Sanzijing, or the Classics of Three Chinese Characters --removed from all public kindergartens and schools in 1949 when the People's Republic of China was founded and have been banned ever since for disseminating feudal ethics -- have returned to schools in Zhuzhou, Hunan Province.
Local teachers from Zhudonglu Primary School have recently tentatively treated the topic as a major course, like math or Chinese.
Tan Shirong, an official from Zhuzhou Municipal Bureau of Education, said the use of Sanzijing with textbooks in local primary schools has been regarded as a major step in educational reforms in the city's primary education.
Sanzijing had been used in kindergartens and primary schools as a fundamental course for cultivating children's behavior and building their knowledge of the community and views on human nature and personal relations.
Many people, especially old and middle-aged people, insist that the core content of Sanzijing helps children know firmly that they should be honest, respect their parents and teachers, and devote themselves to deeds and concepts that benefit their country.
People opposed to re-adopting the book argue that it advocates the feudal thoughts of wives subordinating themselves to their husbands and ministers' being faithful to their emperor.
Sanzijing which has been written in three-Chinese-character sentences is easy for people, particularly children, to read, understand and recite.
Tan said the introduction of Sanzijing in local primary schools has helped break the situation of textbook monopolies in the city.
Zhudonglu Primary School is the first school to introduce Sanzijing as text this year.
Tan said Sanzijing is expected to cover all the primary schools in the city beginning next year.
But the use of Sanzijing has also raised great controversy among local educational officials, teachers and parents.
A teacher from the city's Zhudonglu Primary School said Sanzijing is the quintessence of ancient Chinese culture that has a history of several thousand years.
Sanzijing would help pupils improve not only their moral understanding but also help them study ancient Chinese prose and literature.
But Xie Sidi, another official from Zhuzhou Municipal Bureau of Education, was against introduction of Sanzijing in the city's primary schools.
Xie said it does not advocate democratic thoughts and does not treat people equally.
Some other mainland cities have also been reported to have introduced Sanzijing in their primary schools this year.
The Railway No. 2 Primary School in the port city of Qingdao in east China's Shandong Province will use Sanzijing as a major textbook in the school starting in the September term, according to Li Zhuoxin, headmaster of the school.
But an official from Guangzhou Municipal Education Bureau has refused to introduce Sanzijing in the city's primary schools.
The official who wanted to be anonymous said his bureau had mapped out its own educational reform plans which have not included Sanzijing.
Guangdong Province has published a new version of Sanzijing in 1995, the official told China Daily yesterday.
And the new version Sanzijing has been greatly improved when the feudal morality content of the original Sanzijing has been removed.
(China Daily February 26, 2004)