (Guangdong educational yearbook). Like itscompanion volume at the national level, the Zhongquo jiaoyu nianjian, 1949-1981 (China educational yearbook), theGuangdong jiaoyu nianjian is a wealth of information andstatistics on virtually every aspect of education inGuangdong.Parts of the research for this thesis were also done inBeijing. While there (in the heady days of late May, 1989)I met with officials at the People's Education Press (Renmin jiaoyu chubanshe) and spent time at the Beijing TeachersUniversity (Beijing shifan daxue) where I was introduced tothe valuable work being done at the university's RuralEducation Research Unit.In Hong Kong I made extensive use of the researchmaterials of the Union Research Institute, now held by theBaptist College of Hong Kong. Material contained in thisthesis is also based on research I did during a previousyear spent at the Universities Service Center in Hong Kong.281 John K. Fairbank, The United States and China fourth ed.,enl. (Cambridge, Mass, and London: Harvard University Press,1983), p. 43. The implications of this view for China'searly modernization are spelled out in an earlier article byFairbank, Alexander Eckstein and L.S. Yang, "Economic Changein Early Modern China: An Analytic Framework" Economic Development and Cultural Change ix 1 (Oct. 1960): 1-26.2 Evelyn Sakakida Rawski, Education and Popular Literacy in Ch'ing China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press,1979), p. 23.3 Rawski, p. 140.4 Gilbert Rozman, ed., The Modernization of China (New York:The Free Press, 1981), pp. 187, 211, 216.5 For a persuasive dissenting view of Rawski's conception ofQing literacy and her argument concerning its modernization-enhancing effects, see Alexander Woodside, "Some Mid-QingTheorists of Popular Schools: Their Innovations,Inhibitions, and Attitudes Toward the Poor" Modern China 9 1(Jan. 1983): 3-35; and his "Real and Imagined Continuitiesin the Chinese Struggle for Literacy" (unpublished paperpresented to the UCLA Education in China Workshop, Feb.,1989).6 Jean C. Robinson, "Stumbling on Two Legs: Education andReform in China" Comparative Education Review 35 1 (Feb.1991): 179.7 Rozman, ed., The Modernization of . China, p. 373.8 Andrew J. Nathan, China's Crisis (New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press, 1990), p. 195.9 Jay Taylor, The Dragon and the Wild Goose: China and India (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987), p. 179.10 H.S. Bhola, Campaigning for Literacy: Eight National Experiences of the Twentieth Century, With a Memorandum to Decision-Makers (Paris: UNESCO, 1984), p. 74. On the Nomaprize awarded to China in 1982 see Charles W. Hayford,"Literacy Movements in Modern China" in National Literacy Campaigns: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (NewYork: Plenum Press, 1987) ed. Robert F. Arnove and Harvey J.Graff, p. 167.11 Vilma Seeberg, Literacy in China: The Effects of the National Development Context and Policy on Literacy Levels, 1949-1979 (Bochum: Brockmeyer, 1990).12 Seeberg, pp. 269, 278 - 279.2913 Seeberg, p. 269.14 "Xia Yan de feifu zhi yan: Jianguo yilai sanda cuowu"Yangchenq wanbao 18 Nov. 1988.15 The direct quotation is from "China Must Rescue itsSchools" China Daily 6 April 1989. The statistics in thisparagraph are gathered from this article as well as thefollowing sources. Disanci quanquo renkou pucha shougonq huizonq ziliao huibian vol. 5, Renkou wenhua chengdu (Beijing: Guowuyuan renkou pucha bangongshi, 1983)."Renkou: Shuliang yu zhiliang" Guangming ribao 13 April1989. On female illiteracy see Population Census Officeunder the State Council and Department of PopulationStatistics, State Statistical Bureau, ed., 1982 Population Census of China (Results of Computer Tabulation)  (Beijing:Zhongguo tongji chubanshe, n.d.), pp. 362-363 (in Chinese).See also Zhongguo renkou qingbao ziliao zhongxin, Zhongguo renkou ziliao shouce (Beijing: n.p., 1983), pp. 229-232.16 Zhang Zhigong's views are discussed in Woodside, "Realand Imagined Continuities in the Chinese Struggle forLiteracy," pp. 6-8.17 Hu Yaobang, "Guanyu nongcun saochu wenmang gongzuo" inDan kaizhan wenmanq yundonq ed. Guangdong sheng jiaoyu ting(Guangzhou: Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 1956), p. 25. Hu'sspeech was also printed in Renmin ribao 16 Nov. 1955, andreprinted in Union Research Institute L0364 42222.18 Charles W. Hayford, To the People: James Yen and Village China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990).19 This school of thought is most closely associated withJack Goody. Its earliest and most pure formulation (beforecritics forced its modification in key respects) is to befound in Jack Goody and Ian Watt, "The Consequences ofLiteracy" in Literacy in Traditional Societies ed. JackGoody (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968). Theview is presented in its most ideal form here for theheuristic purpose of contrasting it with the opposite modelof literacy described below. The idea that literacyfacilitates cognitive transformations by giving personsaccess to "vicarious experience" is from Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (New York: The Free Press, 1958), see the introduction.20 Harvey J. Graff, The Literacy Myth:Literacy and Social Structure in the Nineteenth Century City (New York andLondon: Academic Press, 1979). Brian V. Street, Literacy in Theory and Practice (Cambridge and New York: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1984).3021 Vivienne Shue, The Reach of the State: Sketches of the Chinese Body Politic (Stanford: Stanford University Press,1988), pp. 125-152.22 Shue, The Reach of the State, p. 148.23 Shue, The Reach of the State, pp. 147 - 148.24 Richard Madsen, Morality and Power in a Chinese Village (Berkeley: University of Clifornia Press, 1984), pp. 47,249-250.25 Ezra Vogel, Canton Under Communism: Programs and Politics in a Provincial Capital, 1949-1968 (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard Universiy Press, 1969), pp. 91-124.26 Glen D. Peterson, "Socialist China and the Huaqiao: TheTransition to Socialism in the Overseas Chinese Areas ofRural Guangdong" Modern China 14 3 (July 1988): 309-335.27 On the macroregions see the parts by Skinner in G.W.Skinner, ed., The City in Late Imperial China (Stanford:Stanford University Press, 1977).28 The material in this and subsequent paragraphs is fromthe following sources. Zhu Yuncheng, ed., Zhongguo renkou: Guangdong fence (Beijing: Zhongguo caizheng jingjichubanshe, 1988); Guangdong Nianiian 1988 (Guangzhou:Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 1988); Guangdong sheng tongjiju, ed., Guangdong shenq shi di xian gaikuang (Guangzhou: Guangdong sheng ditu chubanshe, 1985);Wu Yuwen, ed., Guangdong shenq jingji dili (Beijing: Xinhuachubanshe, 1986); Wen Yinggan and Liao Liqiong, "Zhenxingshanqu jingji de zhongyao huanjie: lun Guangdong shanqu dezhili kaifa" Xuebao (Zhongshan University) 2 (1987): 17 - 24.I am also grateful to Alexander Woodside for first raisingwith me many of the points made in this section.29 On the linguistic variety of Guangdong, see Leo J. Moser,The Chinese Mosaic: The Peoples and Provinces of China (Boulder: Westview Press, 1985), pp. 203-255. Interestedreaders should consult the many references listed in Moser'sbibliography on Cantonese and Hakka. Another vital sourceis S. Robert Ramsey, The Languages of China (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 98-113 on Cantonese,Min and Hakka.30 Susan Naquin and Evelyn S. Rawski, Chinese Society in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven and London: Yale UniversityPress, 1987), p. 178.31 Naquin and Rawski, pp. 178-181. As these authors note,there was a marked contrast in both economy and societybetween the Pearl River delta and its adjacent major urban31centres like Canton and Foshan (which had populations in theeighteenth century of between six hundred thousand and eighthundred thousand, and two hundred thousand, respectively),and the rest of the region. On the history of lineagedevelopment in the delta, see David Faure, "The Lineage as aCultural Invention: The Case of the Pearl River Delta"Modern China 15 1 (Jan. 1989): 4-36. On academies inGuangdong, Tilemann Grimm, "Academies and Urban Systems inKwangtung" in The City in Late Imperial China ed. G. WilliamSkinner, pp. 475-498.32 Feng Bingkui, Zhonqquo wenhua yu linqnan wenhua (Taibei:Taibei zhongxing daxue fashang xueyuan, 1962). For acontemporary celebration of these differences, see HuangNaizhao, He Wenguang and Gu Zuoyi, Guangzhou ren: Zuori yu jinri (Guangzhou: Guangzhou wenhua chubanshe, 1987).33 Guangdong nianjian 1987 (Guangzhou: Guangdong renminchubanshe, 1987).34 Qin Mu, "Guangdong wenhua jiaoyu lunkuo shu" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 1 6 (Oct. 1950): 2-6. Interestingly, QinMu wrote the preface for the recent 1987 book mentionedabove, Guangzhou ren: zuori yu jinri, which is a celebrationof Cantonese cultural distinctiveness in the 1980s,everything from language and food to the prevalence of HongKong fashions and late night shopping.35 In Guangdong as elsewhere an important part of the effortto takeover and reform popular culture involved rewritingthe "feudal" messages of traditional opera by inserting newrevolutionary themes. For a description of these efforts inGuangdong see "Yinian lai guangdong sheng nongcun wenyiyundong gaikuang" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 2 4 (Feb.1951): 13-14. See also Huang Ningying, "Yueju gaijin dejuti wenti" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 2 5 (Mar. 1951): 53-55. The effort was overseen by the newly formed Huanancultural arts association and Guangdong united cultural artsassociation. They oversaw the efforts of groups like theChaozhou Opera Improvement Association (Chaoju gaijin hui),which was composed of twenty leading Chaozhou operaperformers. New themes introduced in the 1950s included"women's literacy," "the fateful moment of rent reduction,""clarification of rumours," and "an honourable husband andwife." The use of popular oral tradition as a vehicle forspreading revolutionary messages originated long before(Peng Pai rewrote traditional peasant folksongs and operas,imbuing them with revolutionary content), and was usedheavily in the wartime base areas. Some of the repertoireoriginally developed then were introduced nationally after1949, such as the famous "White-haired Girl" opera (Baimao nu). In Guangdong, former base areas led the way in thereform of traditional opera, with state encouragement.Heyuan county in the East River region, for example, claimed32that nearly every village had established its own theatretroupe by the end of 1950.36 Dai Xingyi, "Qianxi woguo de wenmang renkou wenti" Renkou yu lingii 6 (1990): 23-26. I am grateful to AlexanderWoodside for bringing this article to my attention.37 Klaus Belde, Saomanq: Kommunistische Alphabetisierunqsarbeit (Bochum: Brockmeyer, 1982).38 Jean 0i, State and Peasant in Contemporary China: The Political Economy of Village Government (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1989); Helen F. Siu, Agents and Victims in South China: Accomplices in Rural Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989); Shue, The Reach of the State.39 Although the absence of any firm distinction betweenstate and society has received the theoretical attention ofChina scholars only recently, the artificiality of suchdistinctions was made clear years ago in an article byMarianne Bastid. Bastid pointed out that most PRC residentsasked to identify "the state" referred simply to the "upperlevels" (shanqii), regardless of their position in theadministrative hierarchy. Marianne Bastid, "Levels ofEconomic Decision-Making," in Authority, Participation, and Cultural Change in China ed. Stuart R. Schram (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1973), pp. 159-197.33Chapter 1THE STAGNATION OF EARLY POSTREVOLUTIONARY MASS EDUCATIONIn this chapter I explore the various and competingelite impulses which stimulated the literacy movement, andthen examine how these contradictory impulses were expressedin the formation of early literacy policy. The centralargument of this chapter is that between 1949 and 1956Chinese leaders were openly, if self-consciously, reluctantto make adult literacy education an unequivocal, irreduciblestate priority.Literacy education in the early years of the People'sRepublic succumbed to other more urgently defined masseducational priorities. That spreading literacy was not afull, unequivocal priority of the Chinese government after1949 may seem surprising, even contradictory. Officialstatements in the early 1950s frequently explained thehistorical necessity of universal literacy for 'buildingsocialism' (shehuizhuyi lianshe). Lenin's famous dicta that'it is impossible to build a socialist society on afoundation of mass illiteracy' and that 'illiterates stoodoutside politics' were widely quoted in official China inthe 1950s, as was Mao's injunction that 'New China cannot beestablished on a foundation of eighty percent illiteracy.'Western scholars and observers of the Chinese CommunistParty have also suggested that the CCP possesses a consuming3 4interest in mass literacy. I would maintain, however, thatthis interest has been mainly assumed rather thaninvestigated. To question this interest, as I am about todo with documentary evidence, is to challenge one of themost deeply cherished notions about the Chinese Revolution:the Communist Party's commitment to the educationalsalvation of the poor. One is reminded of the way in whichthe history of literacy in France became intimately bound upwith the debate over the legacies of the French Revolution,and hence with the fundamental values of French politicallife.Edgar Snow began the Western practice of linking theCCP to a consuming interest in mass literacy by interviewingyoung 'Reds' who credited their loyalty to the CCP to theparty's efforts to rescue them from illiteracy. "Did they(the peasants) like the Red Army?" Snow asked Old Dog, aseventeen year old veteran of the Long March. "The Red Armyhas taught me to read and write" said Old Dog.1The authors of Rozman's book on modernization in Chinadescribe 1949 as a "watershed" and a "breakthrough" alongthe way to accomplishing the "core" modernization tasks ofuniversalizing literacy and primary education marked by thecommitment of the leaders and by the PRC state's "muchgreater capacity for control and coordination."2In the remaining parts of this chapter I will show thatuniversal literacy was not an urgent priority for the CCP inthe first half of the nineteen fifties. Furthermore, in35this chapter I will also show that the state's "capacity forcontrol and coordination" was in fact severely hampered bythe disparate views of the various state actors on thesubject of mass education. The CCP's approach to massliteracy was both more complex and more divided than haspreviously been assumed.A Fragmented StateHow unified and strong was the PRC state in education?There is an established view which credits the success ofmass educational efforts in the PRC with the organizationalpower of the Chinese bureaucratic state. The World Bank,for instance, has identified the organizational power of theChinese state as the single most important factorcontributing to the success of literacy in China after 1949.In 1982 the Bank's non-formal adult education specialist forEast Asia described "the mobilization of political will, thecreation of a strong bureaucratic organization and theestablishment of a definitive planning process" as the "sine qua non of China's adult education success."3Vilma Seeberg in her study of literacy attainment inthe PRC emphasizes that "moderates" and "radicals" alikerelied on a "top-down structure" of educational planning.For Seeberg, the most salient characteristic of thisstructure was the preeminent role of the CCP as a "highly36centralized, doctrinaire, disciplined" Leninist party,"fully integrated" into the state bureaucracy.4Vivienne Shue has recently made an importantcontribution to our understanding of the limits of statepower in the PRC. Her concept of the "honeycomb polity"helps us to see that despite a formidable bureaucraticapparatus the power of the Maoist state was actually "deeplycompromised and fettered" by localist restraints.5I agree that Mao's China was a "honeycomb polity."However I would like to refine this important concept bytaking it one step further. Shue focusses on central-localrelations and emphasizes the diversity of the peasantperiphery. She says little about diversity at the top andhow this might affect her argument. I intend to show thatthere was also confusion of purpose and competing interestsat the top of the polity. Moreover, these competing viewsand interests at the top of the polity are what enabledlocal interests to defend themselves against centre demands.That diverse educational influences foundrepresentation and expression within the new state is hardlysurprising, if we follow recent scholarship on bureaucraticpolitics. The PRC state was not a monolith. Like allstates, it was comprised of an essential "pluralism" ofpolicy tendencies: a set of competing and difficult toreconcile interests founded on the compartmentalization ofbureaucratic responsibility, geographic interests, centre-37local divisions, generational splits, political differences,and other cleavages.Kenneth Lieberthal and Michel Oksenberg have recentlytermed "a fragmented structure of authority" as one of themost "salient characteristics of the structure of power" inChina. This "fragmented structure" was also a feature ofthe educational state as well. Indeed, it is possible toargue that education was an arena of state activity that wasespecially prone to "fragmentation" by competing ideologies.For one thing, as Lieberthal and Oksenberg point out,compared to other less overtly ideological areas of stateactivity where the political "zone of indifference" is wideenough for the Communist Party to accommodate non-Party"experts" with relative ease, education and culture arerealms where the communist party has much greater interestsand responsibilities.6Thus it is probably correct to hypothesize that ineducation the famous conflict between party "ideologues" andstate "experts" was especially volatile and deeplyentrenched. Vilma Seeberg attributes a major cause of theuneven progress of literacy education after 1949 to the factthat the administration of literacy education was"continuously shifted" between party and state organs.Seeberg interprets this as the alternation of what she calls"Maoist Radicalism" (defined as a party-led "masspoliticization approach" to education) with a morepragmatic, "manpower needs"-based "Moderate Policy"38emanating from the Ministry of Education, the bastion ofprofessional expertise in education after 1949.7It would be insufficient, however, to view theconflicts over literacy policy exclusively or even primarilyfrom the purely structural perspective of bureaucraticpolitics, involving a struggle between "ideologues"entrenched in the party apparatus and pragmatic "experts"ensconced in the state bureaucracy. For one thing, this(false) dichotomy obscures the fact that educationalphilosophies that emphasize the paramountcy of professionalexpertise or of a "manpower needs"-based approach toeducation are themselves ideological statements, rooted inparticular conceptions of social order. Secondly, a purelystructural approach-- even if it explodes the myth ofmonolithic state power-- is of limited value for unpackingthe complex intellectual influences that formed earlyliteracy education policy.Early Elite Influences on Mass Literacy PolicyWhat were the roadmaps that guided early literacyplanners? Mao Zedong, for one, appears not to have beengreatly interested in the problem of peasant illiteracy inthe early 1950s, his scarce pronouncements on the subjectindicating ritual obeisance to its importance rather than agenuine sense of emergency. Mao's much celebrated-- and39often cited-- 1949 comment that New China could not besuccessfully established on a foundation of 80% illiteracyin the countryside appears on balance merely to have been aformulaic restatement of the above-noted, similarly well-worn pronouncement of Lenin's.8In fact it could be argued that Mao showed far greaterinterest in the problem of peasant literacy during his earlyyears as a peasant organizer and instructor at the PeasantMovement Training Institute at Canton in the 1920s. There,in his classroom lectures, as the preserved notes of hisstudents reveal, Mao pondered the reasons why peasantspreferred the old-style "Han learning" (hanxue), whichemphasized classical literacy and moral indoctrination, overthe modern "foreign" subjects (yangxue). As arevolutionary, Mao was most concerned with the lessons theparty could draw from this in its bid to attract peasantsupport, and he suggested that communist schools learn fromthe example of the traditional village school.9After 1949 Mao's public pronouncements on literacy wereboth rare and brief. There are no great disquisitions onpeasant literacy in Mao's writings, as there are on thenature of class antagonisms under socialism or therelationship of intellectuals to the communist party.Mao's interest in the literacy movement (apart from thelanguage reform movement about which he also made scatteredpronouncements) appears to have been aroused most bycollectivization in 1955-56. With collectivization Mao40began to urge the importance of peasant literacy forcalculating and recording workpoints in the collectives. Inorder to uncover the sources that stimulated and shaped theearly literacy movement, we will have to look beyond theapparently limited influence of Chairman Mao.One sign of the inadequacy of viewing the debate overearly literacy policy in terms of a simple dichotomy ofparty ideologues versus professional experts is particularlycompelling. That was the appearance in 1949 of Ma Xulun asfirst Minister of Education in the People's Republic ofChina.10To describe Ma Xulun as an "expert" in the sense inwhich that term is usually employed, as a modern technocrat,would be seriously to misunderstand Ma's intellectual worldand his place, and that of many other intellectuals likehim, in modern China. Ma Xulun represented not moderntechnocracy but the elite tradition of classical education,some of whose post-1911 leaders converted to communism andbecame linguistic revolutionaries.Born in 1884, Ma was an accomplished classical scholar,a renowned philologist and former professor of Chinesephilosophy at Peking University for twenty years (1916 - 36).His earliest works pre-dated the 1911 Revolution, yet hisgreatest scholarly contribution-- a textual criticism of theShuowen liezi (a 100 A.D. analytical dictionary ofcharacters )-- did not actually appear until 1957. Inbetween, Ma continued to publish philological studies of41inscriptions on Zhou dynasty stone drums and philosophicalresearches on Laozi and Zhuangzi. Meanwhile he served,variously, as director of propaganda in the Pekingheadquarters of the KMT; Vice Minister of Education in theNanking government; co - founder of the China Association forthe Promotion of Democracy; and, finally, first Minister ofEducation in the People's Republic and a prominent member ofthe Committee for the Reform of the Chinese Language.What does the appearance of someone like Ma Xulun asthe first Minister of Education in Mao's government tell usabout the formation of education policy in the new state?After all, at the time of the May Fourth Movement Ma hadbeen one of the most ardent opponents of the baihua (plainspeech) movement to replace the old classical language withvernacular script.At the very least, Ma's appearance suggests thatcontrary to what Western scholars have often assumed andwhat Chinese leaders themselves often publicly portrayed,the communists were far less certain of the necessity tojettison as much as possible of the enormous legacy ofChina's educational past, in their search for reliablefoundations upon which to build the education of New China.Ma Xulun's location in the universe of PRC officialdomsuggests that Chinese leaders believed in the possibilitythat the classical past and its representatives had a roleto play.42But what sort of role? Ma Xulun and other linguisticrevolutionaries like him were officially there to providetechnical assistance and scholarship to support and ratifythe CCP's language reforms.11 Ma's 1957 study of theShuowen jiezi, for example, analyzed one of the earliestefforts to devise standardized pronunciations for thecharacters; it therefore placed the CCP's efforts tostandardize the language as the culmination of a heritagethat stretched back to the first century.But Ma Xulun influenced the PRC literacy movement inanother, equally important way. Ma Xulun and hiscontemporaries brought to the early literacy movement anelite scholar's erudite appreciation of the extraordinaryhistorical depth and rich complexity of the Chinese writtenlanguage.The vantage point from which Ma viewed the intricaciesof Chinese literacy in 1949 represented the accumulatedefforts of half a century of linguistic scholarship. Fromhis vantage point as a linguist Ma was predisposed to rejectquick solutions to China's illiteracy problem. Heunderstood the Chinese language too well to accept suchsolutions. Therefore, combined with his dedication as alinguistic revolutionary to simplify the script in order tomake it more accessible, Ma Xulun also stressed theunavoidable complexities of Chinese literacy. And he did soin ways that bridled the impatient aspirations of otherrevolutionaries who did not share Ma's perspective.43In nearly all of the twentieth century socialrevolutions, the impatience of the revolutionaries has beenreflected in the sense of urgency with which they haveembraced the goal of universal literacy. Lenin announced anational campaign to eradicate illiteracy within two yearsof the 1917 Revolution, and made it a criminal offence forilliterates between the age of eight and fifty to refuse tostudy. In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed within one monthof the 1945 August Revolution that all Vietnamese were to beable to read and write romanized Vietnamese within one year,while possibly having to fight a major war against theFrench at the same time. In Cuba, Fidel Castro launched auniversal literacy campaign in 1961, within two years of thedefeat of the last Batista forces; and in Nicaragua, theSandinos launched their national literacy crusade (CruzadaNacional de Alfabetizacion) within fifteen days of winningpower.12Yet in China Ma Xulun began by warning delegates to thefirst national conference on worker-peasant education inSeptember 1950 to resist the temptation simply to "decree"the immediate abolition of illiteracy in China.The raising of the people's impoverished educationallevel was an enormously complex undertaking, Ma tolddelegates to the conference, which could only beaccomplished by "gradually eliminating" illiteracy over anextended period.13 Qian Qunrui, another leading educationalfigure in the early years of the People's Republic, echoed44Ma's views when he stated in 1951 that because of thebackwardness of the economy, the shortage of qualifiedteachers, and the diverse kinds and levels of literacy amongthe peasant population, the literacy movement could notafford to begin on a nationwide scale. Rather, it would belimited at first to the "most important" areas.By "most important" areas Qian explained that the firstpriority would be to expand literacy education in the CCP'spre-1949 base areas. Placing the former base areas ahead ofall other regions in the provision of literacy education canbe seen as reward for political loyalty during the party'stime in the wilderness.But it also had to do with the fact that, as QianQunrui put it, peasants in the old base areas were "alreadyorganized." That is to say, peasants in these areas werealready firmly under the CCP's control. Qian recognized, inother words, that literacy was potentially politicallyempowering, and was therefore politically dangerous whenintroduced into localities, such as most of Guangdong, wherethe power to channel literate skills into politically "safe"uses was not fully assured.14In Guangdong, where big lineages had nurtured a strongtradition of elite scholarship in private academies(shuyuan) which prepared lineage sons for success in theimperial examinations, a 1951 conference on peasant andworker education appears to have agreed with Ma's views onthe need for gradualism in the inculcation of literacy. Du45Guoxiang, Director of the Guangdong Bureau of Culture andEducation, told conference delegates that "impatientstriving" after immediate universal literacy would only leadto the blind worship of illiteracy eradication statistics atthe expense of nurturing the quality of literate skillsamong China's masses of ordinary peasants.15In fact some Chinese educators argued that the sourcesf "conservative" intellectual opposition to the idea ofraising literacy levels through mass campaigns-- educationalelitism, professional resistance to the communist party, andpolitical neglect--were "especially strong" in Guangdongprovince.16 The Cantonese writer Qin Mu argued in 1950 thatthe Guangdong gentry was uninterested in mass primaryeducation. Specifically, Qin Mu argued that gentry controlof rural education led to the stagnation of primaryschooling in Guangdong during the 1930s and '40s. Gentryhad used education to consolidate local dominance bybuilding private middle schools and universities to serve asfeeder institutions for local commercial and politicalnetworks, but had neglected primary education. As a resultprimary enrollment on the eve of 'Liberation' was unchangedfrom what it had been in 1937 (about 1.5 million).17Conservative intellectual opposition to literacycampaigns was particularly strong in Guangdong for anotherreason as well. For historical reasons which began with theOpium War, Canton, along with Shanghai, was the preeminentbastion of Western-style educational professionalism or46"bourgeois" pedagogy (as Mao preferred) in the nineteenfifties. The bourgeois pedagogues resented communist partyinterference in educational affairs. In taking the viewthat Chinese literacy acquisition was a complex, timeconsuming effort for both students and teachers that defiedquick and easy solutions imposed from above by politicians,elite antiquarian scholars like Ma found support from moremodern-minded professional education circles.Such persons represented a broad spectrum of differingeducational views, and it would be unfair to portray them inthe same narrow and condescending terms as Mao did. But itis worth pointing out that in Guangdong its members in theearly nineteen fifties included those whom the Cantonesewriter Lu Lan described in 1952 as "foreign-educated Ph.D.s"(yangboshi) who attacked mass literacy campaigns withsophisticated imported theories of hereditary intelligence(like those of the British-American Harvard psychologist andproponent of "selective breeding," Raymond Cattell). Thesepedagogues, according to Lu Lan, argued that it wasunproductive to waste scarce resources and effort oneducating the poor, who lacked the innately superiorlearning abilities found among the upper classes.When it came to streaming of classes into good and badstudents, they similarly ignored the social causes of pooracademic performance and allegedly seized upon the fact thatthe majority of bright students were from the upper classeswhile bad students were overwhelmingly from the lower47classes. This they said was further evidence that the classbasis of academic performance was "heavenly instilled"(tianxing ruci).18The Elitist Nature of Early Literacy Education PolicyOfficially more than eighty percent of the Chinesepopulation over the age of fourteen could neither read norwrite at a level sufficient to be classified as literateaccording to the party's minimal demand of a knowledge of atleast one thousand characters.19 But local surveys indicatea huge range of illiteracy rates. These figures fromGuangdong were probably representative of the situation inthe country as a whole. A 1950 township level survey ofilliteracy in Guangdong taken immediately after thecommunists took power in the province showed illiteracyrates that ranged from a high of ninety percent in Tanjiaotownship in Jieyang county near Shantou, in northeasternGuangdong, to a low of sixty five percent in Wenxiutownship, Gaoshan district, in southern Guangdong.20In the Pearl river delta region, where lineage andoverseas-sponsored education was especially significantbefore 1949, illiteracy rates still varied enormously. Forexample, even in Shunde county, one of the most prosperouscounties in the delta, the illiteracy rate in Longjiangtownship was over eighty two percent, higher even than the48seventy eight percent average for all townships in thissurvey.Such variation even in a county like Shunde underscoresthe need for caution in drawing inferences about the extentof popular literacy in this region based upon a falselypresumed correlation between economic prosperity and levelof educational attainment. Numerous factors could be citedto explain the extent of illiteracy in Longjiang township inShunde in the early 1950s. The majority of the literateelite may have fled to Hong Kong, which is near Shunde; orthe township may have been home to a particularly largenumber of dependents of overseas Chinese, the preponderanceof whom were normally elderly males and women. Both ofthese groups tended to have high rates of illiteracy.The exact reasons for the high illiteracy figure inLongjiang were not given. The point is that the economicprosperity of the delta, nurtured in part by the strength ofits lineages and overseas links, did not lead to universallyhigh literacy rates across the region. Furthermore, some ofthe same factors that contributed to the economic success ofthe region may also have been the cause of severe imbalancesin illiteracy rates, by locality, by sex, and by socialclass as well. Annales historians have similarly arguedthat prosperity can sometimes work against literacy-- inprosperous areas, people wanted their children to takeadvantage of job opportunities.2149National and regional figures alone do not convey thefull range of the illiteracy problem in the countryside.When viewed from the village, illiteracy was often greaterthan national or regional figures alone might suggest (theopposite, of course, was also sometimes true). The Chineseeducational press in the early 1950s was replete withexamples like Chengjie, a village of one thousand nearGuangzhou. There was only one primary school graduate inChengjie in 1951, the son of a local landlord who hadstudied in an English language school in Hong Kong. In Xivillage, population two thousand, only three percent ofvillagers could read and write.22Illiteracy was especially high among women. A 1950survey of Hexi district, the oldest communist base area inthe East river region, can serve as an example. Located inHeyuan county, Hexi was composed in 1950 of six townshipsand some forty seven villages, with a total population of65,815. Hexi had completed land reform in the winter of1947, well before other parts of Guangdong. In 1950 therewere 285 evening schools operating in the district, attendedby 6,515 men and 9,164 women. But in the regular primaryand middle schools in the district, the situation was theopposite. In the primary schools in Hexi there were 6,580males and only 1,280 females. In the district's middleschools there were 211 males and only 9 females.23The policy discussions of Chinese leaders in the 1950sshow two partly contending impulses as stimulating literacy50during this period. One emanated from the CCPs accumulatedwartime experience in mass education.^This traditionemphasized the popular mobilizational uses of masseducation, more than education's presumed capacity tofacilitate bureaucratic rule. Moreover, the "Yanan model"stressed the deployment of a wide array of populareducational techniques, of which literacy education was butone.24The second impulse originated in a functionalistconception of literacy's role in bureaucratic and economicrationalization. This impulse became increasingly prominentafter 1949, as China's revolutionaries-turned-state buildersbegan to perceive illiteracy as an obstacle to politicalunity and economic progress. Initially, however, these twoimpulses were in competition with one another in the earlynineteen fifties. In the end, the older mass mobilizationaluses of education prevailed, and literacy educationfoundered.Of the two impulses stimulating literacy in the early1950s, Ma Xulun had emphasized the second one, the criticalimportance of literacy for facilitating bureaucratic rule.Shortly after assuming his position as China's firstMinister of Education Ma enunciated a literacy educationpolicy that was deliberately and dramatically elitist. Inlate 1950 Ma put forward the Ministry of Education'sposition that the most urgent mass educational concern was51to increase the level of literacy among rural party membersand village activists.By village activists Ma was referring to members of theYouth League, Women's Federation and other massorganizations which transmitted central policies to localconstituencies. Henceforward, said Ma, the literacymovement in the countryside was to be restricted exclusivelyto the activists and party members who constituted theparty-state's network of local cadres. Only later would themovement gradually be expanded to include other socialgroups as wel1.25Ma's decision to rest the literacy movement on a firmlyelitist foundation laid the new state open to charges it waswilling to forsake its moral obligation to the poor for thesake of the statist objective of consolidating bureaucraticrule in the countryside. Given the enormity of peasantilliteracy, what were the reasons behind Ma Xulun's patentlyself-conscious decision to exclude the vast majority ofChina's peasants from the government's literacy educationplans? Ma's speech on the subject shows the considerablepains he was at to justify this policy as being temporarilynecessary.Several key considerations lay behind the deliberatelyelitist orientation of early literacy education policy. Onewas the belief, already mentioned, that literacy wasincreasingly seen as a functional requisite for localleaders, as party work shifted from military and political52struggle to the complex management and administrative tasksassociated with state-building and planned economicdevelopment. As Qian Qunrui explained in 1951, localfunctionaries were "the bridge between the masses and thestate in the implementation of state policies anddirectives. We must therefore make greater efforts toeducate them in order that their cultural and politicallevel can be raised and their leading role and transmissionfunction can reach its peak."26A second reason for the elite emphasis of early literacypolicy was the related fear that these functions wereconstantly in danger of being appropriated and subverted atlocal levels. The danger came from former elites who soughtto exploit their monopoly on badly needed literate skills inorder to achieve privileged positions and treatment in thenew bureaucratic and political order, or else to sabotagethe efforts of the new government in the hope that it couldnot survive.The gap between the educational level of most villagecadres and the educational demands of rapid modernizationwas politically hazardous in another way. The PRC state wasforced from the outset to rely on former literate elites whowould pledge allegiance to the new state to carry out itsadministrative functions. Such dependence was politicallysensitive however, because it constantly ran the risk of de-legitimizing a movement which rode to power on the ideologyand the reality of peasant support.53Worried reports from Guangdong in 1951 spoke ofilliterate village cadres becoming increasingly resentful ofthe fact that intellectuals from the old society wererapidly assuming positions of power purely on the basis oftheir superior educational qualifications. They blamed notnecessarily the intellectuals, but the communist party forforsaking its moral obligation and historical debt topeasants. These same Cantonese cadres charged that whereasthe party had relied upon peasants to carry out thedifficult and costly struggle for power, the party was nowcontent to rely on intellectuals to run the country.27Illiterate village cadres in Guangdong were said to befeeling inferior after 1949, because they feared that eventhough their political credentials were of the highestorder, they would never become the "experts" (zhuanjia) whowere needed to run the new society. The motive of aCantonese peasant cadre named Dong Chengdui for becomingliterate was typical of the pressures facing illiteratevillage functionaries in the early 1950s. In 1949 Dong waschosen to attend a five day conference on the popularizationof scientific farming techniques. Fearful that hisinability to take notes at the meeting would prevent himfrom remembering valuable information and thereby cause himto lose face among the other villagers, Dong resolved tostay up the night before the meeting in order to memorizesixteen characters that described a single farmingtechnique. But when he returned from the conference Dong54found that he still could not recall any of the detaileddiscussions that had taken place and, worse, that he couldremember only twelve of the sixteen characters.28Another illustration of the motives which impelled somelocal functionaries to become literate comes from a nineteenfifties Guangdong rural literacy primer, entitled "Storiesabout learning culture" (Xue wenhua de qushi). The primerattempted to motivate illiterate activists to becomeliterate by detailing the face-losing experiences of twoilliterate woman activists. Luo Yefang was an illiteratefrom Maoming county in southwestern Guangdong. Liu Si wasan illiterate from Pingyuan county in northeasternGuangdong. Both joined the communist party and took uplocal leadership positions in the early nineteen fifties.Li Si was elected head of the local Women's Federationin 1953. Afterwards, she was chosen to attend a sixteen dayparty-sponsored literacy class. But after attending she wasstill only able to write her name and the names of the localtownship, district and county. When she was elected head ofthe village cooperative other villagers ridiculed herinability to read and write. She had to rely on thecooperative accountant to explain bulletins from seniorgovernment and party levels, and to formulate productionplans on her behalf.Luo Yefang faced similar kinds of social pressures.She experienced the "bitter taste" of illiteracy within afew months of becoming assistant township head and enduring55the scorn of others. Probably, in both instances the scornwas unusually severe because of resentment of femaleleaders. Luo Yefang was determined to become literate, butfound it impossible to find time to study because of thenumber of official meetings she attended.29The latter was a formidable and much discussed problemin the nineteen fifties, as local officials faced increasingofficial and personal pressures to become literate. At thesame time as they began to face these pressures, however,they also faced apparently stronger pressures to attendmeetings, mediate conflicts, etc. Many reports from thisperiod speak of local officials and activists being thefirst to enroll in literacy classes and the first to dropout.30As a result of such problems, the effort to improveliteracy among peasant cadres and communist party memberscame to focus on special full time intensive courses held atcounty capitals. Cadres chosen to attend such courses werereleased from their village duties for the duration of theirstudies, and then expected to return to the village.The effort took the form of the creation of a nationalnetwork of cultural make-up schools (wenhua buxi xuexiao).The schools aimed to impart a condensed primary schooleducation within one to three years and prepare a selectnumber of graduates for further study in special"accelerated worker-peasant middle schools" (cionqnonq suchenq zhonqxue). Students were recruited from among56township and village cadres, peasant associations, massorganizations, and the communist party.By late 1950 eighteen accelerated worker-peasant middleschools were set up across the country. Combinedenrollment, however, was only twenty five hundred. By 1955the number of schools had risen to eighty seven, with fiftyone thousand students.31In Guangdong there were a total of twenty two cadremake-up schools operating by 1955. The first worker-peasantaccelerated middle school in Guangdong opened in Guangzhouin February 1951. Nearly two hundred students attended,drawn from counties across the province.32 By 1955 therewas still only this one worker-peasant accelerated middleschool in Guangdong.33My research shows these schools were bedevilled byproblems. They especially found it difficult to recruit thetype of students for whom the schools were originallyintended. In many cases local authorities were unwilling torelease their officials to attend these schools. Theschools were located in county capitals and officials fearedthat persons sent to these schools would not return to thevillages, using the schools merely as "a brick to open adoor" (criaomen zhuan).As a result, the opportunity to attend such schools wasfrequently awarded to the least qualified officials whomlocal authorities believed they could afford to lose, orelse as a reward to persons with long or distinguished57revolutionary careers. In 1951 it was estimated that aroundhalf the students in the worker-peasant accelerated middleschools had "cultural levels" below that of primary schoolgraduates.34In the case of areas of the province populated byminority peoples, Guangdong authorities followed nationalpractice in setting up minority institutes for trainingcadres from among these peoples. Before such instituteswere established in Guangdong, minority cadres were givenshort term courses in existing colleges and universities.Thus in the early nineteen fifties one hundred minoritypeople cadres graduated from short term training classes atNanfang University in Guangzhou. Upon completing theircourses graduates were sent back to their villages with tenphotographs of Mao Zedong and a hoe.35Influence of Wartime Experience on Illiteracy amongCommunist Party Members in North China and Guangdong in the1950sMa Xulun was especially concerned about thepervasiveness of illiteracy within the communist partyitself. By the communist party's own estimates, astaggering sixty nine percent of communist party memberswere illiterate in 1949-- only marginally less than theeighty percent figure claimed for the country as a whole.3658Ma Xulun placed the blame for this situation directly on thelegacy of wartime mass educational experience. Hecomplained publicly in 1950 that New China had inherited ahuge corps of peasant cadres with impeccable revolutionarycredentials but no education.A Ministry of Education document which bears theimprint of Ma's views was even more explicit. It bluntlydeclared that while mass education in the Old LiberatedAreas of North China had scored tremendous victories inraising peasants' political consciousness and inspiring themto struggle against the Japanese invaders, the achievementsin terms of raising popular literacy levels were "not verygreat".37Mark Selden's research on the Yanan period confirmsthis view. Selden found that many district magistrates inthe Shan-Gan-Ning border region government were "illiterateor only semiliterate" peasants who hired intellectual cadresonto their staffs to handle administrative duties; thatlocal cadres such as township and sub-district heads"typically were illiterate peasant revolutionaries"recruited during land reform; and that the township itselfremained "relatively insulated" during the communist period,with "professional administrators and literate cadresconcentrated in the regional and district bureaucracy."38In 1951 Qian Qunrui further confirmed this judgement.He referred to the "three kinds" of village educationpracticed in the 'old liberated areas' as political59education, technical education related to village economicactivities, and "cultural learning" or basic literacy. Onlythe first two had prevailed, said Qian, while literacy wasneglected.39It is not hard to see why the communist party was ableto emerge victorious in North China with its ranks brimmingwith illiterates. In the effort to recruit local activists,the ability to read and write was often simply lessimportant than other considerations. Illiteracy was notnecessarily a handicap to the pursuit of power and prestigein the village world. The popular culture sanctionednumerous non-literacy based sources of local authority,which the communist party was able and willing to allyitself with. As Richard Madsen has shown, such sourcesincluded one's social class background, a charismaticability to arouse the political emotions of fellowvillagers, and even the ability to defend the villagecommunity against the demands of outside interests.40Yet in 1949 the educational profile of the communistparty in North China was strikingly different than that ofthe Guangdong branch of the party. In both instances theeducational structure of the party was shaped by wartimeexperience, but the results were exactly opposite. Thecommunist movement in Guangdong was comprised almostexclusively of urban intellectuals and students who joinedthe party during the Japanese occupation of 1938-45. Exceptfor the peasant movement in Haifeng, Guangning and Hua60counties during the 1920s, and scattered guerilla basesestablished during the Japanese occupation, the communistpresence in Guangdong villages was virtually non-existentbefore 1949.41The preponderance of students and intellectuals isreflected in statistics gathered in 1950. Of one hundredtwenty nine "leading" communist party cadres in Guangdong in1950, thirty four were university graduates; eighty eighthad attended some form of middle school; and only three weremerely primary school graduates. More than eighty eightpercent of these leading cadres joined the party during thewar against Japan. When the first Guangdong peoplescongress convened in 1950, thirty two of the forty politicalparty delegates (which included delegates from non-communistparties) were from non-worker and non-peasant backgrounds.Twenty four had college level education. Significantly,less than six percent of those attending were illiterate.42But as the CCP expanded into Guangdong after 1949, theeducational profile of the party in Guangdong was graduallyreversed.^The lower echelons began to fill up withilliterate activists. At the same time, the indigenousleadership of intellectuals and students who had joined theparty during the Japanese occupation was purged in the early1950s. Many of its leading members were subsequentlyreplaced by northern cadres more loyal to the partycenter.4361Statistics bear out the increasing preponderance ofilliterates in the Guangdong party structure after 1949. By1953 the number of cadres in the province had risen to193,000. Of these, fully sixty five percent had less than ajunior middle school education. Thirty four percent hadonly a primary school education.By 1956 the educational profile of the Guangdong partystructure had deteriorated even further. A classifiedreport prepared by the Guangdong education bureau in thatyear estimated that four of every seven leading cadres inmost townships in Guangdong were illiterate.44Prohibition of Literacy Education in Guangdong in the Early1950sThe priority given to improving literacy among the newvillage elite collided in the early 1950s with an oldertradition of mass education in the CCPs wartime base areas.Some CCP leaders believed that the social mobilization goalswhich had dominated the party's approach to populareducation before 1949 had continuing relevance for thepostrevolutionary period. Furthermore they believed thatthese goals should take precedence over literacy educationin the new state, at least under certain circumstances.During the Yanan period Chinese leaders conceived ofpopular education as comprised of two distinct streams.62Though not mutually exclusive, one emphasized learning toread and write (lit., "learning culture"), while the otherstressed political mobilization. As explained in a Ministryof Education document of 1949, the winter schools (dongxue),which were the touchstone of mass education efforts in thebase areas, had both a "cultural" as well as a "political"purpose. One was to inculcate basic literacy skills fordaily living, and to communicate current party policies anddirectives in order to achieve compliance and mobilization.The other political purpose allotted some significance toliteracy education, but it also emphasized the deployment ofa wide panoply of popular educational devices to ensure thatparty messages reached non-literate audiences as well.These included oral, aural, and visual means such as lanternslides, photography exhibits, popular dance and theatretroupes, even the ancient system of village lectures(xianciyue).45Mao himself attached great importance to such forms ofpopular education, perhaps more than he attached to booklearning. As early as 1927 Mao had remarked that "thegreatest achievements of the peasant associations are alwaysto do with popularizing political propaganda. Some simpleslogans, picture books, and lectures... the results areextremely wide-ranging and rapid." When Mao scornedacademically-oriented modern schools, it was usually fromthis perspective. "Can opening ten thousand law andpolitical science schools succeed in popularizing politics63among the peasants, men and women, young and old in such ashort time as the peasant associations have been able todo?" Mao asked rhetorically. "I think not."46 As StuartSchram has pointed out, Mao's "approach to revolutionstresses the importance of cultural change, and education,in the broadest sense, is the instrument by which he seeksto create new men and women" (italics added).47Hence the Ministry of Education's first policystatement on worker-peasant education was a curiousdocument. On the one hand it affirmed the functionalimportance of literacy for bureaucratic-economicrationalization and local leaders as the targets. But onthe other hand it also set limits on the allowable emphasisgiven to literacy education.Specifically, the Ministry of Education stated that thepainstaking effort required to "learn culture" was inconflict with the priority of political mobilization duringland reform. The state did not want peasants to becomepreoccupied with the laborious task of learning charactersat a time when it believed peasants' mental energies wouldbe better spent cultivating the political psychology whichthe state regarded as critical to the success of landreform. Literacy education was therefore to be forbidden inareas where land reform had not yet been carried out.48In 1950 this included virtually all of Guangdongprovince, which did not even begin land reform until the endof 1950.49 The Guangdong educational yearbook records that64it was not until 1952, three years after the founding of thenew state, that mass education in the province switched from'contemporary political affairs education' (zhenqzhi shishi jiaoyu) to 'cultural education' (wenhua jiaoyu) with'literacy education' (shizi jiaoyu) as its 'keypoint'(zhonqdian).50With literacy education prohibited in Guangdong untilafter the completion of land reform in 1952, the initialaims of mass education in the province after 1949 werepurely propagandistic. They included instructing peasantson the party's policies with respect to land reform, themarriage law, state grain requisitions and anti-hoardingmeasures, and the prohibited use of Hong Kong currency.51The curriculum was fluid according to the rapidly changingpolitical situation, and conducted largely through massmeetings and various other non-print media. A 1952 reporton mass education in Fengxun county in Guangdong describesthe focus of this effort as organizing travelling lanternslide shows which instructed villagers on Americanimperialism and landlord sabotage; as well as photoexhibitions of Korean war battle scenes and life in theSoviet Union.52The decision to prohibit literacy education inGuangdong until the completion of land reform had serioushistorical consequences for the type of local leaders whichwere recruited in Guangdong villages in the early 1950s. It65also had historic implications for the educational profileof the party as a whole in Guangdong.Mark Selden found that in North China villages duringthe 1930s and 1940s, "the overwhelming majority of localactivists who emerged in the course of the land revolutionwere illiterate peasants or soldiers...who were innocentboth of revolutionary ideology and of the workings of stableadministration."53 The post-1949 prohibition of literacyeducation in areas which were undergoing land reform wasremarkable because it signalled the willingness-- if not theintention-- of the state to see the same pattern ofilliterate local leadership reproduced in rural Guangdongafter 1949.The state decision not to allow literacy training inareas undergoing land reform may also simply have reflectedChinese leaders' respect for the arduousness of Chineseliteracy. Or it may have been a sign of lack of confidencein ability of the Chinese peasantry, that peasants could notsafely accomplish two important and difficult tasks at once.It is worth bearing in mind that literacy training andpolitical activism were not inherently irreconcilable. Inneighbouring Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh'used land reform as theoccasion to mount a mass education campaign designed tocreate a corps of village leaders who were both politicallyreliable and literate.54^Within five years, Chineseleaders would be studying this experience in order to "catchup" in literacy education. Finally, however, we should66perhaps also bear in mind the crucial fact of the outbreakof the Korean War and how it raised the spectre ofsubversion and invasion, especially in the South. Classwarfare was a way to defend against these perceived threats,and land reform was a much more effective way of fomentingclass struggle than study.Land reform was not the only occasion during which itwas officially advised to downgrade the time and effortdevoted to literacy education. The importance of literacyeducation was further degraded in the early 1950s by theMinistry of Education's provision that in the case of"important political movements" villages should reduce thetime and effort spent on literacy education and devote moreattention to "political education on current policies."55Thus after the Korean war broke out in late 1950, theMinistry of Education announced that the main educationaltask of citizens across the country was to take part in themovement to "Resist America and Aid Korea". Village winterschools (which had an estimated enrollment of thirty fivemillion at the time) were identified by the Ministry asbeing one of the country's most important mobilizationalweapons for carrying out the movement. The Ministryexpressly called upon local officials to root out those whoclung to the belief that "learning culture" was moreimportant than non-literacy based "political and currentaffairs education."5667In fact local officials and villagers alike were notlikely to consider familiarity with current "internationalaffairs" a natural priority of village educationalcurriculum. During the Resist America and Aid KoreaCampaign, for example, party educators discovered to theirchagrin that many Cantonese villagers did not even knowwhere Korea was.57 As Richard Madsen says, "the members ofa relatively poor, isolated farming village are not likelyto extend their conception of public responsibilities muchbeyond the boundaries of their village."58Perhaps in order to ensure that central aims didpenetrate villagers' conception of their publicresponsibilities, in 1951 officials at the Ministry ofEducation ordered responsibility for the formulation ofcurriculum in winter schools taken out of village hands andcentralized at higher administrative levels.In November 1952 political education in the ruralwinter schools was divided into two categories. "Currentaffairs political education" included the "glorious success"of the campaign to resist America and aid Korea,achievements in the rehabilitation of the economy since1949, and Sino-Soviet friendship. General "politicaleducation" embraced efforts to encourage peasants to strivefor "patriotic increases" in farm output, to participate inmutual aid teams, to realize the historic importance of theworker-peasant alliance, and to consider the future prospectof socialism in China.68By late 1953 the primary focus of village winterschools shifted to promoting the "general line for thetransition to socialism," especially those aspects whichinvolved state monopolization of the grain trade andcooperativization. In its 1954 directive on winter schoolsthe Ministry of Education ordained three main educationaltasks: explaining the new constitution adopted in 1954,promoting cooperativization, and popularizing the policy ofcompulsory grain purchases. In addition to these mainobjectives, the schools also undertook to popularizeselected "current affairs," including national defence, theliberation of Taiwan, opposition to U.S. imperialism, andthe cultivation of an "international" outlook amongpeasants. Only brief mention was made of the need to teachpeasants basic reading and writing skills in the winterschools.59These Ministry of Education directives reveal thedegradation of literacy education throughout the first halfof the 1950s. The crucial turning point, however, occurredin 1953 as the result of a brief failed attempt to promote amethod which held out the promise of astonishingly quickliteracy acquisition.Qi Jianhua and the Accelerated Literacy MethodThe "accelerated literacy method" (suchenq shizi fa)was the creation of Qi Jianhua, a PLA cultural commissar inthe Yunnan garrison. The method was originally developed byQi for use among illiterate army cadres and soldiers in thesouthwestern province of Yunnan. Qi claimed to have deviseda phonetics-based pedagogy capable of imparting toilliterates a basic knowledge of 1500 characters within theamazingly brief space of only fifteen days. Furthermore, Qiclaimed to have tested the technique widely and to havetested and replicated the results among more than 12,000illiterate army cadres and soldiers in Yunnan.60The emergence of these claims from within the ranks ofthe PLA so soon after 1949 is intriguing. The early Sovietliteracy drive was led by the Red Army, which set upthousands of so-called illiteracy "liquidation points"(likpunkty) across the countryside. Illiterates were takento these "liquidation points" for six to ten week-long crashliteracy courses.61 The accelerated literacy method mayhave represented Qi Jianhua's attempt to carve out a newrole for the PLA in liberated China similar to that of theSoviet Red Army, as leader of the country's literacy drive.The accelerated literacy method claimed to teachilliterates to read and write 1500 characters in about 1506970hours, in three easy steps. The first step requiredlearning thirty seven phonetic symbols based on the oldnational phonetic alphabet (zhuyin fuhao). This step wasexpected to take twenty to thirty hours of class time. Thenext step involved an "assault" (tu-ji) on a list of twohundred phonetically represented characters, to be memorizedat a rate of twelve to twenty four per hour. Memorizationmeant ability to recognize individual characters as well asto explain their meaning, with emphasis upon the former.During this stage transcription aids to characterrecognition were gradually eliminated.In the third and final step of the method, connecteddiscourse was introduced in order to facilitate readingability and grammatical construction. In addition, someattention was paid to developing students' ability to write,and to expanding students' knowledge of the range ofmeanings contained within individual characters.62For a brief period of about six months between May 1952and January 1953 Qi Jianhua's accelerated literacy methodwas greeted as a panacea for China's illiteracy problem.The manner in which it was rapidly embraced portendedsimilar literacy campaigns in the future, most notably thatof the Great Leap Forward.So enticing was the promise of the accelerated literacymethod that it proved impossible to contain its use withinthe officially targeted group of party members and cadres.As local and higher officials across the country learned of71the technique and began to experiment with its use, a stringof similarly spectacular results was announced, oftensurpassing those made by Qi Jianhua. In Chongqing, forexample, a group of illiterate textile workers claimed tohave increased their literacy level from an average of 400characters to more than 2000 in a mere twenty one days. InTianjin a group of factory workers announced they had made asimilar breakthrough in just twenty three days.63In Guangdong, newly literate peasants wrote letters toChairman Mao, detailing their miraculous accomplishments andextolling the virtues of the accelerated literacy method.Among these virtues was that with the accelerated literacymethod farmers still had ample time for working in thefields, thus solving the "contradiction" between work andstudy.64The apparent promise of the accelerated literacy methodwas particularly alluring when compared to the slow natureof literacy acquisition using other methods. Previousexperience had shown, for example, that villagers studyingin year-round evening schools needed an average of two tothree years of study just to be able to recognize betweenseven hundred and eight hundred characters (the officiallydefined margin of 'semi-literate' status), while even in thebest evening schools peasants could expect to take the sameamount of time to acquire the minimum literacy standard ofone thousand to fifteen hundred characters.6572In the seasonal winter schools, progress was farslower. Because of the long gap between seasons, peasantsoften complained that little real progress was ever made inthese schools; what was learned one season was forgotten thenext, so that each year required starting over again fromscratch (niannian kaixue, niannian kaitou).With promoters of the accelerated literacy methodpromising superior results within a matter of weeks, it washardly surprising that both official as well as popularpressure to expand the movement increased rapidly, longbefore the true impact and results of the movement wereknown. In one village in Fujian, for instance, peasantsrefused to attend the village evening school any longer,after they learned that a special accelerated literacy classhad been set up for select persons in the village.66 Formany villagers the accelerated literacy method simply meantthe utopian prospect of the removal of illiterate statuswithout years of drudgery in sparetime schools.In May 1952 the accelerated literacy method receivedthe official endorsement of the central government, whichbegan to promote its use on a national scale. Hebeiprovince was declared the key experimental region in thisnational effort. As part of the effort, the Ministry ofEducation prepared a teachers' guide and a two volumeliteracy primer for students which included dialect versionsof the phonetic symbols. Qi Jianhua's original scheme forthe PLA employed Mandarin.73In Guangdong, dialect versions of the method hadalready been prepared in late 1951 for the province's fourmain dialect groups (Guangzhou, Kejia, Chaozhou and Hainan).Jiangmen and Huiyang were designated as "keypoints" forconducting literacy experiments using the acceleratedliteracy method. The choice of these two Guangdonglocalities may have been dictated by the fact that Jiangmenwas an important commercial hub for surrounding regions, andtherefore mass education was economically important in thisarea. Huiyang, on the other hand, was an important site ofcommunist activity before 1949; its choice may havereflected the official state policy of preferentialtreatment of former base areas.Between August and November 1952 Guangdong authoritiestrained over twenty three thousand teachers to use theaccelerated literacy method. These teachers were thendispersed to over thirty counties and cities in theprovince.67Nationally, the number of persons using the method shotupward. By 1953 the number of persons enrolled in adultliteracy classes nationwide reached twenty million. Nearlyone third of these were learning by Qi Jianhua's acceleratedliteracy method.Within months of its nationwide implementation,however, critics of the accelerated literacy method pouncedupon what they described as its "excessively simplistic"approach to what they claimed was an enormously complex and74"long term" undertaking. These views were officially airedas early as January 1953 at a conference of regionaleducational officials.The following month the first national illiteracyeradication work conference brought together literacytheorists and activists from across the country. Theydecided that the accelerated literacy method had beenhastily implemented in a "blind" fashion. Moreover,delegates to the conference concluded that the method'scapacity to rapidly solve China's illiteracy problem hadbeen vastly overrated.68Delegates to the conference found that the method onlyworked well under ideal conditions. Ideal conditionsincluded not only well -trained teachers. The method alsoonly worked well with sufficiently capable and highlymotivated students. Both of these were in short supply inmost areas where the method had been brusquely introducedover previous months.The accelerated literacy method was also criticized forfalsely exaggerating the importance of technique above allelse. The Vice-Director of the Henan education bureaucomplained, for example, that the method had been introducedin a formalistic way, without due consideration for thedifferent levels and kinds of literacy among villagers, andwithout regard to differences in local economies.69From Guangdong, similar complaints emerged regardingthe formalistic application of the method. Guangdong75officials complained that the accelerated literacy methodignored the value of linking literacy education to otherforms of work and economic activity.70What these criticisms seem to have been saying was thatthe accelerated literacy method, as an example of'scientific pedagogy,' showed an excessive and misplacedfaith in the power of pedagogical technique. Coupled withthat was an accompanying failure to comprehend actualenvironmental constraints upon, and incentives for, ordinarypersons to become literate. It was the product of a utopianimagination, which blithely assumed that an artificiallinguistic environment (phonetic writing) could be easilyand successfully imposed from above.The most damning criticism of the accelerated literacymethod was that it was actually prolonging China's longmarch to universal literacy and jeopardizing the future ofpopular education in the countryside. The methodconcentrated on eliminating illiteracy fast, but not onconsolidating literacy. So the achievements were inevitablyephemeral. In many areas moreover the accelerated literacymethod was linked to the collapse of sparetime primaryschool classes. The literacy level of graduates ofaccelerated literacy classes was so low they were unable tomeet the standards of a primary school curriculum.71As these basic flaws and limitations of the acceleratedliteracy method became evident, a chastened official policyemerged in early 1953. This policy called for the continued76implementation of the method, but on a greatly restrictedand tightly controlled basis, emphasizing the importance offostering the method under ideal conditions. In reality theaccelerated literacy method vanished into the PRC annals offailed mass literacy experiments. Qi Jianhua's dream ofpedagogical fame as the inventor of instant mass literacynever came to pass. And the literacy movement as a whole inChina simply collapsed thereafter, until its sudden revivalin 1956.ConclusionThis chapter has demonstrated two things with respectto early literacy education in the PRC. First, that Chineseleaders were not as interested in literacy as we havesometimes assumed; and that their main interest in literacyeducation during this period was a statist one, based on theneed to educate illiterate peasant cadres in order tofacilitate bureaucratic rule. Second, this chapter hasdemonstrated that Chinese leaders were openly reluctant topermit the teaching of basic reading and writing to achieveunchallengeable supremacy over the older social mobilizationaspects of popular education. When these two aims collided,as they did in the early nineteen fifties, literacyeducation lost.77Only for a brief moment in 1952 did literacy educationreceive strong backing from the state with the launching ofthe ill-fated "accelerated literacy method." After thefirst national illiteracy eradication work conference met inJanuary 1953 to discuss its poor results, it closed with adecision to "rectify" literacy efforts across the country.72The conference reaffirmed the importance of a "stableadvance" in illiteracy eradication. But in reality thisconference marked the virtual collapse of popular literacyefforts across the country for the next several years untilcollectivization.Reports distributed in late 1954 and early 1955 spokeof a pervasive "non-interest" in popular literacy activitiesnationwide. In many localities, literacy workers weretransferred out of their jobs to other responsibilities.73One scholar has estimated that by the end of 1953 nationalliteracy enrollments may even have fallen below what theywere in 1949.74In Guangdong, there were only 843,000 persons enrolledin literacy classes in the spring of 1954. This representedseven percent of all illiterates in the province.75Altogether between 1950 and 1954, 1,840,000 persons joinedwinter schools and literacy classes in Guangdong, out of atotal adult illiterate population of twelve million. Yet,according to a classified Guangdong government source, fewerthan ten percent of those enrolled-- barely 180,000--78achieved the minimum literacy standard of 1000-1500characters.76The slow progress of literacy in the first half of thenineteen fifties was not due solely to the ambivalence ofChina's leaders and to the limited value which they placedon popular literacy during this period. We must alsoexamine the structure of the educational system itself. The'people-managed' or minban school has often been seen as ahallmark of the CCP's willingness to seek flexible andcreative responses to the problems of rural education.While not denying this aspect of the minban schools, I arguethat the minban schools have also been a critical source oftension within the PRC education system. Why were 'people-managed' schools established in the first place? Didvillagers support them? What was their relationship to thestate-run school system? I will examine these issues in thenext two chapters.791 Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China first rev. and enl.edition (New York: Bantam, 1978), p. 59. I am grateful toAlexander Woodside for pointing out this passage to me.2 Rozman, The Modernization of China, chapter twelve, esp.pp. 401-419.3 Nat J. Colletta, "Worker-Peasant Education in the People'sRepublic of China" Chinese Education XV 1-2 (Spring-Summer1982): 68.4 Seeberg, pp. 63-64.5 Shue, The Reach of the State, pp 147-152.6 Kenneth Lieberthal and Michel Oksenberg, Policy Making in China: Leaders, Structures, and Processes (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 20-21, 137-151.7 Seeberg, pp. 55-62.8 Mao's educational pronouncements are collected in Mao zhuxi lun iiaoyu geming (Beijing: renmin chubanshe, 1967).9 The classroom notes of Mao's students while he wasinstructor and director of the Peasant Movement TrainingInstitute are preserved in Guangzhou nongmin yundong jiangxisuo jiuzhi jinian guan, ed., Guangzhou nonqmin yundonq Jiangxi suo ziliao xuanbian (Beijing: renmin chubanshe,1987), pp. 181-220.10 Ma also served as Minister of Higher Education after theMinistry was divided in 1952, and was a vice-chair of thepowerful culture and education committee of the governmentaffairs council (zhenqwuyuan) which later became the statecouncil. For a detailed biography of Ma's life andcontributions, see Jinyang xuekan bianji bu, comp. Zhonqquo xiandai shehui kexuejia zhuanlue, 10 vols. (Taiyuan: Shanxirenmin chubanshe, 1983), vol. 2, pp.10-31. Biographicalinformation on Ma can also be found in Donald W. Klein andAnn B. Clark, eds. Biographical dictionary of Chinese Communism, 1921-1965 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: HarvardUniversity Press, 1971) vol. 1, pp.465-468.11 Paul L.M. Serruys, Survey of the Chinese Language Reform and the Anti-Illiteracy Movement in China (Berkeley: Centerfor Chinese Studies, Institute of International Studies,University of California Press, 1962), p. 34.12 The Russian, Cuban and Nicaraguan literacy campaigns arediscussed in Robert F. Arnove and Harvey J. Graff, eds.,National Literacy Campaigns: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (New York: Plenum Press, 1987). For theVietminh literacy campaign, see Alexander Woodside, "The80Triumphs and Failures of Mass Education in Vietnam" Pacific Affairs 56 3 (Fall 1988): 401-427. The size of theilliterate populations in these countries was, of course,much smaller than the Chinese. In Cuba, for example, thetotal number of illiterates in 1960 was estimated to be 1.7million; in Nicaragua in 1979 the figure was 979,000. Bycontrast, there were around 500 million illiterates in Chinain the early 1950s. Only Tanzania waited as long as Chinato launch a nationwide mass literacy campaign. JuliusNyerere waited until 1971, a full ten years afterindependence before launching the first national literacycampaign. Like the Chinese campaign of 1956, the Tanzanianliteracy campaign was closely tied to the perceivedfunctional requirements of the effort to establish acollective economy in the villages. See Julius Nyerere,"Education in Tanzania" Harvard Educational Review 55 1(1985): 45-52. See also the chapter on the Tanzaniancampaign in Arnove and Graff, pp. 219-244.13 Ma Xulun, "Guanyu diyici quanguo gongnong jiaoyu huiyi debaogao" in Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu),p. 13. "Ma Xulun buzhang zai diyici quanguo gongnong jiaoyuhuiyi shang de kaimu ci" in Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), p. 6. The first national conference onworker-peasant education still adopted the optimisticposition, nevertheless, that illiteracy could be eliminatedamong 70% of peasants within only 7 years (3-5 years forcadres).14 Qian Qunrui, "Wei tigao gongnong de wenhua shuiping manzugongnong ganbu de wenhua yaoqiu er fendou" Renmin jiaoyu 3 1(1 May 1951): 12-16. See also the following. "Jiaoyubuguanyu gedi zhankai 'sucheng shizifa de jiaoxue shiyangongzuo de tongzhi;" "Jiaoyubu guanyu zhengdun gongnong yeyuxuexiao gaoji ban yu zhongxue wenti de tongzhi;" and"Jiaoyubu guanyu yijiu wuwu niandong dao yijiu wuliunianchun zuzhi nongmin canjia xuexi de tongzhi." All appearin Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), pp. 25-26, 30-32, 60-63.15 Du Guoxiang, "Guangdong sheng diyijie gongnong jiaoyuhuiyi ji jiaoyu gonghui daibiao dahui kaimu ci" in Guangdong shenq diyijie clonqnonq jiaoyu huiyi ji jiaoyu gonghui daibiao dahui cailiao (yi), reprinted in Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 2 6 (April 1951): 2 - 3.16 "Wanren jiao quanmin xue" in Guangdong sheng saochuwenmang xiehui, ed., Xianqi da quimo zhuanqkuo de saomanq dayuejin (Guangzhou: Guangdong renmin chubanshe), p. 19 - 22.17 Qin Mu, "Guangdong wenhua jiaoyu lunkuo shu," pp. 3-4.18 See Lu Lan, "Xiangcun jiaoshi ye er yao qingsuan zichanjieji jiaoyu sixiang ma?" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua (April811952). Cattell is not specifically mentioned in thisarticle, but his theories gained notoriety around the timethis article was written.19 See, for example, Wang Changyuan, Zhonqguo shehui zhuyi chuji jieduan jieji jigou yanjiu (Beijing: zhonggongzhongyang dangxiao chubanshe, 1988), p. 97, which claimsthat in 1949 there were two hundred eighty millionilliterates over the age of 14 in the countryside, 83% ofthe rural population over 14 years.20 Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, 1949-1985 (Guangzhou:Guangdong jiaoyu ting, 1986), p. 115. In 1981 Jieyangcounty became the first of eight counties in the Shantoucity adminisrative region officially to eliminateilliteracy. Guangdong sheng tongji ju, ed., Guangdong shenq shidixian gaikuanq (Guangzhou: Guangdong sheng dituchubanshe, 1985), p. 216.21 Francois Furet and Jacques Ozouf, Reading and Writing: Literacy in France from Calvin to Jules Ferry (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 205, 217-218, 220-222.22 "Nongmin wanren ru xuexiao" Hong Kong wenhui bao 8 Dec.19-51 in Union Research Institute L0136 4222 3235.23 "Mei sanren you yiren shangxue de Heyuan laoqu" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 1 5 (Sept. 1950): 28.24 Peter J. Seybolt, "The Yenan Revolution in MassEducation" China Quarterly 48 (1971): 641-669.25 Ma Xulun, "Guanyu diyici quanguo gongnong jiaoyu huiyi debaogao;" Qian Chunrui, "Wei tigao gongnong de wenhua shipingmanzu gongnong ganbu de wenhua yaoqiu er fendou."26 Qian Chunrui, "Wei tigao gongnong de wenhua shuping manzugongnong ganbu de wenhua yaoqiu er fendou." See also GuoMoruo, Guanyu wenhua jiaoyu gongzuo de baogao: zai zhongguo renmin zhengzhi xieshanq huiyi diyijie quanquo weiyuanhui disanci huiyi shanq de baogao (Beijing: renmin chubanshe,1951), especially pp.9-11.27 "Shiqi jiguan yeyu wenhua xuexiao qingkuang jieshao" inGuangdong sheng diyijie gongnonq jiaoyu huiyi ji jiaoyu cionghui daibiao dahui cailiao (son) (n.p.: 1951), p. 1.28 "Jianshe xin zhongguo bixu zhansheng er da luohou" inGuangdong shenq diyijie gongnong jiaoyu huiyi ji jiaoyu gonghui daibiao dahui cailiao (yi) (n.p.: 1951), p. 28;"Nongye hezuo hua xuyao wenhua" Guangming ribao 2 Sept. 1949in Union Research Institute L0135 42222.8229 Qian Fei and others, Xue wenhua de qushi (Guangzhou:Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 1956).30 Dong Chuncai, "Diyici quanguo nongmin yeyu jiaoyu huiyide zongjie baogao" Renmin jiaoyu 9 (1955): 31.31 The need for such schools was raised by Ma Xulun in hisopening speech and report to the first national conferenceon worker-peasant action. See "Ma Xulun buzhang zai diyiciquanguo gongnong jiaoyu huiyi shang de kaimu ci" and MaXulun, "Guanyu diyici quanguo gongnong jiaoyu huiyi debaogao." Detailed regulations governing the operation andcurriculum of the schools are contained in the following:"Gongnong ganbu wenhua buxi xuexiao zanxing shishi banfa,"in Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (zhicionq qanbu jiaoyu),ed. Zhonghua renmin gongheguo jiaoyu bu gongnong jiaoyu si(Beijing: n.p. 1979), pp. 18-22; and "Zhonggong zhongyangguanyu jiaqiang ganbu wenhua jiaoyu gongzuo de zhishi," inGonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (zhicionq qanbu jiaoyu), pp.30-34. See also Guo Moruo, "Guanyu wenhua jiaoyu gongzuo,yijiu wuling nian liuyue shiqi ri zai renmin zhengxiequanguo weiyuanhui dierci huiyi de baogao" Guangdong jiaoyuyu wenhua (Aug. 1950): 2-6, which was also published as abook (Beijing: renmin chubanshe, 1951).32 On the development of cadre make-up and acceleratedmiddle schools in Guangdong see the following. Li Zhaohan,"Guangdong diyi suo gongnong sucheng zhongxue jieshao"Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 3 1 (May 1951): 6-7; "Gongnongjiaoyu de gezhong zuzhi xingshi he neirong" and "Yijiu wuyinian kaizhan gongnong jiaoyu gongzuo chubu fangan," inGuangdong shenq diyiiie clonqnonq jiaoyu huiyi ji jiaoyu clonqhui daibiao dahui cailiao (yi, san). 33 Guangdong jiaoyu nianiian, p. 103.34 "Gongnong jiaoyu de gezhong zuzhi xingshi he neirong."35 "Baiyu xueyuan chufa gongzuo" Nanfanq ribao 8 June 1952in Union Research Institute L0139 4242. See also "Jin yibuzuohao minzu jiaoyu gongzuo" Guanqminq ribao 25 Oct. 1954 inUnion Research Institute L0139 42411, which discusses theestablishment of minority colleges (minzu xueyuan) acrossthe country as the "keypoint" of minority educationalpolicy.36 China Review, Nov. 1989, p. 29, citing Xinhua. GilbertRozman, A Mirror for Socialism (Princeton: PrincetonUniversity Press, 1985), p. 195.37 "Jiaoyubu guanyu kaizhan nongmin yeyu jiaoyu de zhishi"Dec. 4, 1950 in Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), pp. 15-18. Reprinted in Zhonqquo jiaoyu nianjian, 1949-1981 (Beijing: Zhongguo dabaike quanshu chubanshe,831984), p. 893 and Union Research Institute L013 4222 322.Ma Xulun's comments are contained in "Ma Xulun buzhang zaidiyici quanguo gongnong jiaoyu huiyi shang de kaimu ci" inGonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu),  pp. 4-10and Ma Xulun, "Guanyu diyici quanguo gongnong jiaoyu huiyide baogao" in Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), pp. 11-14.38 Mark Selden, The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), pp. 159,214, 221. See also Renmin jiaoyushe, ed., Nonqmin shizi iiaoyu de zuzhi xinqshi he jiaoxue fanqfa  4 vols. (Beijing:n.p., 1950), vol.3, pp. 2-3, which says that in the NorthChina base areas there was but limited time for study, inbetween fighting and producing.39 Qian Qunrui, "Wei tigao gongnong de wenhua shuiping manzugongnong ganbu de wenhua yaoqiu er fendou." Nonetheless,despite the reservations expressed by some educatorsconcerning the legacy of wartime mass education, in 1951 theMinistry of Education's official journal, Renmin jiaoyu,compiled a handbook on the organization and teaching methodsemployed by the literacy movement in the former base areas,which was distributed across the country in the early 1950s.See "Jieshao 'nongmin shizi jiaoyu de zuzhi xingshi hejiaoxue fangfa'" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 2 5 (March1951): 62.40 Madsen, Morality and Power in a Chinese Village. On theimportant question of the influence of popular culture oncommunist policies, see also the work (much criticized,however) of Ralph Thaxton, China Turned Riqhtside Up: Revolutionary Legitimacy in the Peasant World (New Haven:Yale University Press, 1983).41 Siu, pp.108-110.42 Siu, p. 122.43 On the purge of Cantonese cadres during land reform, seeVogel, Canton Under Communism, pp. 101-124.44 Guanyu quanqdonq shenq saochu wenmanq gongzuo quanmian quihua de baoqao (jimi wenjian) (Guangzhou: Guangdong jiaoyuting, 1956), p. 3. See also Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, p.23.45 "Jiaoyubu guanyu kaizhan yijiu sijiu nian dongxue gongzuode zhishi" in Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu) ► pp. 1 - 3.46 The comments are from Mao's 1927 Report on theInvestigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan, as citedin "Xuexi he guanche Mao zhuxi de jiaoyu sixiang: wei jinian84zhongguo gongchang dang de sanshi zhounian er zuo" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 3 4 (Aug. 1951): 1 - 7.47 Stuart Schram, "The Cultural Revolution in HistoricalPerspective" in Authority, Participation, and Cultural Change in China ed. Schram, p. 57.48 "Jiaoyubu guanyu kaizhan nongmin yeyu jiaoyu."49 On the land reform in Guangdong, see Vogel, Canton Under Communism, pp. 91-124.50 Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, p. 102.51 Cai Fei, "Shehui jiaoyu de fangxiang" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 1 1 (May 1950): 37 - 38.52 "Fengshun xian wenhua guan gongzuo bao" in Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua (Mar. 1952): 10-11.53 Selden, The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China, p. 145.54 Woodside, "The Triumphs and Failures of Mass Education inVietnam," pp. 401, 405-406; see also Alexander Woodside,Community and Revolution in Modern Vietnam (Boston: HoughtonMifflin, 1976), pp. 267 - 273.55 "Jiaoyubu guanyu kaizhan nongmin yeyu jiaoyu de zhishi."56 "Jiaoyubu guanyu jiaqiang jinnian dongxue zhengzhi shishijiaoyu de zhishi" in Goncinong jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nongmin jiaoyu), pp. 23-24; "Jiaoyubu guanyu jiaqiangnongmin yeyu jiaoyu zhong kangmei yuanchao shishi jiaoyu dezhishi" in the same source, pp. 19-20. At least somepeasants appear to have welcomed the change. A group ofFujian villagers, for instance, was recorded as heraldingthe emphasis upon political and current affairs education asa welcome relief from the drudgery of learning characters.Indeed, such education may easily have been more immediatelyuseful for getting by or getting ahead in the politicallycharged atmosphere of early 1950s Chinese villages."Chuantou nongmin xiaozhang Yu Hongduan bu lianxi qunzhong,minxiao wei banhao" Fujian ribao 23 Jan. 1953 in Union Research Institute L0136 4222 3237.57 "Jiji tigao dongxue jiaoshi de zhengzhi he wenhuashuiping" Changjiang ribao 30 Dec. 1951 in Union Research Institute L0135 4222 3135.58 Madsen, Morality and Power in a Chinese Village, p. 250.59 See the following directives: "Guanyu yijiu wuer niandongxue yundong de tongzhi" (from the Ministry ofEducation); "Jiaoyubu, saochu wenmang gongzuo weiyuanwei85guanyu yijiu wusan nian dongxue gongzuo de zhishi;""Jiaoyubu, qingniantuan zhongyang guanyu yijiu wusi niandongxue gongzuo de zhishi," in Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), pp. 27-29, 35-38, 42-45. See also"Meixian saomang gongzuo" Lian jiada xinbao 29 Jan. 1954 inUnion Research Institute L0136 4222 3235, which describesmass education in one rural locality in 1954.60 Zhongyang jiaoyu kexue yanjiu suo, ed., Zhonqhua renmin cionqhequo jiaoyu dashi ji (Beijing: Jiaoyu kexue chubanshe,1983), p. 52.61 See Ben Eklof, "Russian Literacy Campaigns, 1861-1939" inNational Literacy Campaigns ed. Arnove and Graff, p. 131.62 Zhonqquo jiaoyu nianjian, p. 580; Vincent Tsing ChingLin, "Adult Education in the People's Republic of China,1950-58" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University ofCalifornia, Berkeley, 1963), pp. 256-257.63 "Jiaoyubu guanyu gedi zhankai 'sucheng shizi fa' dejiaoxue shijian gongzuo de tongzhi" in Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), pp. 26-27; Zhonqquo jiaoyu nianjian, p. 577; Zhongyang jiaoyu kexue yanjiusuo bian,zhonqhua renmin gonghequo jiaoyu dashiji, 1949-1982 (Beijing: Jiaoyu kexue chubanshe, 1983), p. 52.64 Yang Guang, Suchenq shizi de qushi (Guangzhou: Nanfangtongsu duben lianhe chubanshe, 1952); Dai Jishan, Sanyuanli nonqmin xue wenhua (Huanan renmin chubanshe, 1953); HongKong Wenhuibao 27 Mar. 1953 in Union Research Institute L0136 4222 3235. The latter is a letter from a newlyliterate peasant to the mayor of Guangzhou praising theaccelerated literacy method, expressing gratitude to Mao,and promising to repay the Chairman with concrete deeds.65 "Ma Xulun buzhang zai diyici quanguo gongnong jiaoyuhuiyi shang de kaimu si"; Qu Naisheng, "Fuwu shengchang,yikao qunzhong, kaizhan dongxue yundong guanche guojia guodushigi zongluxian de jiaoyu" Jiaoyu banyue kan 23 (1953): 4.In 1955 Hu Yaobang, then head of the Youth League, describedrural youth as needing an average 1 1 /2 years to learn 1500characters. Hu Yaobang, "Guanyu nongcun saochu wenmanggongzuo," p. 24.66 "Zhenge can minxiao xiaozhang ying dong xueyuan shangminxiao, buyao dengdai jin sucheng shizi ban" Fujian ribao 2Mar. 1953 in Union Research Institute L0136, 4222 3237.67 Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, p. 102.68 Zhonqquo jiaoyu nianjian, p. 577.69 Qu Naisheng, "Fuwu shengchang, yikao qunzhong."8670 Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, p. 103.71 "Jiaoyubu guanyu zhengdun gongnong yeyu xuexiao gaoji banyu zhongxue wenti de tongzhi" in Gongnong jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), pp. 30-32.72 "Jiaoyubu, saochu wenmang gongzuo weiyuanhui guanyu jijiuwusan nian dongxue gongzuo de zhishi" in Gongnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), p. 37; "Jiaoyubu,qingniantuan zhongyang guanyu yijiu wusi xian dongxuegongzuo de zhishi" in Gongnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), p. 44; "Guanyu jijiu wuer nian dongxueyundong de tongzhi" in Gongnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), pp. 27-28.73 On the collapse of the literacy movement after 1953, seethe following. "Zhonggong zhongyang dui jiaoyubu dangzuguanyu diyici quanguo nongmin yeyu wenhua jiaoyu huiyi debaogao" in Gongnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nongmin jiaoyu),pp. 46-47; "Jiaoyubu yeyu wenhua jiaoyu huiyi de baogao" inGongnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu),  pp. 48-49,52, 54; "Jiaoyubu guanyu yijiu wuwu nian dong dao yijiuwuliu nian chun zuzhi nongmin canjia xuexi de tongzhi" inGongnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nongmin jiaoyu),  p. 60;"Geji jiaoyu bumen bixu jiaqiang gongnong jiaoyu de lingdao"Renmin jiaoyu 12 (1955): 4 - 5.74 Vincent Lin, "Adult Education in the People's Republic ofChina, 1950-58," p. 349.75 Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, p.103.76 Guangdong jiaoyu ting, Guanyu quangdong shenq saochu wenmanq gongzuo quanmian quihua de baoqao (jimi wenjian),1956. See also "Dali kaizhan nongcun saochu wenmangyundong," in Dali kaizhan saochu wenmanq yundonq, ed.Guangdong jiaoyu ting (Guangzhou: Guangdong renminchubanshe, 1956), p. 48. This article was originallypublished as an editorial in Nanfang ribao Jan. 5, 1956. Onthe national illiteracy rate, see "Geji jiaoyu bumen bixujiaqiang gongnong jiaoyu de lingdao."87Chapter 2MINBAN SCHOOLS AND THE REAFFIRMATION OF VOLUNTARISM INVILLAGE EDUCATION: THE GUANGDONG EXPERIENCEOne of the most important features of the Chineseeducational system since 1949 has been the emergence of adouble track system consisting of state-run schools, on theone hand, and locally sponsored 'people-managed' or minbanschools, on the other. This chapter is concerned with thecauses, processes, and the long term implications of theemergence of minban schools. First I examine the state'sattempt to takeover village education in Guangdong in orderto show how minban schools represented an attempt to buildupon the traditional institutions of village education,especially the village sishu. After discussing problemsencountered by minban schools, I show that minban schoolingwas necessitated not only by belief in the inherent virtuesof educational decentralization, but by the fiscal andorganizational inability of the Chinese state to impose asingle nationwide public school system. Finally, I attemptto demonstrate some of the long term implications of the1950s reaffirmation of voluntarism in village education.88The School Crisis of the Early 1950s and the Resurgence ofthe SishuMore than any other event of the early nineteenfifties, land reform signified the intrusive power of thenew state and its social engineering capacity. In terms ofits effects on village education, however, land reformresulted in an unforeseen political and economic crisis.Land reform destroyed, without replacing, the institutionalfoundations that had provided the main fiscal and socialsupport of modern primary and middle school education in thecountryside since the early part of the century. Massexodus of students from these schools after 1949simultaneously prompted an explosion in the popularity ofthe traditional village sishu. The ensuing crisis in ruralschool education exposed the glaring fiscal weakness of thenew state, and stimulated an intense search for newinstitutional forms and sources of financial support toreplace those destroyed by the Revolution. The effort wasnot fully resolved until 1956, however, whencollectivization finally created a new corporate structurewithin which villages became responsible, as they had beentraditionally, for organizing and funding the basiceducation of their members.Since the earliest modern schools were established atthe turn of the century, modern primary and middle school89education in rural Guangdong had rested upon a tripartitefoundation of lineage endowments, commercial capital andoverseas remittances. The latter two forms were oftenchannelled through lineage-based organizations. In 1949 theprovince's 1.59 million primary school students weredistributed throughout some 28,200 schools, nearly all ofwhich were privately owned. Before land reform, more thanninety percent of the nearly 30,000 primary schools inGuangdong were dependent upon lineage contributions, mostlyin the form of land endowments. Only six percent of primaryschools were publicly financed and these were confinedmainly to cities and towns.1More than half of the 670 middle schools in theprovince were also privately run. Middle school enrollmentwas 137,000. In 1951 Shen Hengsong, a Guangdong educationalofficial, said these private middle schools could be dividedinto five types. There were the half dozen or so"politically progressive" middle schools which had ties tothe CCP and a similar number with direct ties to theGuomindang. There were thirty six foreign missionaryschools some of which had a long history, like the Huaidegirls' school in Chaoan, established in 1896. The fourthtype of private middle school mentioned by Shen Hengsongwere profit-oriented schools established by overseasChinese. Concentrated mainly in the cities, these schoolswere of poor quality and had low standards; their principalsdevoted all their energies to recruiting students. Finally,90there were the local gentry-run private middle schools whichwere an important part of the rural political networks,attached to competing gentry factions.2Rural primary and middle school education in Guangdongwas thus overwhelmingly a private, usually lineage -basedactivity. In the early years after 1949, this foundationwas fatally undermined by the actions of the new government.One of these was to outlaw the taxation powers of localelites, which were often used to subsidize lineage schools.In addition, the sharp decline in overseas remittances after1949, along with the flight of commercial capital and theimplementation of land reform, resulted in a sharpcontraction in the number of both schools and students.Land reform further undermined the solvency of lineageschools, first by the enforcement of rent reductions, whichcurtailed the main source of income for private schools, andlater by the expropriation of corporate property, which madeit virtually impossible for lineage schools to continue.By September 1950 the number of primary and middleschool students, teachers and schools was falling rapidly inall parts of the Pearl River delta, except Baoan andHuanxian. In the southern part of the province a 40 - 50%drop in middle school enrollment was recorded in mostcounties in 1950.3 Across the province, the number ofmiddle schools fell from 670 in 1949 to 569 by the firsthalf of 1950. Most of the middle schools that closed duringthis period were private, established by overseas Chinese or9 1with their support. Thus the total number of private middleschools in Guangdong declined from 360 to 260 during thefirst half of 1950.4In Taishan county, where the development of localeducation had historically been closely tied to overseasinvestments and donations, according to the officialinternally circulated Taishan county educational history (Taishan xian liaoyu zhi), primary and middle schoolenrollments plummeted by 12% and 49%, respectively, within asingle school term. From 1949-53 the total number ofprimary schools in Taishan was reduced by more than 50%,from 900 to 370. These figures also reflected theamalgamation of numerous schools, since inter- and intra-lineage competition over the years fostered a profusion ofunusually small schools.5One contemporary estimate put the number of primary andmiddle school students who had ceased to attend school inGuangdong by late 1950 at approximately 80,000. It wasestimated that perhaps as many as "several tens ofthousands" of these had dropped out in order to "join therevolution" as land reform cadres and village militiamembers.6In October 1949 a special expropriation (jiequan)committee was set up in the province to supervise thetakeover of private and publicly run schools. Shortlyafterward similar committees were set up in cities andcounties across the province.7 These committees, whose work92was not fully completed until 1953, took control of thesixty six mission-run primary and middle schools inGuangdong (with total enrollments approaching 6000 students)during 1951-52. The remaining three hundred private middleschools were not taken over until the winter of 1953.8According to the Guangdong educational yearbook, the newgovernment's takeover of rural primary school education wasnot complete until 1952.9The mass exodus from primary and middle schools wasmotivated by fear of the alleged fate that befell studentswho remained in schools after they were taken over by thecommunists. For instance, village reports from this periodrefer to the popular belief that children who studied incommunist schools disclaimed their filial obligations.Another popular belief was that those who studied incommunist schools would be summarily beheaded by Nationalistforces when they returned.10 In Guangzhou, workers believedthat if they signed up for evening literacy classes theywould be press-ganged to liberate Taiwan, or else sent offto Hainan island (a form of internal exile; the southernversion of Qinghai).11 Even in Haifeng, where Peng Paipioneered literacy work in the 1920s, rumours abounded thatin communist evening schools for women the teachers turnedthe lights out and fondled the women.12Examples of such popular mistrust abound. When agroup of Han literacy evangelists arrived in Yao villages onHainan island to set up literacy schools in 1950, they found93that Yao villagers regarded the enterprise as a trickdesigned to entice their children into becoming PLAsoldiers. They regarded the literacy classes as anillegitimate attempt to enlarge the state sphere in Yaosociety.13In early 1950 Guangdong educational authorities began aprogram of subsidies to "politically progressive" privatemiddle schools, including Longtian and Hepo middle schoolsin Xinming, Dongshan middle school in Meixian, Huagiaomiddle school in Shantou, as well as to the pro-CCP Jieyangcounty-run middle school. In later years the graduates ofthese middle schools played a key role in shaping ruraleducation policy in Guangdong.14In 1949 Guangdong had one of the highest levels ofprimary school enrollment in the country, exceeded only byHebei and Shandong.15 Still the 1.59 million childrenattending modern primary schools in Guangdong representedless than thirty percent of the school age population. Thisrepresented slightly more than the twenty five percent ofschool age children attending primary school nationwide in1949.16 An equal or greater number of Guangdong childrenmay have attended traditional village sishu in 1949.Gauging the exact number of sishu in Guangdong isdifficult. Their extinction had been the goal of zealousschool modernizers since the turn of the century.17 Formuch of the twentieth century, therefore, the easilycamouflaged sishu were often driven underground, beyond the94gaze of county magistrates and educational inspectors.Classes were usually held privately, in the homes ofteachers or parents, or else in the easily convertiblepremises of village temples and ancestral halls.As a draft educational history for Panyu county which Iexamined in Panyu in the late 1980s shows, there were 6,500students studying in sishu in 1942. This represented onlyabout a third less than the total number enrolled in modernprimary schools in the county. The proportion wasundoubtedly much higher in outlying areas, where the demandfor and inroads of modern education were much less.18We would do well, then, to examine briefly the chiefreasons for the continued popularity of sishu in thetwentieth century in the face of constant elite efforts tosuppress them. The reasons for the persistence of thisindigenous village educational institution well into thetwentieth century also bear upon the communists' efforts toobliterate the sishu as well.The sishu persisted into the twentieth century becauseit continued to serve the educational needs of villagers inways that the modern schools, with their rigid schedules,high fees, and "foreign" curriculum, were unable to manage.The early communist organizer, Peng Pai, had recognizedthese reasons and became one of the first to comment on thepopularity of sishu in Guangdong in the 1920s, noting thatvillagers would invite a sixty or seventy year old "Eight95Legs Teacher " (baqu xianshenq) to instruct their childrenrather than send them to a modern primary schoo1.19Mao Zedong also felt compelled to address the questionof the stubborn popularity of the sishu in Guangdong in the1920s. Evidence shows that Mao dwelt at length on thedisjunction between the educational needs of peasants andthe curriculum of the modern schools in his lectures tofuture peasant leaders while Mao was director of the famousPeasant Movement Training Institute in Guangdong in the mid-1920s. According to the class notes of one of his students,Mao lectured that "the peasants detest the new learning(xinxue)...The contents of this kind of learning areregarded by the capitalists as a new kind of talismanicwonder, but it has absolutely nothing to do with peasants,(this business of learning stories) like 'a horse has fourfeet,' 'the tortoise and the hare' and 'younger brother,come quickly we're going to sing a song'. And he went on,"The sishu teachers can solve many of the peasants' problemsthe teachers in the new schools often cannot evenanswer...The education a peasant wants is for economicneeds-- economic liberation. The textbooks are full ofgeography, history and other knowledge written by teachersliving in the foreign concession in Shanghai; they conformto the needs of the capitalists but they contain absolutelyno benefit for the ordinary peasant... with respect towriting such things as lists, law suits, field contracts andtenancy agreements."2096A few years later Mao revealed how in his youth as astudent in a modern middle school in Changsha he haddetested the "ignorance" of peasants who protested againstmodern schools (often by burning them and killing theschoolmasters), but that after living for half a year invillages "I realized that I was wrong and the peasants wereright." Peasants rejected the "foreign learning" (vanqxue)because it taught only "city things" which had nothing to dowith the needs of the village, and preferred instead the"han learning" (hanxue) of the sishu.21The way in which peasants regarded the modern schoolsas "foreign" (yang) and the sishu as indigenously Chinese(han) was symbolic of another reason for the continuous andeven heightened popularity of the sishu in certain periodsof the twentieth century. This reason is perhaps even moresignificant than the inability of the modern schools tosatisfy local economic needs.22Taken for granted by peasants and ignored bygovernments for centuries, the village sishu emerged in thetwentieth century to become one of the supreme rallyingsymbols of village cultural preservation against the alienforced incursions of foreign imperialists and modernizinggovernments alike.This happened on at least three occasions in thetwentieth century. The first time was at the turn of thecentury, with the rise of the first attempts to suppress thesishu and replace them with a national system of modern97primary schools. Often such efforts were part ofmodernizing drives spearheaded by zealous countymagistrates. Thus when You Kezhen, an energetic native ofHaifeng-- the same Haifeng which was shortly to produce PengPai-- was named magistrate of Zijin county in 1912, one ofhis first acts was to declare his intention immediately toreplace all sishu with modern primary schools.23When Liao Hanzhao was appointed magistrate of Xinxingcounty in Guangdong in 1931 he proclaimed his determinationto rid the county of all sishu, on the grounds that theirclassical curriculum was "abstruse" and "harmful" tostudents' minds, and hopelessly opposed to modernization.24This effort, like You Kezhen's in Zijin, largely failed toextinguish the sishu (there were still one hundred seventyknown sishu in Xinxing in 1938). Some counties adopted amore compromising attitude, like the authorities of Huazhoucounty in Guangdong who in 1934 administered a county-wideexamination to all sishu teachers. Those who passed weregiven primary school teaching certificates.25Others adopted a policy of accommodation, licensingsishu and encouraging them to incorporate modern primaryschool subjects into their curriculum. As a rule, however,government regulations and exhortations were less effectivein reforming sishu than changes in local economies. Inareas where foreign trade was important, like the PearlRiver delta region, or where commercialized agriculture98demanded accounting and management skills, the readilyadaptable sishu changed with the times.The second occasion when the sishu became a rallyingsymbol for village cultural preservation was during theJapanese occupation between 1937-45. At that time thecurtailment of overseas remittances and the withdrawal ofother sources of private funding, as well as the flight ofmany teachers and students, forced the closure of manyprimary and middle schools in Guangdong. In Taishan county,for example, which was occupied five times between 1937-45,around 20,000 primary school students were displaced in thisway.26Large numbers of such teachers and their studentsturned to rural sishu. They were less detectable, and, forthose fleeing the cities, offered sanctuary from Japanesewarplanes. The sishu rapidly became rallying centres andsymbols of patriotic resistance and cultural preservationagainst a threatening alien invasion. In Zijin county a newkind of sishu appeared during the war, known as "specializednational culture halls" (quowen zhuanxiu quan) which werededicated to the study of traditional written culture.27Panyu, the Strive for Wisdom sishu (qiuzhi xueshu) becamerenowned for its patriotic resistance to the Japanese. Oneof ten new sishu that appeared in Shigiao district of Panyubetween 1940-45, the qiuzhi xueshu was operated by a husbandand wife who taught students classical literature andhistory, written calculation and use of the abacus. During99festival days, the sishu organized student theatricaltroupes to travel to neighbouring villages where theyperformed plays with themes like national courage and theimportance of resisting the Japanese.28For their part, the Japanese attempted to manipulatethe sishu for their own purposes. In 1942 the Japanese-sponsored puppet government of Guangdong sponsored theestablishment of fifteen sishu in southern Panyu. Theschools were funded by a loan from the People's FoodRegulation Association (minshi shitiao hui), an associationset up under the department of agriculture and forestry tolook after forced rice requisitions for Japanese troops.The schools aimed to counteract the propaganda of groupslike the Strive for Wisdom school and the Association ofYoung Comrades Resisting Japan (qincinian kanciri tonclzhi hui)which also set up its own schoo1.29During the war Mao himself had also urged the party to"make use of and transform" the sishu into a weapon againstthe Japanese.30 What Mao may not have realized was theextent to which the village sishu would soon become arallying symbol against the communists themselves, as thelatest alien invaders to arrive at the village gate.The third occasion when the sishu became a rallyingsymbol as defender and preserver of threatened values was inthe early 1950s. The invasion of the village by thecommunist state drove villagers once again in droves to seekwhat they perceived as the cultural sanctuary of the100traditional village sishu. As enrollments in rural primaryand middle schools in Guangdong plummeted and many schoolscollapsed in the early nineteen fifties, village children,often following their teachers, flocked by the thousandsinto village sishu.In Nanhai county, for instance--which ironically wasthe ancestral home of Kang Youwei, China's famous earlymodernizer who was among the first proponents of anationwide school system to extirpate the "backward"cultures of peasant China--a hundred new sishu appeared in1950 alone, including three in Nanshan township wherepreviously only a modern primary school had existed. Bylate 1950 sishu enrollment actually surpassed that ofregular schools in some parts of south-central Guangdong.Although precise figures for the number of studentsattending sishu in the early 1950s are impossible,contemporary sources estimated that the total number ofsishu in the province "multiplied" to 6000, and perhaps asmany as 10,000, during 1950-51.31The surging popularity of the village sishu was asalarming to the new government as the declining enrollmentsand collapse of many modern schools. In mid-1950 ShenHengsong, a leading educational official in the Pearl Riverdelta region, described what he called "old" as well as"new" reasons for the persistent and suddenly enhancedpopularity of the sishu. As 'old' reasons, Shen cited therenowned flexibility of the sishu, especially its capacity101to adapt to the changing labor requirements of theagricultural cycle. He also emphasized the sishu's functionin imparting basic literate skills such as letter writing,accounting, and use of the abacus, whereas modern schoolstaught only academic subjects and physical education, whichpeasants considered useless. Finally, Shen cited thesishu's traditional role as a source of minimal livelihoodfor the educated unemployed.The "new" reasons Shen offered for the suddenlyexpanded popularity of the sishu included the collapse of somany regular schools since 1949, which created anopportunity for sishu to expand as the onlyavailable alternative. Perhaps more important was what Shendescribed as a misapplication of the central government'spolicy towards intellectuals from the old society.Widespread indiscriminate firing of schoolteachers, saidShen, was causing many of teachers to open their own sishu,and to take their personally loyal students with them.32The new socialist government, like every previoustwentieth century modernizing government in China, regardedthe sishu as another 'feudal' obstacle to progressive changeand modernization of the countryside. Authorities inGuangzhou announced their intention to halt the growth ofnew sishu, and to suppress or "reform" (gaibian) existingones.^But as Shen Hengsong pointed out in 1950, any planto eradicate the sishu would have to first take into accountthat they currently performed a valuable positive function102for the state, by supplying basic literacy education todropouts from the regular schools, and by providing work forunemployed intellectuals who would otherwise form a burdenon the new state.33As was the case under successive republican regimes,opinions over how to handle the sishu were split in theearly 1950s. Some favoured a policy of outrightsuppression, while others advocated grudging tolerance,coupled with gradual efforts to "reform" the sishu throughthe assertion of greater control over teachers andcurricula.In actual practice, the manner in which sishu weredealt with in Guangdong varied greatly from place to place,depending on the attitudes of local officials. Thus, forinstance, some localities attempted to ban sishu within aradius of 2 li of regular primary schools, presumably toprevent students from deserting the primary schools; whileothers simply decreed that existing sishu had to begin usingmodern textbooks and add political education to theircurricula.In other instances, sishu were to begin teachingMandarin as a means of breaking down what was regarded astheir excessively parochial outlook. Still others requiredthat regular schoolteachers made regular visits to sishu, inorder to provide instruction in modern subjects likephysical education, fine arts and singing, and to instructstudents in proper classroom behaviour and discipline, while103sishu teachers in return made frequent visits to regularschools to instruct students in the use of the abacus.Finally, in some cases sishu were simply converted oramalgamated with regular primary schools.34However limited the success which greeted efforts tobring these two education worlds closer together, it soonbecame evident that the policy of outright suppression ofsishu was the least successful. At best, suppression merelydrove the sishu underground, forcing them to operate on aclandestine basis, within people's homes. At worst,however, forceful suppression of the sishu had the dreadedeffect of provoking greater popular dissatisfaction andmistrust of the new government. As Shen Hengsong put it inmid-1950, the "feudal" nature of the sishu was rapidlybecoming a less important problem than the rising crescendoof popular opposition towards the new government over itshandling of the sishu affair.35Rise of the Minban SchoolsThus the popular realities of the village educationalworld, which were historically shaped by the changingconditions of rural economic and social life and by the setof cultural and political institutions that evolved fromthose conditions, defied the overweening ambitions of stateplanners to impose their artificial vision of reality upon104Chinese villagers. The eventual way out of this conundrumof deserted and collapsing modern schools and surgingpopularity of what was officially a "feudal" institution wasthrough compromise; through what sociologists and othersprefer to describe as a form of "negotiation" between stateand village.The negotiation involved combining the principles ofthe sishu with those of the village-run (minban) schoolsdeveloped by the communists in the wartime base areas toform a separate system or "track" of village education apartfrom the regular state-run school system.At the time this negotiated compromise with the villagesishu was celebrated and treated as one of the creativeinnovations of the CCP's revolution in village education.In reality it proved to be arguably the single most ominous"compromise" in the educational history of the PRC. Thisnegotiated compromise was laden with latent implicationswhich finally came to the surface, causing unparalleledfuror, during the educational debates of the CulturalRevolution. It began, inauspiciously, with the issuing ofgovernment regulations for addressing the funding crisis inrural primary education.Initial regulations issued in 1950 with respect to theproblem of financing village primary schools stipulated thatcounty governments should take over former funding sourcessuch as market rents and miscellaneous local taxes, as wellas the income generated by lineage endowments. At least 80%105of the latter was to be used to finance village education.County government control of village primary schools in thisway was intended to be a temporary measure, until newstructures of political authority were established in thevillages themselves. After land reform eliminated the meansof financial nourishment for lineage and most otherprivately run schools such schools, along with newlyestablished ones and various kinds of adult literacyclasses, became officially known as minban (people-managed)schools. Minban meant that such schools were organized,financed and operated by villagers themselves.Management of the minban schools was entrusted toassociations of local villagers, known variously asxiaodonqhui, xuexiao jiiin baoquanhui, and, later, mostcommonly as xiaowuweiyuanhui.36 The associations were alongstanding institution, formerly under the control of theold village elites. As mentioned earlier, after 1949membership in the associations was composed ofrepresentatives from the newly established peasantassociations, village militia, and branches of the Women'sFederation and Youth League.Since these representatives frequently lacked theadministrative skills-- and even the literate skills-- torun the schools, however, the state conceded that villageswould need to rely upon the "advice" and "assistance" fromsympathetic village elders and "enlightened personages"(kaiminq renshi) -- another concession from the past forced106by the state's ambitions in the villages outstripping itscapacity to effectively determine village educationalstructures.Village schools in the early 1950s were financed from avariety of sources. These included such things as user feesfor public toilets and local market and temple fair taxes(also commonly used for this purpose during the republicanera as well); allocation by the village peasant associationsof the "fruits of victorious struggle," (which referred towealth and property confiscated during land reform); as wellas "donations" from local merchants, rich peasants andoverseas Chinese; and tuition fees.Tuition fees were generally higher than they werebefore 1949, and were normally paid in kind in the early1950s. Figures from mid-1951 show that tuition in rurallower primary schools in Guangdong averaged 10 catties ofrice per school term (with a range of 4-50 catties) and 15-20 catties per term (with a range of 5-70 catties) in ruralsenior primary schools. Even with increased tuition levels,however, minban schools were still often incapable ofproviding for the basic subsistence needs of theirteachers.37In addition to former lineage and other privately runvillage primary schools which operated on a full time basis,the minban category of schools also embraced the full rangeof sparetime popular educational activities for adults.Most of these were tried originally in the former base107areas. After 1949 it became deliberate state policy toencourage a diverse range of village-supported adulteducational activities, and to ensure that these activitiesconformed, as the sishu did, to the natural rhythms ofvillage life. This was in contrast with the regular schoolsystem, which aimed for nationwide standardization. Thedifference was politically sensitive, as discussed below.Such popular educational activities included winterschools (donqxue) and evening schools (yexiao), the two mostcommon forms (winter schools in the north, where the shortgrowing season limited the amount of study time to wintermonths; evening schools in the south, where the nearly year-round growing season dictated a different study pattern).They also included so-called open-air schools (lutian xuexiao), rainy day schools (yutian xuexiao), half-dayschools (banri xuexiao), mobile schools (liudonq xuexiao),fieldside study groups (ditou xiaozu), bed side study groups(kangtou xiaozu) (the latter in North China), and others.Sparetime schools included basic literacy classes and,from 1953, primary and middle school curriculums as wel1.38In 1951 the central government launched a campaign toeliminate seasonally based classes and place all forms ofsparetime education on a permanent, year round basis.Guangdong authorities found it easy to agree with thischange in principle, because seasonal winter schools werefound mainly in the north. The difficulty in Guangdongusually lay rather in meeting the national requirement of108nearly three hundred hours of study per year, since farmingwas also a year round activity or nearly so in Guangdong.39As for curriculum, in 1953 the Guangdong educationbureau stipulated that sparetime primary school educationfor peasants should be spread over a five year period andinclude two hundred eighty hours of instruction in thefollowing subjects: language and literature, arithmetic,politics, history, geography and natural science.40Provinces published their own primary textbooks and literacyprimers in the early 1950s, but these generally conformedclosely to the pattern of model texts prepared by theMinistry of Education.41In practice villages often enjoyed considerableflexibility to determine their own curricula. The followingtable shows the 1953 teaching plan of Yellow Bamboo villagesparetime primary school in Huiyang county, Guangdong.109In the case of adult literacy education, after 1955curriculum was based upon the principle of a three-tieredset of literacy primers, prepared by local (township andcounty), provincial, and central authorities. This system,which remains in use to this day, is discussed in thefollowing chapter under the content of literacy education.Suzanne Pepper has written that "the minban schools,financially supported and managed by the villagesthemselves, were not so much an innovation as a adaptationof a continuing tradition, the old-style privately runvillage school," or sishu.42 The minban school indeedrepresented a conscious effort to copy the old style sishu'sreliance upon local sources of funding and initiative, aswell as its flexible curricula adjusted to suit localeconomic needs rather than the academic prerequisites ofhigher education. In fact, Mao had himself pointed this outas early as 1927, when he compared the CCP's evening classesto the village sishu upon which they were modelled, andcontrasted these two forms of "Han schools" (hanxue)favourably against the "foreign schools" (yanqxue) withtheir rigid schedules and taught modern subjects which wereirrelevant to local economic needs.43The minban school, however, was rather more than simplya reincarnated version of the village sishu. It isimportant to realize, for instance, that in other wayscommunist leaders regarded the minban school as an importantweapon for crushing old solidarities and forging a break110with the social past.^That is to say, in theory, the veryact of the collective establishment of a people-run schoolby the village poor was supposed to aid the process ofcreating a new, class-based solidarity in the villages,which would overcome the old lineage-based solidarities thatformerly underpinned Guangdong village schools. Thus as onewriter put it in 1951, the establishment of a minban villageschool, under the control and direction of the village poor,was properly understood as representing an affirmation of"class fraternity" (iieji youai).44Similarly, the widespread practice of amalgamatingundersized lineage schools into larger minban schools wasalso intended to erode lineage solidarity as well as toimprove efficiency. Lineage competition, fed by overseasremittances, led to the proliferation in the twentiethcentury of large numbers of relatively small schools inparts of rural Guangdong. This was especially true in theoverseas Chinese home areas. Thus, for example, in the1930s Taishan, Nanhai and Zhongshan counties each hadprimary school populations of between 65,000-70,000. But inZhongshan there were only 450 primary schools, while inNanhai there were more than 700 schools and in Taishan therewere 1300 schools, each serving the same school populationsize. After 1949 the number of primary schools in Taishanwas halved, from 900 in 1949 to 450 in 1986.45The policy of self-reliance in local education alsoproduced some of the earliest efforts in collectivism in111Guangdong villages after 1949, well before the formation ofmutual aid teams and forms of cooperation. As early as1951, for example, the poor peasants of Buxin village inHuiyang county mobilized a team of one hundred villagers toclear a section of wasteland in order to establish a farm tosupport the village minban school. In another district,students from two primary schools organized themselves intowork teams in order to collect firewood which was sold tofinance the village school. Similar examples werewidespread in Guangdong villages in the early 1950s.46Still, the potential solidarity-making effects ofminban schools often eluded the architects of the neweducation. The weakness of the state was evident fromnumerous aspects of the history of the actual operation ofthe minban schools. For one thing, minban schools weregenerally short -lived. In the Chaoshan region ofnortheastern Guangdong, for instance, 30-40% of the minbanschools established in 1950 collapsed before the end of theyear.47 In Xinxing county, Guangdong, there were 261evening schools for 14,000 peasants operating in November1952, but the following month they all folded when thecounty began land reform.48Conditions in the newly established minban schools wereseverely lacking: most were housed in former ancestral hallsand temples, often without desks or chairs, which studentswere required to bring. There was a shortage of teachersand funds; and a high rate of absenteeism among students and112teachers alike. The minban schools faced cultural obstaclesas well. Villagers considered it an impropriety and loss offace for illiterate elders to be taught in the same classalongside young children, and to be taught by teachers whowere themselves only primary and middle school students,recruited to teach in minban school during theirsparetime.49In fact, in villages where educational poverty randeep, it was often difficult to find anyone capable ofteaching at all. There were, of course, well publicizedexamples of literacy evangelists like the former primaryschool principal who, against the wishes of his family whowanted him to remain at home, felt a patriotic calling tobring (Han) literacy to illiterate Miao villagers on Hainanisland But such examples were necessarily relatively rarein the 1950s.50When the villagers of Longlou, on coastal Hainan,decided to establish a village school in 1950 only five ofthe seventy nine villagers had any previous education, andthey were all from landlord and rich peasant families. Thesingle surname village eventually elected Wang Nengchen, avillage landlord, to assume the title of teacher. But Wangwas later accused of using his status as village teacher inorder to disguise the exploitive nature of his classbackground and to ingratiate himself with the villagers.After he was arrested the villagers invited several barelyliterate activists from nearby to serve as teachers in1 1 3Longlou. These " hundred character teachers" (baizi xianshenq), as they became known, made the "crimes" of WangNengchen the main curriculum of the schoo1.51Problems such as this made the time-consuming and, fora state with severely limited fiscal powers, extremelycostly task of training of large numbers of politicallyreliable literacy teachers seem all the more urgent. Foruntil it was overcome, infiltration of village schools wouldremain a major threat to the state. It was one of the fewavailable means by which former village elites attempted tore-establish their power and prestige.Although officially excluded from serving on schoolmanagement committees, members of the old literate elitewere often the only ones in a village with the literacy andmanagerial skills needed to teach and administer the minbanschools. This period of PRC history abounds with reportedinstances of old elites attempting to use their control overvillage schools in order to frustrate the new government'sambitions, including such means as using the ancient"feudal" thousand character and trimetrical classics (thegianziwen and sanzijinq, respectively) as literacy primers,thus diverting the minban schools from their intendedpurpose of popularizing correct political attitudes andcurrent state policies.In other instances old elites, once they had capturedcontrol of village schools, deliberately distorted thecommunication of those policies in order to shield their114property and protect their status in the village. Reportssuch as these of minban schools serving as the "hideouts forevildoers" were especially frequent during the Korean War,when the fear of internal subversion reached its peak.52Limits of State Power and the Reaffirmation of Voluntarismin Village EducationAt the end of 1952 a brief unsuccessful attempt wasmade to bring all primary and middle schools in the countryunder virtually direct state administration-- a realizationof the most persistent dream of Chinese educationalmodernizers since the turn of the century.53 Although theeffort was never formally enunciated by statute (theinitiative was described merely as originating from "leadingeducational departments" (liaoyu linqdao bumen), whichindicates its limited support), for a brief period in 1952-53 all primary and middle schools in the countryside weredesignated as cionqban (publicly run) schools. Funding forall schools, according to this utopian-minded venture, washenceforth to be obtained from the state budget through anew agricultural surtax and allocated by county governments.Tuition fees were to be turned over to the state treasury.County governments were to assume full responsibility forthe recruitment, training and salaries of all teachers; anduniform standards were announced related to curriculum,115school size and equipment, teacher qualifications, and otherareas.54Chinese critics of this failed experiment, writingafterwards, attributed it to a worshipful infatuation withforeign, Soviet models of education, and a correspondingdenigration of the party's own wartime educational heritage.Specifically, they claimed that the new Soviet mania forstate planning had instilled in some Chinese educationalplanners a mentality of "attempting to monopolizeeverything." This left villagers unable to plan for theirown educational needs. And it also denigrated the value ofthe CCP's own wartime heritage of decentralized villageschools.55The failure was also attributable town assumption thata powerful state could be created, capable of controllingthe education of China's five hundred million peasants inhistorically unprecedented ways. The experiment and thedebate which surrounded it were really an earlymanisfestation of a debate that has haunted the PRC eversince 1949. This debate concerned whether to encouragedecentralized, locally oriented village minban schools of"many kinds, many forms" (duoyanq, duo xingshi), such as theCCP promoted in Yanan in the 1940s; or whether to strive fortheir "regularization" (zhenqqui hua) orincorporation/equivalency with the state system of primaryschools. The latter, as noted, were located mainly incities and towns.116Once the attempt to incorporate all minban schools intothe state system was abandoned as hopelessly unrealisticshortly after its inception, China's state leaders revertedto a historic compromise with the past. In late 1953 theState Council reaffirmed the earlier official policy ofencouraging villages to organize and run their ownschools.56 In spite of this, however, because popularenthusiasm for minban schools was a good deal less than theenthusiasm of some Chinese leaders, the minban school didnot become a significant feature of rural education untilthe late 1950s, when the "Yanan way" was vigorouslyresuscitated by Mao and others.The 1953 decision to rest responsibility for villageeducation in the hands of villagers themselves represented,at one level, a recognition of the value of local initiativeagainst the potentially harmful effects of over-centralization. The threat of overcentralization was not,however, the primary motivating concern behind the 1953decision. The decision to rest responsibility for villageeducation in local hands was fundamentally a reluctantadmission of the fiscal and organizational weakness of theChinese state to establish a genuine nationwide publicschool system. Such a system of universal public educationhad been a consistently sought after goal of Chineseeducational reform ever since Zhang Zhidong had outlinedplans for the first such system at the turn of the century.Confronted with the same chronic fiscal and bureaucratic117weaknesses, the post-1949 Chinese state was faced withlittle choice but to reaffirm the historic principle ofvoluntarism in local educational effort which had guidedChinese rural education for centuries.The principle of voluntarism in village educationaleffort had serious historical consequences for the futurestructure of Chinese education. The state committed itselfto a policy of reverting to voluntarism in village educationwhile simultaneously raising the level of funding for a morerapid development and improvement of urban, state-runprimary schools. When Zhou Enlai announced this policy in1953, he justified the decision to concentrate scarce statefunds on already superior schools in the cities as beingnecessary because of the greater educational requirementsimposed by industrialization in the cities, and because ofthe rapid growth of the school age population in China'sswiftly industrializing cities.57 In the countryside,existing state-run schools were strengthened and improved,but after 1953 no further state funds were allocated for thepurpose of establishing new state-run primary schools inrural areas.In 1954 Guangdong authorities announced that therewould be no further expansion of state schools in thecountryside, except in minority districts and in the formerbase areas. In the case of the minority districts, thisdecision reflected the urgency with which Guangdong leadersregarded the need to consolidate state power in the118sensitive non-Han areas of the province; and a belief , witha long history in China, that the extension of Chineseeducation into such areas was an effective means forachieving this.In the case of the former base areas, the privilegedposition these areas enjoyed with respect to state supportfor literacy education and the expansion of education ingeneral was basically a reward for longstanding politicalloyalty. It was also an attempt to showcase a continuingrevolutionary spirit in these areas, as a model for othersto follow. It was important that a poor, former base areain the East River region of Guangdong become a model ofeducational achievement after 1949, rather than theprosperous delta counties whose big lineages hadtraditionally given this area a lead in education in theprovince. In other words, the former base areas had animportant legitimizing function for the educational policiesof the new state.After 1953 the state educational system was expanded incities and towns and certain privileged parts of thecountryside. Meanwhile villages were encouraged toestablish on their own various forms of "non-standard"primary schooling.58Thus two sorts of divisions began to take shape in thestructure of Chinese primary education after 1953. Onesplit was between the superior quality, state-funded schoolsconcentrated in urban areas and inferior quality village-119funded schools in rural areas. Not surprisingly village-sponsored education lagged behind, and urban, state-fundededucation surged ahead. By 1957 over eighty percent ofurban school age children were said to be attending primaryschool, compared to only fifty percent of rural school agechildren.59 Over time an increasingly higher proportion ofprimary school graduates came from state schools, indicatingthe much higher drop out rate in village schools.60The second chasm which began to form in Chinese primaryeducation after 1953 divided superior state-funded full timeschools in the countryside, located mainly in market townsor townships and county seats, from poorer quality, sparetime schools in the villages.There was an important historical aspect to this chasm.In Guangdong, with its history of powerful lineagescompeting for imperial examination honours by endowingschools, the best state-run schools in each county usuallyhad long histories. In most cases they were formerlyprivately sponsored elite schools under the old order, whichnow catered to the new elite.The research I have done concerning a number of ruralcounties in Guangdong shows that the state schools,especially the elite "keypoint" (zhoncidian), "central"(zhonqxin) and number one (diyi)schools, often had historieswhich stretched back as far as the mid-Qing, when theyoriginated as private academies (shuyuan)and charitableschools (yixue). These schools then became county and120district schools during the republican era and were finallydesignated as central, keypoint, or number one schools inthe 1950s. In Xinxing county, for instance, fully sixteenof the county's seventeen leading state-run primary schoolsin the 1950s were established before 1949, including suchones as the Central Primary School in Tiantang town. TheCentral Primary School was originally established in the52nd reign year of the Kangxi Emperor (1713) by the localcounty magistrate. The Xijie Primary School in Chengguantown was originally established as a charitable schoolduring the 6th year of the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor(1728); while the Shangsha district Central Primary Schooloriginated as an academy in the Daoguang period (1821-50).'Examples like these abound in the local educationalhistories which I have examined.Exponents of voluntarism in local educational effortattempted to persuade themselves and others that thepeasantry's vaunted tradition of voluntarism in education(the sishu, charitable schools and academies) would be asufficient historical basis upon which to build a modern,self sustained educational system in the countryside,without fiscal support from the state. Statistics on theactual growth of minban schools during the early to mid-1950s belie this sense of optimism. As we have alreadyseen, the minban schools faced enormous problems, not leastof which was lack of peasant enthusiasm and support forschools which, in comparison to the venerable and coveted121state schools in the towns, were often described byvillagers as being "not like schools at all."The fact is that China's poverty-stricken villagersprobably often lacked the financial resources, the optimismand the interest that state leaders expected and presumed ofthem. Thus the many hortatory stories that appeared in thepopular press during this period which described villagers'heroic efforts to "build schools from nothing," alsotestified to the exasperating difficulty and probable defeatof many of those efforts. The following example testifiesto both the thinness of resources and the limited ambitionsof many minban village schools. In 1953 the peasants ofFeie village in Heshang county, Guangdong combined theirlabour, material and funds to build a village school. Inaddition the school also received a single cash donationfrom a local returned overseas Chinese. The schoolrecruited fifty to sixty students, a heterogeneous groupcomprised of all ages. Six of the students were selected toserve as teachers because there were no formally qualifiedteachers in the village. School expenses were met from theincome of a small farm plot worked by the students, and bystudents selling their urine to a local fertilizer company.The school's stated mission was to impart a basic knowledgeof "several hundred characters" to each student.62In 1952 minban students constituted only 5.5% ofprimary school enrollment across the country. The figurehad risen to 3.8% in 1953; 5% in 1954; 6.7% in 1955; and 6%122in 1956.63 In 1957 minban enrollment represented 7.8% oftotal primary enrollments. Then it jumped sharply thefollowing year to 25.5% with the advent of the Great LeapForward.64^In Guangdong, even by 1962, following thecontraction of education after the Great leap Forward,minban schools still accounted for only 22% of all primarystudents in the province, and 39% of all primary schools.65The policy of voluntarism in village education adoptedin the early 1950s thus represented not only a desire tomake rural education more responsive to local needs. Italso represented the first defeat of the dream of auniversal system of state schooling and marked the realityof the fiscal and organizational weaknesses of the socialiststate. It also carried with it a heavy long- term price.In the first place, the slow growth of minban villageschools, combined with the official policy of non-expansionof the number of state-run primary schools in thecountryside after 1953, meant that, in relative terms,primary school enrollment actually grew only very slowlyduring the period 1949-57. This is contrary to what hasoften been claimed on the basis of absolute increases. Thereal expansion took place in the predominantly urban, state-funded higher educational sector. Using 1952 enrollments asa baseline, an anonymous Soviet writer calculated in 1957that primary school enrollments grew by an average of only1.3% annually between 1953-55, compared to an average annualincrease of 18.3% in junior middle school enrollments123between 1953-56 and nearly 32% in senior middle schools.66During the period of retrenchment in the early 1950s whichfollowed the failure of the brief attempt by the state totake over all schools, primary enrollment actually fell,from 55 million to 51.2 million between 1952-54. By 1957more than 40% of primary school age children in Chinabetween the ages of 7-12 were receiving no education at all.In Guangdong, the increase in primary school educationbefore the Great Leap Forward was even smaller-- muchsmaller-- than the national average. The proportion ofprimary school age children attending school rose by only2.7% between 1949-57-- nearly half the national average of5.2%.67 Official sources offer no explanation for thistrend, but it is possible to speculate on some of thereasons. It may be that Guangdong was attempting to redressthe historically dismal level of development of seniormiddle school education in the province, whilesimultaneously hoping to "coast" on the relatively highlevel of development of primary school education inheritedfrom the past. Before 1949, primary school enrollment inGuangdong at approximately 1.59 million was second only toHebei and Shandong. But there were only 137,000 middleschool students in Guangdong in 1949, and nearly all ofthese were junior middle school graduates. Moreover thepass rate for Guangdong middle school graduates enteringuniversities was only 40% in 1949, well below the 65% ratein Huabei and Huadong.68124Whatever the reasons or justification, the results ofthis imbalance, wherein state funds were concentrateddisproportionately on urban, higher education and theregular primary system while villages were left to fend forthemselves, provided the makings of an accumulating socialand political crisis. Across the country, while the schoolage population grew by 16.9% between 1951 and 1957, totalstate expenditures on all levels of education rose by only7% over the same period.69 Since very little of this stateeducational investment was directed towards rural primaryeducation, and since the minban schools' percentage of totalenrollment remained at around 5% of the total between 1952-56, it was abundantly clear that the villages of China wereworst affected by this retrenchment. As large numbers ofschool age children continued year after year to fallthrough the loose net of China's woefully underdevelopedrural school system, the number of adult illiteratescontinued to pile up, setting the stage for a long termnational crisis in basic education.Later Effects of What Happened in the 1950sFinally, the policy of voluntarism in villageeducational effort enshrined in the early 1950s produced apermanent distortion in China's educational investmentpyramid that Chinese educational planners have since never125been able to reverse. The structure of educationalinvestment in modern industrial societies resembles apyramid, with the greatest amount of investment concentratedat the base of the pyramid for universal basic education.In China, this investment pyramid seems turned permanentlyupside down, with the least proportionate share of stateinvestment directed towards basic primary education for themajority, and a disproportionate share concentrated onhigher education for the few.70 Thus, for example, in 1985the state's per capita spending on peasant sparetimeeducation for adults was unchanged from what it had beenmore than thirty five years earlier in 1949.Even more astonishing, however, is that the actualamount was an unbelievably low figure of less than 1 mao (one tenth of one yuan) per person.71 In 1984 the GuangdongEducation Bureau advocated that county governments should"generally" devote at least 1% of their educationalexpenditures to peasant education.72 In 1982 more than 81%(48,250,000) of Guangdong's population were classified as'farmers'.73On the other hand, in 1988 -89 persons with a universityeducation comprised only .88% of the total population andthere were fewer than 2 million university students in theentire country; yet higher education ate up more than 20% ofstate educational funds.74 According to the World Bank,Chinese universities enjoy perhaps the lowest student-teacher ratio in the world, 3.7: 1 in the one hundred thirty126six universities surveyed by the Bank, compared to a 12: 1average in the East Asia-Pacific region as a whole excludingChina; and compared to 25:1 in France and 15:1 in the U.S.75In fact, official PRC figures on state educationalexpenditures rarely separate funding according toeducational level. The most complete set of figures waspublished in an internally circulated World Bank report,which showed that in 1979 the proportion of total stateeducational expenditures was exactly the same (29.8 billionyuan) at the tertiary level as it was at the primary level.Given the vast difference in the number of students-- 1.7million in higher education compared to over 180 millionprimary school students in 1985-- this indicates just howsevere the imbalance in state funding for differenteducational sectors has become in the PRC. The same WorldBank report also found that the proportion of state fundsspent on primary education had actually even declined from1977 to 1979. In 1979 China's proportion of totaleducational spending devoted to primary schooling (thirtyfour percent) was substantially lower than that of theaverage of the World Bank's category of "Less DevelopedCountries," (forty five percent), and lower even than thatof the OECD countries (thirty seven percent).76Given this extreme situation, it is not difficult tosee that China's wobbly upside down educational investmentpyramid, perched delicately on a point, is socially andpolitically unstable as well. Just how potentially127destabilizing became clear recently during a wave of protestby Chinese university students. When Shanghai universitystudents went out on protest for better living and studyconditions in the fall of 1986, Shanghai workers reactedangrily, taking over empty university classrooms where theyleft their own blunt messages of protest written on theblackboard walls. University students, said these workers,had no right to demand more money from the government andthe people. They already were the most officiallyprivileged sector of Chinese society; their free educationand living allowances was paid for by the toiling masses ofworkers and peasants, many of whom received little or noeducation themselves.Educational imbalances were not only fiscal. Peasantschools and state schools also inculcated different kinds ofliteracy. The next chapter examines literacy ideologies inthe PRC and their role in shaping and reproducing the basicdivisions between city and countryside in the PRC.1281 Wu Qingsheng, "Weichi nongcun xiaoxue de daolu" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 3 1 (May 1951); Zhang Mingsheng, "Guangdongchudeng jiaoyu de qingkuang yu wenti;" Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, pp. 15, 76, 102.2 Shen Hengsong, "Guangdong sili zhongdeng xuexiao de guoquhe weilai" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 2 4 (Feb. 1951): 14-15.3 Zhong Zhong, "Zhujiang qu yiban jiaoyu qingkuang suxie"Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 11 15 (Sept. 1950); Nanluzhuanshu wenjiao ke, "Nanlu qu wenhua jiaoyu de zhuangtai"Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 1 5 (Sept. 1950): 21.4 Shen Hengsong, "Guangdong sili zhongdeng xuexiao de guoquhe weilai."5 Taishan xian jiaoyu zhi bianxie zu, ed., Taishan xian jiaoyu zhi (neibu faxing)^(n.p.: 1987), p. 18. The sharpdecline in remittances resulted partly from the embargoplaced upon China during the Korean War. Equally important,however, were the fears of relatives overseas that personalremittances were being appropriated for public purposes, andthe intended recipients persecuted. There was widespreadevidence of both, in defiance of the central government'sofficial policy. Ironically, one of the most popular usesfor which zealous local officials "mobilized" personalremittances, was for the funding of village schools. SeePeterson, "Socialist China and the Huaqiao."6 Qin Mu, "Guangdong wenhua jiaoyu lunkuo shu," p. 5;Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, p. 15.7 Official policy for the takeover of private schools wasset forth in a Ministry of Education Directive of Sept. 1,1952. See "Jiaoyubu guangyu jieban sili zhong, xiaoxue dezhishi" in Zhongguo jiaoyu nianjian, pp. 731-732.8 On the takeover of mission schools in Guangdong, see ShenHengsong, "Guangdong sili zhongdeng xuexiao," p. 14. On thetakeover of these and other private middle schools inGuangdong, see also Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, pp. 51, 76.9 Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, p. 19.10 Shen Hengsong, "Duiyu jinhou chuli sishu de yijian"Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 1 2 (June 1950): 14; Su Hongtong,"Yue zhongnan lu yiban jiaoyu qingkuang de jieshao"Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 1 5 (Sept. 50): 16 - 20.11 Guangzhou jiaoyu ju shejiao ke, "Fazhan zhong deguangzhou gongnong yeyu jiaoyu" 1 2 Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua (June 1950): 50-51.12912 "Pengbo fazhan de Haifeng yexiao" Guangdong iiaoyu yu wenhua 1 5 (Sept. 1950): 29.13 "Qiongyai renmin xuexi wenhua" Renmin ribao 31 Mar. 1950in Union Research Institute L0139 4242. The Yao inGuangdong numbered around 40,000 in 1949, concentrated inLiannan and nine other counties in the Beijiang specialdistrict in northern Guangdong. After 1949 Liannan wasnamed a "keypoint" county for spreading education among theYao, while over one hundred Han school teachers weredispatched to teach in Yao primary schools in northernGuangdong as well in the early years after 1949. "Yaominjiaoyu you henda fazhan" Changliang ribao 3 Dec. 1951 inUnion Research Institute L0139 424125; "Wenhua jianxun"Renmin ribao 18 July 1953 in Union Research Institute L0139424125.14 Shen Hengsong,"Guangdong sili zhongdeng xuexiao."15 Qin Mu, "Guangdong jiaoyu wenhua jiaoyu lunkuo shu," p.3.16 Qin Mu, "Guangdong jiaoyu wenhua jiaoyu lunkuo shu," pp.3-4. For the national figures, see Suzanne Pepper,"Education for the New Order" in The Cambridge History of China vol. 14 The People's Republic, Part 1: The Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1949-1965 ed. Roderick Macfarquharand John K. Fairbank (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1987), p. 186.17 It is interesting to compare Chinese educationalreformers' views of the sishu with those of early Russianeducational reformers toward the sishu's Russiancounterpart, the volnye shkoly (village schools). Volnye shkoly were informal schools established by peasantfamilies, taught by itinerant literates, local priests andretired soldiers, and funded from payments from householdsor by the community. But whereas Chinese educationalmodernizers saw the sishu as a symbol of Chinese"backwardness" and tried to expunge it, volnye shkoly liveda furtive and illegal existence until 1882 when earlyRussian modernizers rescued the volnye shkoly and attemptedto harness it to their modern purposes. Much of theexpansion of schooling that took place in Russia followingthe Emancipation of 1867 was in fact the formalization andregistration of existing volnye shkoly. Chinese educationalrevolutionaries turned reluctantly to the same strategy inthe early 1950s, after half a century of failed efforts torepress the sishu. Ben Eklof, Russian Literacy Campaigns,1861-1939" in Arnove and Graff, eds., National LiteracyCampaigns, pp. 125-126.18 Panyu xian renmin zhengfu jiaoyu ke, ed., Panyu xian iiaoyu zhi (chugao) (n.p.: 1988), pp. 4-5. In larger urban130centres, like Guangzhou, where foreign trade and relationswith the West stimulated greater demand for the kinds ofknowledge and skills imparted by modern schools, and wherethe enforcement power of local governments was generallygreater, modern schools were more successful. Thus, forexample, in 1924, according to a survey, there was a roughlyequivalent number of students studying in sishu and modernprimary schools in Guangzhou, around 30,000 (because of thenature of the sishu, the number of sishu is usuallyunderrepresented in such surveys). By 1944 there were anestimated 3,670 sishu students, compared to more than 47,000enrolled in modern schools. Zhongguo renmin zhengzhixieshang huiyi guangdong sheng guangzhou shi weiyuanhui,wenshi ziliao yanjiu weiyuanhui, ed., Guangzhou jin bainian jiaoyu shiliao (Guangzhou: guangdong renmin chubanshe,1983), pp. 263-264.19 Peng Pai, Haifenq nonqmin yundonq, (n.p.: Guangdong shengnongmin xiehui, 1926), pp. 17 - 18.20 Guangdong nongmin yundong jiangxi suo jiuzhi jinian guan,ed, Guangzhou nonqmin yundonq jianqxi suo ziliao xuanbian,pp.205-206.21 Peng Pai, Haifenq nonqmin yundonq, p.1; Qian Qunrui,"Xuexi he guanche Mao zhuxi de jiaoyu sixiang: wei jinianzhongguo gongchang dang de sanshi zhounian erzuo" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 3 4 (Aug. 1951): 5.22 It is important not to attempt to explain too much aboutthe social demand for education using the argument that themodern school curriculum was "irrelevant" to villageeconomic needs. While true from the standpoint of theobjective needs of "the village," it is neverthelessimportant to keep in mind the desire for social mobility wasalso an important "demand factor" for individuals andfamilies, in which case modern education lacks not"relevancy."23 Zheng Huihao, ed., iiin xian jiaoyu zhi (n.p.: 1987), p.15.24 Xinxinq xian jiaoyu zhi rev. edition (n.p.: 1978).25 Huazhou xian jiaoyu zhi (jianben) (n.p.: 1987), p. 3.26 Taishan xian jiaoyu, p.87.27 Zijin xian jiaoyu zhi, p.47.28 Panyu xian jiaoyu zhi, p.6.29 Panyu xian jiaoyu zhi, pp. 11-13.13130 Liu Lequn, "Xuexi Mao Zedong tongzhi guanyu nongminjiaoyu sixiang de jidian tihui" Shenyang shiyuan xuebao 4(1983) in Fuyin baokan ziliao series G5 6 (1983): 49.31 On the increased popularity of sishu in Nanhai county andin the south central part of the province in general, seethe following. Nanhai xian wenjiao ke, "Sishu shi dezhuanbian" Guangdong -jiaoyu yu wenhua 1 4 (Aug. 1950): 54-55; Zhong Zhong, "Zhujiang qu yiban jiaoyu qingkuang suxie;"Su Hongtong, "Yue zhongnan lu yiban jiaoyu qingkuang dejieshao," p. 18. For province-wide estimates of the growthof sishu, see Zhang Mingshen, "Guangdong chudeng jiaoyu deqingkuang yu wenti," p.11 and Qin Mu, "Guangdong wenhuajiaoyu lunkuo shu," p.6.32 Shen Hengsong, "Duiyu jinhou chuli sishu de yijian."33 Shen Hengsong, "Duiyu jinhou chuli sishu de yijian." Seealso Su Hongtong, "Yue zhongnan lu yiban jiaoyu qingkuang dejieshao," p. 18.34 Nanhai xian wenjiao ke, "Sishu de zhuanbian;" SuHongtong, "Yue zhongnan lu yiban jiaoyu qingkuang dejieshao;" Huang Shan, "Guangzhou de sishu shi xuexi dahui"Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 1 6 (Oct. 1950): 36 - 37.35 Shen Hengsong, "Duiyu jinhou chuli sishu de yijian."36 In the mid-1950s the school management committee wasrelocated at the township (xianq) level, under the townshipgovernment. Wu Qingsheng, "Weichi nongcun xiaoxue dedaolu." "Raoping xian jianku banxue de jingyan" Guangdongjiaoyu yu wenhua 3 2 (June 1951); "Dongjiang qu qunzhongbanxue de juti shili" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 3 2 (June1951); "Shitan zenyang guanche qunzhong banxue de fangzhen"Renmin jiaoyu 6 (1957): 19.37 In Zijin county until 1952 only one primary and onemiddle school were state-financed. All others were financedby local authorities using a variety of means, includingrice requisitions from landlords and rich peasants,appropriation of the income of temple associations, andtuition. Zijin xian jiaoyu zhi, p. 67. See also thefollowing sources on financing for minban schools during theearly 1950s. "Xijiang minxiao fadong qunzhong ruxue jijiejue jingfei wenti jingyan zongjie" in Guangdong shenq diyijie gongnong jiaoyu huiyi (yi), pp. 96-97. "Yijiu wuyinian kaizhan gongnong jiaoyu gongzuo chubu fangan" in thesame collection, pp. 5-12. Zhang Mingsheng, "Guangdongchudeng jiaoyu de qingkuang yu wenti," p. 12. "Guanyukaizhan yiwu wuyi nian dongxue gongzuo de zhishi" Changiianq ribao 18 Nov. 1951 in Union Research Institute L0135 42223135.13238 Chen Zhou, "Laoqu nongmin jiaoyu gezhong fangshi dejieshao" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 2 5 (March 1951): 27-29describes the various forms of popular education in use inGuangdong villages during the early 1950s. In most cases,these practices were originally popularized in CCP baseareas during the war against Japan. See also "Gongnongjiaoyu de gezhong zuzhi xingshi he neirong" in Guangdong shenq diyijie cionqnonq jiaoyu huiyi ii jiaoyu qonqhui daibiao dahui cailiao (vi). 39 On the policy of year round sparetime study in ruralvillages, see "Jiaoyubu guanyu dongxue zhuan wei changniannongmin yeyu xuexiao de zhishi" 28 Feb. 1951 in Gonqnonq jiaoyu wenxian huibian (nonqmin jiaoyu), pp. 21-22. On thesituation in Guangdong, see "Gongnong jiaoyu de gezhongzuzhi xingshi he neirong."40 Guangdong jiaoyu nianlian, p. 109.41 The Ministry of Education circulated lists of primary andmiddle school texts to the regions, and later the provinces,which then selected from these lists and reported theirchoices back to the Ministry in Beijing. They could alsochoose from outside these lists, if they felt that thecentrally prepared texts were unsuited to local curricularneeds, but in such cases the texts used had to be submittedto the Central . Ministry for prior approval. On primaryschool texts see also See Seeberg, pp. 151-192. Accordingto Seeberg, the Ministry of Education compiled five sets oftextbooks for primary and middle schools between 1949-79, in1951, 1958, 1969, 1974, and 1979. Each of these datescoincides with important transitions in the politicalhistory of the PRC.42 Pepper, "Education in the New Order," p. 195.43 Mao Zedong, "Hunan nongmin yundong kaocha baogao" in Maozhuxi lun jiaoyu qeminq (Beijing: renmin chubanshe, 1967),p. 1.44 "Chaoshan qu yeyu jiaoyu kefu jingfei kunnan de shili"Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 2 6 (April 1951): 20-21.45 Taishan xian jiaoyu zhi, p. 51, 91, 119 - 20. 46 Wu Ming, "Huiyang xian gongnong yeyu jiaoyu de gingxing"Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 3 3 (July 1951): 22.47 See "Yiwu wuyi nian kaizhan gongnong jiaoyu gongzuo chubufangan," p. 6. In Fei county, Shandong in 1955 286 plannnedminban schools failed to open their doors because ofshortages of books, premises, teachers and other causes,removing some 10,000 illiterates from the school rosters forthat year. "Strengthen the Concrete Leadership of the Work133of Eliminating Illiteracy" Renmin ribao 21 Jan. 1956 inSurvey China Mainland Press 1221 2 Feb. 1956, pp. 8-10.48 Xinxinq xian jiaoyu zhi rev, edition (n.p.: 1978), p.141.49 In many cases, parents could not afford books, or eventhe lamp oil, that every student was required to bring forevening classes. On the problems faced by minban schools inGuangdong see the following. Zhang Bailin, "Guanyu banlinongmin yeyu jiaoyu de jidian tiyan" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 4 1 (Nov. 1951). Zhou Ping, "Guangzhou shi diyicigongnong jiaoyu huiyi zongjie bao" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 2 3 (Jan. 1951) 28-32. For case studies, see"Sanshui xian gongnong yeyu jiaoyu de jidian jingyanjiaoxun" Guangdong jiaoyu yu wenhua 2 5 (March 1951); and"Minban xiaoxue ye neng quanmian yuejin" Guangdong jiaoyu 11,12, (10 June 1960), which describes the Shaoxiang minbanprimary school for thirty six students which was set up inDongwan county in 1954. The school was housed, in typicalfashion, on the premises of a dilapidated former temple,without doors or windows, while the verandah served as theteacher's living quarters. Fourth year students were saidto be unable to write a complete sentence. See also WangZhongqing, "Minxiao gongzuo zhong de jige wenti" Renmin jiaoyu 2 1 (1 Nov. 19 -50}.50 He Hanmin, "Zai wenhua da geming zhong gongxian chu wobisheng de liliang" Guangdong jiaoyu 9 (May 1960): 15.51 "Jianchi lixue shiwu nian de longlou can yexiao"Guangdong jiaoyu 2 (Feb. 1966).52 See Zhang Mingsheng, "Guangdong sheng diyijie gongnongjiaoyu huiyi ji jiaoyu gonghui daibiao dahui zongjiebaogao," p. 108. Chao Yimin, "Dongxue jiaoyu de fangzhen jiyouguan de jige wenti" Changjiang ribao 20 Aug. 1951 inUnion Research Institute L0135 4222 3135. Wu Qingsheng,"Weichi nongcun xiaoxue de daolu." Xin Ming, "Ban xiaoxuede liangtiao luxian" Renmin jiaoyu 6 (1957), p 16."Actively and Steadily Eliminate Illiteracy" Renmin ribao 25Nov. 1956 in Survey China Mainland Press 1431 14 Dec 1956,pp. 20-22.53 The fear that the schools might become platforms forcounter-revolutionaries played a part in stimulating thiseffort at instant realization of the dream of a publicschool system. In the early 1950s the government wascommitted to taking over private schools. But there was noway to guarantee that a 'people-funded' minban school wasnot just a former lineage school under a new name. Many, infact, were just that.13454 On efforts to implement this policy in Guangdong, see,for example, Xinfenq xian jiaoyu zhi (Zhaoqing: Xinfengxian jiaoyu ju, 1978), p. 132; Zijin xian jiaoyu zhi, pp.63 - 67.55 "Shitan zenyang guanche qunzhong banxue de fangzhen; XinMing, "Ban xiaoxue de liangtiao luxian."56 "Shitan zenyang guanche qunzhong banxue de fangzhen; XinMing, "Ban xiaoxue de liangtiao luxian." "Zhengwuyuanguanyu zhengdun he gaijin xiaoxue jiaoyu de zhishi" 26 Nov.1953 in Zhonqquo jiaoyu nianjian, pp. 732-733.57 "Zhengwuyuan guanyu zhengdun he gaijin xiaoxue jiaoyu dezhishi," pp. 732-733. See also Zhonqquo jiaoyu nianjian, p.89 which explains the goals of primary education expansionunder the first five year plan.58 "Zhengwuyuan guanyu zhengdun he gaijin xiaoxue jiaoyu dezhishi," pp. 732-733.59 "Shitan zenyang guanche qunzhong banxue de fangzhen," p.18.60 Seeberg, p. 222.61 Xinxinq xian jiaoyu zhi, pp. 78-86. For other examplesof this unbroken continuity in elite rural primary schools,see Zijin xian jiaoyu zhi, pp. 20-22 and Taishan xian jiaoyu zhi, pp. 127-134.62 "Yi suo wanquan you nongmin ziban de xuexiao" Guanqminq ribao 17 July 1953 in Union Research Institute L0136 42223235.63 Li Pingjie, "Strive to Bring Universalization ofObligatory Primary School Education into Realization at anEarly Date" Guanqminq ribao 22 Feb 1956 in Survey China Mainland Press 1246 13 Mar. 1956, pp. 18-22. Wu Yen-yin,"We Should Pay Enough Attention to the Middle and PrimarySchool Education and Teachers" Guanqminq ribao 16 Aug. 1956in Survey China Mainland Press 1380 10 Oct. 1956, p. 12."Shitan zenyang guanche qunzhong banxue de fangzhen," p. 17.64 Seeberg, pp. 222, 224.65 "Jiaqiang liangdao, banhao nongmin xiaoxue" Guangdong jiaoyu 6 (1962): 25.66 Su ren, "thong, xiaoxue jiaoyu fazhan wenti de wo jian"Renmin jiaoyu 5 (1957). Of course, the differentpercentages also reflected the much smaller base of middleschool students in 1952.13567 Guangdong jiaoyu nianjian, pp. 51-52.68 Qin Mu, "Guangdong wenhua jiaoyu lunkuo shu," pp. 3-4.69 "Shitan zenyang guanche qunzhong banxue de fangzhen," p.17.70 As Seeberg (p. 75) writes, "the proportion of fundsexpended on primary schooling as part of the totaleducational expenditures is similar at the national (29.8%)and local levels (which includes both provincial and countyfunds- ed.) (32.5%). Given the relative size of the threesectors of education, however, this proportionalityindicates a rising level of per-student place funding withrising level of education."71 Tai Xuepin and Shi Dengming, "Ruogan wenti de renshi duidangqian fazhan nongmin jiaoyu" Henan chengren jiaoyu 1(1985): 12 - 14 in Fuyin baokan ziliao series G50 2 (1985):21-23. The history of educational financing in one ruralGuangdong county, Zhaoqing, illustrates this imbalance. In1954 Zhaoqing allocated over 514,000 yuan on primary andmiddle school expenditures, compared to only 800 yuan onpeasant sparetime education (mostly as subsidies for teachertraining and salaries). In 1966 the figures were 922,000yuan and 5,900 yuan, respectively (at the supposed height ofeducational egalitarianism in China; these figures questionthat characterization); while in 1985, under Deng Xiaoping'sprogram to raise the neglected status and living standardsof intellectuals, the figures stood at 3,616,000 yuan and9,600 yuan respectively. Xinfenq xian jiaoyu zhi, p. 182.See also the table on educational expenditures in theappendix of this volume.72 "Nuli kaichuang wosheng gongnong yeyu jiaoyu de xinjumian" Guangdong jiaoyu 2 (1984): 14. See also "Nulifazhan saomang chengren jiaoyu" Guangdong jiaoyu 7/8 (1985):93 and "Nuli kaichuang nongmin jiaoyu de xin jumian"Guangdong jiaoyu 5 (1983): 9.73 Wu Yuwen, ed., Guangdong shenq jingji dili, p. 67. Thismeans that 81% of Guangdong people were classified as ruralresidents according to China's household registrationsystem. Since 1978 a declining number of these people allacross the province, but especially in the Pearl River deltaregion, earn their living directly from agriculture. Agrowing number live in market towns. With few exceptionsmost of these persons continue, however, to be classified asrural residents. On the urbanization trend (chenq- zhenhua)of recent years, see Zhu Yuncheng, ed., Zhonqguo renkou: Guangdong fence, chapter 8, pp. 208 - 235.74 "Renkou: shuliang yu zhiliang" Guanqminq ribao 13 April1989: 1.13675 Cited in Robert Delfs, "Leap Forward Resumed" Far Eastern Economic Review (June 16 1988): 32.76 China: Socialist Economic Development Annex G: Education Sector (internal World Bank report No. 3391 CHA, June 1,1981) cited in Seeberg, p. 76. The figures in thisparagraph are from this and other World Bank reports citedby Seeberg on pp. 75-78. See also the Bank's 1985 report,China: Issues and Prospects for Education (Annex 1 to China:Long-Term Development Issues and Options) (Washington: TheWorld Bank, 1985). Edgar Wickberg has pointed out to methat between 1900- 1911 the educational system seemed alsoto spend disproportionately on higher education. Thereasons, I think, have to do with the higher value placed onhighly trained personnel and, as Wickberg suggests, adecision to invest scarce state funds where the state canmost effectively control the results.137Chapter 3CHANGING LITERACY IDEOLOGIES IN POST-1949 CHINA AND THECONTINUED REPRODUCTION OF RURAL-URBAN DIFFERENCESMost studies of literacy's place in the twentiethcentury have emphasized its role in the modernizationprocess. In much of this work, literacy was understood tobe a tool, the possession of which granted the holder accessto a range of modern economic, political and culturalopportunities which were otherwise inaccessible. Thusconceived, literacy was seen by many as the essentialprecondition for successful modernization, the sine qua non of modern industrial society from which all of itscharacteristic skills, attributes, and even its purportedcognitive dimensions (rationality, critical thinking, thecapacity to think in abstract terms, and so on) werederived.1 Alexander Woodside has aptly characterized thisview as "the new ideological Great Tradition which links percapita income, industrial productivity, overall economicadaptability, and other good things, to literacy."2Universal literacy's link to modernization thus hasbecome one of the great shibboleths of the twentiethcentury. It is part of the prevailing orthodoxy of ThirdWorld politicians and economic planners; internationaldevelopment agencies, and leaders of Western industrialstates alike; the latter of whom worriedly link their own138recently shrinking literacy rates to their nations' loss ofeconomic competitiveness with states which are perceived toaccord literacy a much higher cultural value.Guangdong educators in the PRC shared the sameconception of literacy as a catalyst for modernization.1950 Zhou Ping, one of Guangdong's new educationalofficials, proclaimed that literacy was linked to a host ofmodernization-enhancing skills and attitudes, includingheightened productivity, problem-solving analytical ability,as well as the more mundane literate skills of accountingand book keeping that were necessary for managing industrialand commercial enterprises.3 At the first Guangdongprovincial conference on worker-peasant education in 1951,delegates claimed that previously uneducated peasants hadexperienced exponential increases in labour productivity andenhanced creative powers after attending literacy classes.4In recent years the modernization theory view ofliteracy has come under increasing attack from scholars in awide variety of disciplines. These critics insist that the"literacy myth," born of Enlightenment views of the positiveeffects of education grafted onto twentieth centurymodernization theory, reifies literacy as a neutral skill ortechnology of the intellect. The literacy myth ignores theintrinsically normative or ideological nature of literacydefinitions and, from that, the role of literacyprescriptions in reproducing the social distribution ofknowledge.5139In this chapter I caution against conceiving literacyin China as simply the techniques of reading and writing.Instead I use the theoretical tools described above toconstruct a picture of literacy in Mao's China whichemphasizes literacy's place in the political economy. Inparticular, I will examine how literacy ideologies haveoperated to reproduce urban-rural differences in China,rather than reduce them as the literacy myth would suggest.The idea that literacy education in the People's Republicmight work to perpetuate urban-rural differences instead ofeliminating them runs contrary to what both Western scholarsand official Chinese sources alike have argued aboutliteracy's social effects.Officially, the expansion of literacy was part of whatthe Soviets originally termed the "cultural revolution"which accompanies the political revolution and the economicrevolution. The cultural revolution, according to Sovietand Chinese theory, aims at the elimination of the "threegreat differences" inherited from the former historicalepoch: the difference between workers and peasants, betweencity and countryside, and between mental and manual labour.Western scholars have argued that the expansion ofbasic education since 1949 has in fact resulted in asignificant narrowing of the urban-rural gulf. As oneprominent example of this view, the authors of GilbertRozman's study of the modernization of China argue that thenear universalization of primary schooling in the PRC has140"sharply narrowed the urban-rural and interprovincialimbalances" that existed before 1949.6I suggest that Western scholars have for the most partassumed this trend rather than investigated it. My ownresearch on this subject points to a quite differentconclusion. In addition to establishing that the expansionof popular literacy after 1949 did not contribute to anarrowing of the urban-rural gap, but in fact had theopposite effect, my research also shows that thesolidification of urban-rural differences through educationwas not accidental. These differences were fully intendedby Chinese leaders. They were part of a particular socialformation that took shape in China from the mid-1950s, inwhich education played a crucial role.The village schools and adult literacy classes forpeasants initiated their learners into two vastly differenteducational worlds. In this "two track educational system"(lianczhong liaoyu zhidu), which was to come under fierceattack during the Cultural Revolution, the governmentschools placed students on the bottom rung of an educationalladder whose ultimate objective was unlimited access to thefull universe of literate knowledge and culture-- and to thefull range of jobs and social prestige which accompaniedsuch access.On the other hand, the village schools and peasantliteracy classes inculcated terminal literacies. Their141economic and social uses stopped, as it were, at the villagegate.The reasons for the restricted forms of literacyoffered to villagers were both economic and social.Economically, village literacy education attempted to fosterspecific and limited forms of economic competence which wereapplicable within the closed confines of the collectiveunits of production and consumption into which Chinese ruralsociety was divided from the mid-1950s.Socially, the restricted literacy objectives of villageeducation aimed at preventing education from generating arevolution of rising socio-economic expectations whichChina's poor agricultural economy was unable to satisfy, andwhich, if unleashed, might destabilize the kind of socialorder which Mao and his supporters were endeavouring tocreate in China in the mid-1950s. The Maoist vision ofChinese rural society was one in which peasants remained intheir economically and socially self-sufficient communes asthe basis for maintaining social order and for guaranteeingthe country's precarious food supply.Literacy Definitions as Elite Prescriptions of Social OrderEdward Said has said with respect to the methodologicalimportance of formulating points of departure for scholarlyinquiry that "there is no such thing as a merely given, or142simply available starting point: beginnings have to be madefor each project in such a way as to enable what followsfrom them."7 Starting from the premise that literacy is anindependent skill enables an inquiry that focusses onappropriate and effective pedagogical techniques (the mostefficient means of inculcating the skill), and the multitudeof factors which affect the rate and quality of the skill'sacquisition (psychological, social, cultural). But itignores or pushes aside as incidental the question of thesocial construction of literacy.Literacy is not a socially and politically neutraltechnology, simply waiting to be picked up and mastered byall those to whom the technology is made available. Readingand writing are social practices. As Brian Street puts it,what we call "literacy" consists of different kinds ofsocial practices involving reading and writing which are"embedded" in economic, political and cultural systems.When we view literacy in these terms, the notion of asingle, undifferentiated "literacy" yields to the morenuanced concept of different kinds of literacy or"literacies." In Street's words literacies are "sociallyconstructed technologies... used within particularinstitutional frameworks for specific social purposes."8Extending this analysis further, we can establish thepoint that literacy definitions are not objective inferencesdrawn from empirically calculated minimum skill requirementsor "functionality." Literacy definitions are ideological143statements of what kinds and levels of literate practicesare deemed or desired as necessary by, or for, differentsocial groups. As Charles Hayford puts it, "any particularconcept of literacy is a political and even moralabstraction beyond the reach of empirical data."9Such abstractions are historically derived. As HarveyGraff explains, "virtually all approaches to literacy followfrom...historically-based assumptions: about the nature ofsocial and economic development, of political participationand citizenship, of social order and morality, of personaladvancement, and of societal progress."10In other words then, it may be useful to think ofliteracy not as a socially autonomous and politicallyneutral "technology" of the intellect, but in terms of whatmembers of the French Annales school of history might referto as "mentalites" of literacy: ways of conceiving andrepresenting literacy that are characteristic of aparticular social or cultural group, class or epoch. Morespecifically, since historically the growth of literacy hasbeen conceived and managed by ruling social and politicalelites, literacy conceptions serve as statements of theeconomic and political ambitions that rulers hold for thosewhom they govern. Literacy definitions are eliteprescriptions for how society should be ordered.144Defining Literacy After 1949During 1949-50 a large number of literacy surveys wereundertaken across China, as part of the CCPs attempt to takestock of the national situation. As such, these surveyswere no different than similar surveys designed to determinethe number of tenant farmers, landless labourers, overseasChinese, and other social groups. The attempt to quantifythe number of official illiterates, however, quickly metwith confusion. As explained in official sources, theconfusion stemmed from the widely varying criteria reportedin use to determine who was and who was not "literate," andthe resultant "huge discrepancies" in methods ofcalculation.11In the end the authorities settled for the sameestimation method used by the republican state before them.All those who admitted to having never attended any kind ofschool were considered illiterate, a standard that wasmaintained in the 1954 national census and, apparently, inthe 1982 census as well.12 As for the definition of whatexactly constituted minimal literacy, the Ministry ofEducation decreed in 1950 that peasants had to demonstrateknowledge of one thousand characters in order to be judgedliterate by the state.This definition represented implicit recognition of thevalidity of the centuries old 1000-2000 character framework145embodied by the san-bai-clian trinity of classical literacyprimers (the sanzijinq, bai jiaxinq and clianzi wen) andtheir republican era offspring, including those of the CCPitself. The CCP had adopted the 1000-2000 characterframework ever since 1929 when Mao and his colleaguesdecided to compile their own version of James Yan's People's Thousand Character Classic (Pinqmin crianzi ke), which Maohad been exposed to several years previously. Mao Zedongwas a twenty six year old primary school principal in 1922when he and other members of the communist party membersjoined James Yan's YMCA-sponsored literacy campaign inChangsha. Within a few years Mao was calling on the partyto use Yan's People's Thousand Character Classic  as a modelfor mass literacy efforts among peasants in theJinggangshan.13In August 1950 Party officials and educators met todiscuss what they called the "common character researchproblem." The problem was to decide how many characters--and which ones-- ought to be considered the foundation forliteracy education in the People's Republic. Frompreviously existing character glossaries, dictionaries andliteracy primers, including primers from differentprovinces, they eventually selected 1,589 characters toserve as the foundation for adult literacy education in thenew state.A second conference was called to discuss the "commoncharacter problem" in December 1950. It was followed by146"testing work" and further consultations with specialists.As a result of these efforts an official list of 2000characters was promulgated by the Ministry of Education inJune 1952 which it said was to serve as the basic "referencematerial" for localities to design their own literacyprimers and "popular reading materials." "Localities"referred to anything from the large regional administrationswhich were set up for a brief period after 1949 to provincesand counties.14As a result of the discussions at the first nationalconference on worker-peasant education held at Beijing inlate 1950, the Ministry of Education decreed in December1950 that within three years of part time study illiterates(wenmanq) and 'half - literates' (ban wenmanq) should be ableto recognize 1000 commonly used characters (chanqyoncizi) andpossess preliminary (chubu) reading, writing and computationskills. Illiterates spent the first year of study learningto read (shizi). The second year was devoted solely toarithmetic (suanshu); and the third year presumably combinedall three. After the third year graduates were entitled tohold a certificate of official literate status (fei wenmanq zhenqshu) issued by the county government. No mention wasmade in the document of examinations. The officialcertificate of literate status qualified one to enter a twoyear program of further sparetime study. Here studentsstudied Mandarin speech, arithmetic and 'general147knowledge'(chanoshi). Class length for both programs wasset at 1-2 hour classes, 150-200 classes per year.These literacy criteria were aimed at Communist Partymembers, cadres and local activists who were the maintargets of the literacy movement. The literacy certificatesissued by county governments for both programs were deemedequivalent to junior and senior primary school graduationcertificates, respectively, for the purpose of winningacceptance to special cadre schools. The objective spelledout in late 1950 was for all village cadres and party youthactivists to achieve the one thousand character literatestatus within 3-5 years.15The new formal category of 'half-literate' (banwenmanq) was particularly intriguing. The origins of thisconcept are unclear. It may have been derived as a resultof the proxy measure of literacy by school attendance: thosewho had never attended any form of school were consideredilliterate for statistic-gathering purposes, but there wasthe problem of how to categorize the many who had attended asishu for a time and who knew several hundred characters,not to mention the many who had failed to complete primaryschool. A more likely reason, however, seems to have beenthe determination to borrow what was originally a Sovietconcept and bend it to describe Chinese literacy. Duringthe Russian literacy campaign of the 1920s differentliteracy schools were established for those who were 'half-literate.'16148Soviet literacy experience was closely studied byChinese mass educational planners in the early 1950s. InGuangdong, Chao Yimin, the Chairperson of the Central-SouthCulture and Education Committee, identified three kinds ofilliterates in 1951: those who knew no characters at all,those who knew around one hundred or so characters, andthose who knew more than five hundred characters.17In 1951 the editors of the Ministry of Education'sofficial journal wrote that according to "usual practice"(yiban de xiquan) an 'illiterate' was considered to besomeone who knew between zero and three-four hundredcharacters. These persons, even though they could recognizebank notes and perhaps even write simple receipts, werenevertheless considered 'illiterate' because they generallydid not know how to use the writing brush (literally, 'hadnot yet mastered the tools of writing'). A person wasconsidered 'half-literate' who was able to recognize 500-600characters "more or less," could hold a writing brush, andwho was therefore in a position of being "half able and halfunable to get by" in "daily written cultural life."18Subsequent attempts to refine and clarify theseofficial prescriptive definitions appeared to have beenequally ad hoc. In 1953 the newly formed National Anti-illiteracy Work Committee issued a circular on literacystandards (saomanq biaozhun) which stated that a 'half-literate' was someone who "knew how to read" (nenq shidao)at least 500 characters but who had still not attained the149complete literacy standard as determined in new literacygraduation examinations.19 A 1984 definition of 'half-literate' offered the following more sophisticated criteria.A 'half-literate' was someone who had learned the commoncharacter components, the order of strokes for writing some800 characters, and who knew the method by which characterswere arranged in "traditional" Chinese dictionaries (those,in other words, which did not rely on pinyin romanization toorganize the sequence of characters, which most peasantsfound unintelligible)-- criteria which emphasized analyticalcapability as the basis for developing reading skills.20Localities frequently defied or were unaware of theseshifting, arbitrary definitions. Many localities simplyimposed their own. Thus, for example, some localities inGuangdong and elsewhere defined as 'literate' only those whohad graduated from senior primary school-- a much morestringent definition, considering that in the early 1950sonly around ten percent of primary schools even offered thesenior level curriculum (grades 5-6), and that most of theseschools were in the cities.21 Those with a junior primaryschool education were considered 'half-literates.'Still other localities in Guangdong were found in the1950s to have issued 'literacy certificates' to those whocould read 600 characters. This definition was not withoutsome historical justification. One of the earliest modernadult literacy primers, the Liubaizi ke tonqsu iiaoyu duben 150which was written in the classical language, was comprisedof 600 characters.22My own research in rural Guangdong shows that similarpractices of local ad hoc-ism were still taking place inGuangdong as recently as the late 1980s. In late 1988 I wastold by the Chairperson of the Panyu county adult educationcommittee that the county used a sixty percent pass mark asthe criteria for testing literacy. The test was based on a1200 character literacy textbook published by the Guangdongeducation bureau in the early 1980s, which Panyu authoritiesadopted in 1982. Panyu authorities decided that peasantswho recognized eight hundred characters, equivalent to sixtyfive percent of the characters in the provincial educationbureau's literacy textbook, would be considered officiallyliterate. On this basis Panyu had achieved a literacy rateof over 90% by 1982.23The Panyu county educational authorities were operatingon the basis of established practice. In 1953 the NationalAnti-Illiteracy Work Committee decreed that in order to"standardize" literacy requirements, a demonstratedknowledge of 600 characters (a score of 60%) would now berequired in order to pass the character recognitioncomponent of new comprehensive literacy examinations. Localauthorities were now required to administer suchexaminations to all graduates of literacy classes.24Soviet influence appears also to have been behind thearbitrary definition of the appropriate age group target of151adult literacy education. In the famous Soviet 1919 Decreeon Eliminating Illiteracy (upon which the Chinese 1956decree of the same name was modelled) the new Soviet statedeclared the adult literacy campaign would be targeted atthose aged 14-50 years. The minimum age was based on schoolcompletion. In 1918 the new Soviet state decreed five yearscompulsory primary schooling for children aged 8-13 years.The maximum target age was presumably based upon somejudgement or measure of the utility of educationalinvestment in persons with limited time left in the labourforce.25China adopted the same target group definition in theearly 1950s, despite the fact that fewer than one third ofChinese primary school age children were attending school.In China the target group was further sub-divided into youth(qinqnian) aged 14-25 years, to whom the most urgent effortwas directed, and adults (zhuanqnian), to whom a lesserpriority was applied. The definition of youth was based onthe age criteria of the Youth League, which was similarly aborrowed Soviet institution.In 1955 Hu Yaobang, in his capacity as head of theYouth League, explained that China had diverged from theSoviet experience and limited its goal of eliminatingilliteracy initially to youth only because of the muchgreater burden of literacy in Chinese imposed by the non-alphabetic nature of the language and the difficulty of thecharacters.26 In 1956 the central government reiterated the15214-50 years target; in 1957 it lowered it (withoutexplanation) to those aged 14-40; and in 1978 the target wasset at persons aged 12-45 years.27In 1953 the Anti - Illiteracy Work Committee introducedthe first modification of the quantitative literacy standardspelled out in 1950. The committee referred to "threekinds" (sanzhonq) of adult literacy, one for peasants(nonqmin), one for urban labourers (laodonq renmin) and onefor cadres and urban factory workers (qanbu, clonciren). Thecommittee ordained that cadres and urban workers needed toknow 2000 characters, plus have the ability to read simple(tonqsu) books and newspapers and write 200-300 characterreports, such as might be required of cadres to facilitatebureaucratic communication, in order to qualify asofficially literate. Urban labourers were decreed torequire a knowledge of 1500 characters. Peasants were stillrequired to know only 1000 characters, plus show the abilityto read "the simplest" (ie. specially prepared) books andnewspapers and be able to keep simple accounts and writereceipts of the kind used in village transactions.28In 1956 the State Council together with the newlyformed Anti-Illiteracy Commission headed by senior communistparty officials jointly decreed that the literacy standardfor peasants was the knowledge of 1500 characters, plus theability to comprehend popular books and newspapers, writesimple notes and keep account books, and perform simplecalculations using the abacus. Significantly, the official153literacy standard for cadres and urban workers remainedhigher at 2000 characters. The 1956 definition of literacywas reiterated by the central committee in 1978 followingthe accession to power of the Deng Xiaoping leadershipgroup, and continues to be the official standard of adultliteracy in China down to the present time.29The 1950s Debate Over Methods of Literacy InstructionThe traditional method of literacy instruction in Chinainvolved the memorization of around two thousand unrelatedindividual characters. The traditional san-bai-gian trinity of classical primers added up to around two thousandcharacters in total. Out of the three, the sanziling (Trimetrical classic) was the only one which told a story.Even so, as Rawski says, all three were "essentiallycollections of characters" whose primary value "was not astory but the convenient form in which they introducedcharacters to beginning readers."30 Only after students hadmemorized the two thousand odd individual characterscontained in these texts were they taught how to read actualdiscourse. And even then, students typically committedenormous time and energy to memorizing the classical textsbefore the pedagogical emphasis shifted to exegesis of thetexts.154PRC educators called the traditional method the"concentrated method of character recognition" (iizhonq shizi). After 1949 the traditional method was temporarilyrejected because it was considered to rely excessively uponrote memorization, at the expense of developingcreativity.31 During the first half of the nineteen fiftiesPRC educators began to experiment with an alternative methodof literacy instruction, known as the "diffuse method ofcharacter recognition" (fensan shizi). Under this method,students began to learn textual discourse from thebeginning. New characters, instead of being introducedrandomly as under the traditional method, were drawn fromthe text under study.32As a Chinese scholar recently explained, thetraditional method of memorizing individual characterswithout the aid of context rendered individual characters"unintelligible things."33 This was not a problem, however,under the traditional system. The traditional pedagogyemphasized memorization and was unconcerned with thecomprehension factor in the early stage of literacyacquisition precisely because it assumed that all studentswould eventually go on to read the classics themselves. Thetraditional method was a useful pedagogical device only; itsaim was to establish a foundation for later study, not toimpart a "functional" literacy.The problem arises when the same pedagogy was appliedto peasant literacy education in the nineteen fifties. Such155peasants were not learning characters as basic preparationfor higher forms of study. Their formal education endedwith the basic literacy class they attended. Hence theconcern over the practical utility of learning aconglomeration of unrelated characters.The problem was that following three years of studysome graduates of literacy classes in the nineteen fiftieswere able to pass literacy tests comprised of three thousandindividual characters. But they were unable to formulatewritten discourse; they lacked the ability to comprehend asingle coherent sentence; and were even, it was said,incapable of properly holding a writing brush.34 In otherwords, such peasants might be considered officially literateaccording to a simple numeric definition of characterrecognition. But they lacked the ability to read and write.They remained, to use the modern Western concept which hadnow become the objective of peasant literacy education,"functionally" illiterate for all practical purposes.Yet, the traditional method of memorizing unrelatedcharacters was revived in China beginning in the mid-1950s.It was revived, significantly, especially in the elitestate-run schools. The return to popularity of a modifiedform of the traditional concentrated method of characterrecognition was based on claims that this modified formrepresented a more 'scientific' approach to literacyeducation than the method of simply learning texts, and thatit could deliver much greater and faster results.156The modified form of the concentrated method ofcharacter recognition attempted to combine the traditionalreliance on memorization with insights derived from modernpsycholinguistics. The modified method made use of thestructural rules by which Chinese characters combinedphonetic and semantic elements. By teaching these rules tobeginning learners, children would develop the analyticalcapacity, critical for developing reading skill on anongoing basis, to infer meaning and pronunciation fromunfamiliar characters and words without the constant aid ofa teacher. The method involved grouping together individualcharacters on the basis of similar pronunciation as thebasis for teaching students to discriminate the phonetic andsemantic (usually pictographic) elements of characters.35The new/old method was promoted most heavily in eliteinstitutions. In 1958 the leading center for educationalresearch in China, the psychological research unit of theChinese Academy of Social Sciences, formally established anexperiment using the method at the elite Heishan Beiguankeypoint primary school in Liaoning province. The methodclaimed to enable children to learn up to 2300-2500characters in two years. After its reportedly successfulexperimentation at the Heishan Beiguan primary school, thetechnique was introduced into the famous elite Jingshanschool in Beijing in the late 1950s. From there it spreadto other elite schools. Gradually, the concentrated method157of character recognition was widely adopted in the superiorstate-run primary school system.It is significant, however, that even to this day themethod remains most widely used in the northern provinces.It is much less popular in southern provinces likeGuangdong.36 There is an important reason for this. AsVenezky points out, and as the following example shows, theconcentrated method of character recognition utilized commonphonetic syllables as the basis for teaching characterrecognition. Examples would include such syllables as hua-flower; hua-China; hua-change. The method taught acousticmemory recall ability as an aid to character retention. Inareas outside the Mandarin-speaking region for which themethod was devised, however, the advantage of these syllabicassociations was lost. The burden of memorization wasactually increased for Cantonese and other dialect speakers,because the method required the learner to develop acousticmemory recall in a second language, Mandarin. In Guangdong,therefore, the concentrated method of character recognitionwas associated even more with elite learning than in thenorth, since in Guangdong the method was additionally linkedto the elite ability to speak Mandarin.The concentrated method of character recognition waspraised for its analytical strength: students were taughthow to learn new words by alternating tones for a singlesyllable and how to construct compound characters fromcomponents. It was also praised for its capacity to "load"158a greater number of characters into lessons. Not everyone,however, was as pleased with the method.The method, which was the creation of linguists inBeijing and elsewhere, was sharply attacked by leadingeducational revolutionaries in the communist party. One ofthese critics was Lin Handa. In 1955 Lin used the occasionof launching a stinging attack on the concentrated method ofcharacter recognition in order to make one of the mostimportant speeches on popular literacy in the history of thePeople's Republic. In this speech Lin did not limit himselfto a discussion of the pedagogical merits and demerits ofthe concentrated recognition method. What was crucial aboutthis speech was that Lin forced the discussion of the methodout of the purely pedagogical sphere, and dropped itsquarely into the realm of politics. In so doing, Lin'spolemical speech on literacy accomplished nothing less thanthe establishment of the ideology which has guided peasantliteracy education in China from the mid - 1950s until thepresent.Lin Handa and the Ideology of Peasant LiteracyOne of the PRC's most important mass education figures,Lin Handa was a former primary and middle school teacher whospent three years in the U.S. studying for a doctorate inmass education (Colorado) before becoming the first head of159the social education division in the Ministry of Educationin 1950. He was appointed Vice-Chair of the newlyestablished Anti-Illiteracy Work Committee in 1952 and wasVice-Minister of Education from 1954 - 57. Besides this, Linwas a high ranking member of the Committee for the Reform ofthe Written Language, where he wrote some of his mostimportant works.37In his late 1955 speech on the literacy movement,published prominently in one of the country's leadingintellectual newspapers, the Shanghai Wenhuibao, Linlaunched a blistering attack on the traditional method ofliteracy instruction which involved memorizing individual,contextually unrelated characters. The questi