Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Education. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 27 March 2023

Chinese Occidentalism and Educational Tourlocked

Chinese Occidentalism and Educational Tourlocked

  • Kaiyi LiKaiyi LiLeibniz Institute for Educational Media, Georg Eckert Institute


How Western education was constructed and could be employed to help develop modern Chinese education was an important vehicle for understanding the development of education in China, as well as the broader discourse of Occidentalism in China. Since the mid-19th century, the traditional Chinese worldview “all under heaven” became gradually disrupted. The new image of the West until the 1920s in China overlapped with the image of modernization, and from the image of the West, Chinese scholars conceived Chinese national goals. Education was considered by Chinese scholars and governments to be a tool to realize national modernization as well as a symbol of modernization. Sending educators and officials to Western countries was a popular method then in China to find references for Chinese domestic educational reform. The discourses of Western education articulated by these Chinese who had personal experiences abroad and had a close engagement with the West hence were authorized to describe an authentic Western education, and they thus contributed to the discourses of Occidentalism in China. Although with different social and political backgrounds, Chinese scholars all described education to be the foundational basis of Western countries and constructed direct connections between education and desired social progress, without considering other factors that influenced social progress. Those scholars contributed to the discourse of education as bearing the burden of providing social progress. They also established gaps between Western and Chinese education. One such gap was that Western education represented the international tendencies and model, while Chinese attempts to modernize education were portrayed as being in their infancy, suggesting China should learn from the West. The other gap was that Western education was essentialized as being more substantial and having successfully achieved modernization, while Chinese achievement in modern education was considered to be superficial and to have purportedly missed the essence of modernization. By contending that Chinese modern education missed the essence of modernization, Chinese scholar-officials and educators in the early decades of the 20th century established their opposition to the previous way of organizing modern education in China. However, establishing the gaps between Western education and Chinese education meant emphasizing not the immutability of Western education, but rather the dynamic character of Western education and the orientation of Chinese education. Such a discourse on Western education was part of a type of discourse on Occidentalism in China during the early decades of the 20th century and served to promote domestic reform—the West and China were different, but modernization was universally available to China.


  • Educational History

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription