It was the daybreak when the students in Qing Yuan School had got up and were ready for the day.
With the guidance of Lin Miao, students showed their respects to the ancient Wises through rituals, and then saluted to their teachers. That was the end of the ceremony.
Then they returned to the lecture room, while the teachers hadn’t returned yet. Hence, students could not but reading by themselves in silences. It was the sound caused by turning pages that could ever be heard in the lecture room.
Different from the others, Xue had been accustomed to reading the books through transcribing with his hand, while the others with their eyes.
He wiped the dust on desk, and then took writing brushes, ink sticks, paper and ink stones out from a basket. He lay the ink stones on the desk, and took the ink sticks and a bamboo tube with clean water out step by step. It was after filling the ink stones with water that Xue started to grind the inks with the ink sticks.
Xue had finished the transcription of the University of Chapters and the Chapters of the Doctrine of the Mean. Both of the two books had merely but one volume. And now, he was going to transcribe the Chapters of the Analects. Different from the former two books, there were ten volumes in the Chapters of Analects, while he was merely transcribing the second volume.
After the inks were ground over, Xue finally began his work with whole heart and whole mind.
It was not very fast for him to transcribe. On the one hand, he had to transcribe with his hand, which was slower than reading with eyes. On the other hand, he was trying to remember the contents.
In fact, when he finished the transcription of The University of Chapters, he once had a try to recite the content. Even though the content recited by him was not 100 percent complete, they were still up to 50 to 60%.
That was amazing and really rewarding. In general, the core abilities highlighted in the imperial examination was the writing skill of the eight-part essay. Nearly all of the topics released in the imperial examination were drawn from the Four Books, and the annotating chapters of the Four Books composed by Zhu Zi. Therefore, the first step to succeed in the imperial examination was to remember the whole pages of the Four Books, as well as the annotation chapters.
Xue didn’t have a good memory. It might take him some time to remember an essay with but one thousand words. However, since he had experienced so much in the dream, he found that he could remember faster than before.
Perhaps that was because he had learned those books in the dream already and now he merely needed to recall his memories.
Of course, these were far from enough to perform well in the imperial examination. However, since the time had been wasted and the courses had been missed, he had no way but to restart again.
Soon, one hour had passed away, and it was at this time that Teacher Meng Wenbo came to the Lecture room.
Teacher Meng was just the elder who had shown up yesterday when the students claimed their books. He was responsible for the teaching of class be as well.
As said by Badou, Teacher Meng was extremely strict and rigid, “You see, there are many students old enough, and should have been treated with more tolerance and respects. Even so, if you break the rules set by him, he would really punish you no matter how old you are.”
Teacher Meng was just an old scholar, rather than a Ju Ren, the successful candidate in the imperial examinations at the provincial level.
Just as the old saying goes, the poor scholar, and the rich Ju Ren. If the scholar was also the Lin Sheng, things might be better since he could claim the subsidies from government. If not, the scholar even had to earning a living by himself.
Except for some tax reduction and exemption, the scholar enjoyed no more special favors.
Teacher Meng was a good example. He could merely rely on his wages to support himself and his whole family. It was really tough to make the end meets, which could be seen from his faded blue long gown.
Xue knew so much owing to well-in-formed Badou.
The courses of Teacher Meng was rigid and strict as well. He taught the Great Learning of the Four Books firstly.
He always recited the context by himself, and then annotate and elaborate each word and sentence on by one. In this process, he sometimes might pick someone to recite what he had said.
It was ok if the picked one had recited well. But if not, the one would clearly know what would happen. Usually, this student would went to the rostrum by himself without the order from Teacher Meng. And Teacher Meng would whip the left hand of the student with teacher’s ruler, since the student could not calligraphy with a painful right hand.
When Xue heard about the ruler whipping at the first time, he just took it as a joke. After all, it was unusual for the teachers to implement ruler whipping since the elementary school. He was surprised to have such a chance to view the ruler whipping in such a higher educational school.
However, this way indeed had worked. There was a student once had mistakenly recited the content and therefore suffered from five ruler whips. Since then, no one even dare to be absent-minded in Meng’s courses.
In fact, many senior students had been frequently absent-minded before, since some of them had attended the same courses of Meng for even several times. It was no wonder why they would get even more bored of Meng’s courses.
“Never take it for granted that learning from the beginning again is bad. This is for your sake. Since you haven’t passed the imperial examination, there must be something in the Four Books remain to be fully understood by you. The Four Books are classical that deserve to be studied over and over again. Each time you learn it, you can get something new from it. However, among the Four Books, the Great Learning is the most important one and serves as the overall outline, which will benefit you a lot in the future.” Teacher Meng lectured to students.
He continued, “Just as Zhu Zi once said, the learning in university is the study for great man. Only those who understand the meaning and methods of university will be able to learn well. But if one wants to govern, he has to discipline himself first. Only after one can be self-discipline, can he manage his family, govern the country, and help the nation thrive. As for…”
Teacher Meng started to lecture by himself, while the lectured parts were not merely about the Four Books, but also his personal dissatisfactions with the students.
However, even though Meng had said so much, not even a word had been taken in by Xue. Xue just lost in his own thoughts, and thought about the Great Learning. The Great Learning called by Meng should be accurately defined as the Chapters of the Great Learning, which was annotated by Zhu Zi.
In effect, since the Neo-Confucianism got more and more popular in the last dynasty, it had acquired its authority and had been recognized officially as well. Every student had to learn it, and every student who wanted to pass the imperial examination also had to take the tests about it.
However, even in the last dynasty, Neo-Confucianism had once suffered great impacts from Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart.
Neo-Confucianism was mainly about exploring of the world through the experimenting, for which the humanity was discouraged. However, Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart was mainly about the exploring of the heart though meditating.
In accordance with Neo-Confucianism, the ‘principle’ was the basis of the whole world, and nothing could ever function without following the ‘principle’. Compared with that, the heart was the emphasized part and regarded as the basic rule in Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart.
Under that condition, Neo-Confucianism declined and Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart became more and more popular.
However, that was the peak of Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart, and then the prosperity could not be seen anymore.
On the one hand, the over emphasis of the personal enjoyment had led to the declination of social morality. On the other hand, the trend of Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart had caused the laziness in studies, since many entitled that they were learning through not learning.
Under this condition, Neo-Confucianism regained its dominant position in the society.
However, the impacts caused by Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart on Neo-Confucianism were mainly imposed through challenging the theories brought up in The Great Learning.
To be more accurate, this version Teacher Meng was teaching was revised and annotated by Zhu Zi, rather than the original version.
However, Meng’s ignorance of the truth indeed made sense. Since the wars at the late period of last dynasty, the founders and successors of this new dynasty had banned and changed the original version out of the concerns of governance and development.
Therefore, few of the people even knew that there was the original version of The Great Learning, nor had no clue about the existence of Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart. At least, it was understandable that Meng didn’t know with his social status taken into consideration.
As for Xue Tingxiang, he knew all of these owing to his adventures in the dream. And it was at that time that he started to realize that the governors and the scholars had started to battle with each other already.
Such battle could be seen in many aspects. One of the most typical examples was the official prohibition of Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart by the governor. The Neo-Confucianism’s being promoted again actually had reflected the power exerted by the governor.
For example, in accordance with Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart, the most important rule was based on the personal willingness. If the Emperor had done well, he would win the favor. If not, he would not get the sincere supports from his people, since that was based on the personal willingness of people in accordance with Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart.
Compared with Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart, Neo-Confucianism was totally different in terms of personal willingness. It was the undisputable duty for people to follow the Emperor, no matter where the Emperor had won the willingness of the people or not. The willingness of Emperor was what would really matter, rather than the willingness of people. Anyone who had violated the willingness of Emperor was doomed to be wrong. The followers were those who would be endowed with righteousness.
Hence, it accounted for the prosperities of Neo-Confucianism after the declination caused by the popularity of Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart.
The Lecture Room was soaked with dead silence. Only the voices of Meng could be sounded.
Xue still thought about these things by himself, and suddenly he sneered. Neither the Neo-Confucianism nor the Lu-Wang’s Theory of Heart had won or lost the game. This was not the game of them. It was the game of those in power.
Those who were in power could exploit and bully the others, while those who were not could merely be exploited and bullied.
Now, he was merely the one of those who were not in power. It had no use in worrying about all of these. He merely had the option to study whatever had been taught.
Therefore, Xue started to listen to the course carefully.
It was after two whole hours later that Teacher Meng finally finished his lecture. Then it was the time for students to learn by themselves.
In general, the teachers in School like Qing Yuan School would not over intervene the studies of students. They were only responsible for teaching in the classes.
It was their work for them to lecture, while it was not their business to make the students understood. If the students were not very clear about the courses, they could discuss with their classmates, or do researches by themselves. That was why the time for students to learn by themselves was so important.
Of course, the students could ask the teachers, while that was not they could do in the class.
Teacher Meng had left the lecture room. After a while, the bell for lunch rang. Xue cleared up his desk, and pack his stationaries into the basket. After all of that, he returned to dormitory with Badou and Li Datian.
Both of Badou and Datian seemed pretty bored of Meng’s courses. Obviously, both of the two had learned the Great Learning many times. As for the words said by Meng? No even a word had been taken seriously by the two.
The three went to the dormitory together. The expensive dishes were not for today anymore, for which the three bought their meals and sat down.
Even in canteen, the students had formed their own exclusive groups. Those who were acquainted with each other generally would have meals together and chatting at meal times.
For the students at this period of the time, they didn’t care about the old saying “eating without speaking seemed”. Just as said by Badou, “The foods are not delicious at all. Without speaking, no one will be able to eat.”
Among these little groups, there were two had enjoyed the highest status and most respects from the others. The group members all had finished the learning of the Four Books and the Five Classics. Now they were studying how to write the essays on their own so that they could win in the later imperial examination.
The two groups to the rest groups of students were like the uneducated babies to the scholars. Even though they were in the same room, there were no topics to be shared. They were not at the same levels.
Anyway, through observation, Xue got to figure out the east corner was the most focused part in this canteen.
In the east corner, there were enough tables. However, even though there were some tables vacant, some students would not choose to sit there even thought they might have to share the crowded tables with the others.
“What are you looking for? Ha, that is Yu Ziyou, and that is Hu Lianshen. They are the only two students in our school who have won the prizes.”
Badou introduced the two students sitting in the center positions of the two exclusive groups.
Both of the two students were young at about 17 or 18 years old. One seemed to be gentle, and the other looked mild. Anyway, in terms of the appearance and the temperature, the two had far surpassed He Ming.
The two were in conversations with the others beside them. Even though neither of the two had done anything different, they seemed to be so special and unique, and drawn the attentions of the others.
“Prizes?” Xue asked.
“Yeah. Both of the two are Tong Sheng, who have narrowly passed the imperial examination. However, they must be able to pass next time.”
Badou patted on Xue’s shoulder, and said, “It is ok to envy them. But you’ll get accustomed to that not for long. You see, we are those who live in different worlds.”
“Different worlds?” Xue asked with doubts.
“Oh, you see,” Badou made an extravagant gesture, “if the two are flowers, we are the leaves to highlight their beauties. If they are the bright moon, we are just the twinkling little stars to make their brightness stand out.”
Li Datian could not help laughing anymore, and said, “You can be the twinkling little star. I would not. It is really strange.”
Badou laughed, and pretended to be a girl. He joked with Li, “My dear, how can you forget your little sweet heart? I’m your little heart anyway!”
That made Li so disgusting, Li said immediately, “Be away from me as far as possible. What obscene novels have you read these days? Don’t mention about the LITTLE STAR anymore. You are not little! By the way, Xue has just started to learn here. How can you be assertive that Xue is not the bright moon with talents and gifts?”
Badou agreed, “You’re right. I think so when the first time I saw Tingxiang. He will be more excellent then Yu Ziyou and Hu Lianshen. In the next imperial examination, he may get the title of scholar, for which I will be honored as well!”
“Bullshit!” Shouted by someone.
A voice came behind them. The three turned back and only to find He Ming and his fellows standing right there with bowls in hands.
However, He Ming didn’t say that by himself, but the short and stout students beside him. It was obvious that this short and stout shouted at the three for He Ming, who was so satisfied with what the short and shout had said.
“You want to be exceed knowledgeable Yu and Hu? You are dreaming!” The shouting was so loud that the other students stopped talking and turned their eyes to them. As for the two exclusive groups in the east corner? Turned their eyes to them, too.