East-West Dialogue in Knowledge and Higher Education

East-West Dialogue in Knowledge and Higher Education

East-West Dialogue in Knowledge and Higher Education

East-West Dialogue in Knowledge and Higher Education


This work is a dialogue on alternative approaches to knowledge and higher education characteristic of the Western University. Western scholars approach these issues from the viewpoint of the challenges facing the university and Eastern contributors explore parallel issues in their societies.


Ruth Hayhoe

This volume brings together a set of essays which were first presented at a 1994 conference held in a classical Chinese academy, built in 960 C.E., more than a century before the earliest European universities came into being. The academy, or shuyuan, was an institution that emerged during the Tang dynasty (628-907 C.E.), a period when China's civil service examination system was being consolidated. Opposite in many ways to the official institutions associated with the imperial examination system, the academy was a local institution that was often established by a scholar out of favor with officialdom, sometimes established in association with local gentry and at times established with Buddhist temples. The ownership of land and its rental for agricultural purposes was what made academies financially independent, while the library and provision for wide-ranging scholarly research attracted students of all ages.

Activities of the academy included lectures, essay contests, and selfstudy in a quiet environment, with each student developing a close relationship with the director, or shanzhang (Meskill, 1982). During the Song dynasty (960-1279 C.E.), academies increasingly conformed to the dominant Confucian ideology in the content of knowledge dealt with, yet this apparent conformity led to a constant questioning and rethinking of Confucian orthodoxy, as ideas from Buddhist, Daoist and other sources were introduced (de Bary and Chaffee, 1989). This openness to external influence stood in contrast to the canonical approach to knowledge of the institutions associated with the imperial examination system (Ding and Liu, 1992).

If we compare the constellation of' scholarly institutions in tradi-

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