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Gujing Jingshe(The Academy of Classics Interpretation)

What is Jingshe(精舍)?

Jingshe originally means the buddhist residence for cultivating. During the Sakyamuni's leadership of Buddhism, the famous Jingshe included Zhulin Jingshe(Bamboo Forest Vihara), Qiyuan Jingshe(The Vihara of Crowned Prince of Qituo Kingdom, and to get more, please see in The Diamond Sutra of Buddhism) and Luyeyuan Vihara. Whether a place is called Jingshe or not is absolutely not decided by its size and proportion, in other words, the small places also can be called Jingshe. In East Han and Wei-Jin Period of China, Jingshe was popularized and welcomed, but it was not exclusively used by buddhists but more largely used by many non-Buddhists, who were highly represented by many reclusive people or anchorets. Besides, in this period, the residences of Confucians, Taoists, Buddhists and Metaphysical believers(Xuan Xue, 玄学, a native academic theory based on the mixture of Chinese Taoism and Buddhism) were also called Jingshe, and especially, it was extensively used to be another name of the schools or academies of Confucianism. Gujing Jingshe(诂经精舍) was a typical example of this kind of Confucian School.

History of Gujing Jingshe

Ruan yuan
The Portrait of Ruan Yuan

On the southern side of The Solitary Hill and northern side of scene of Autumn Moon Over The Calm Lake, there used to be nationwide famous school or academic center of China in Qing Dynasty, which was widely called Gujing Jingshe. To most people who are unfamiliar to Confucianism and Academic System of Confucian Knowledge, it is really difficult to understand the meaningfulness and significance of this Academy in Chinese Academic Intellectual History in late period of Qing Dynasty. Concisely, annually, there used to be several students won in the final Imperial Examination or Keju. and many of them was also the champions in this most special and hardest examination of ancient China.

In 1801, Gujing Jingshe was established by Ruan Yuan (阮元, 1764—1849), the governor of Zhejiang province in Qing Dynasty, and the aspiration of building this Jingshe was mainly for supplying a better place for those well-selected students who indulged and specialized in reading and studying the ancient knowledge. In ancient times, there were four top famous academies in Hangzhou, but Gujing Jingshe was totally different from the other three, and it was more inclined to an academe highlighted with educating the talents of Confucian classics and history. Unfortunately, in 1809, Ruan Yuan left from Hangzhou and the whole Gujing Jingshe was out of management, furthermore, it was also seriously short of fees for operating. More than 50 rooms were also gradually ruined. The Gujing Jingshe was paused for nearly two decades. During the reign of Emperor Daoguang(1821—1850) of Qing Dynasty, the buildings of Gujing Jingshe were rebuilt gradually, and students also came. However, as the worsening of the current situation, it was operated difficultly in great trouble. It was not long stopped until the coming of troops of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom to Hangzhou, the whole Gujing Jingshe was destoryed.

In 1866, Jiang Yili(蒋益澧), an official of Zhejiang acted as Bu Zheng Shi(布政使), roughly as equal as the Governor of Zhe Jiang Province in Qing Dynasty, reconstructed Gujing Jingshe and assigned Ding Bing(丁丙) and Lin Yizhi(林一枝), two students of original Gujing Jingshe, to take charge of managing the whole construction project. Roughly five months later, the whole reconstruction was completed successfully. Ma Xinyi(马新贻), the governor of Zhejiang province, went to Suzhou by himself to invite Yu Yue(俞樾,1821-1907), and he promised the annual salary would be 600 Liang Yinzi(两, an old unit of currency in ancient times and Yin Zi, 银子,was also the currency of ancient times, which exactly was silver-made currency). This payment was 200 liang higher than the annual pay given by Ziyang Shuyuan(紫阳书院, Academy of Purple Sunlight) of Suzhu. 1868, Yu Yue formerly moved to Gujing Jingshe and began his 31-year educator's life in Hangzhou.

Ruan yuan
Yu Yue's Calligraphy

Yu Yue was also a native of Zhejiang and half native of Hangzhou according to the standpoint of today's people, because he was born in Deqing(德清), the northwest neighboring region of Hangzhou. Yu Yue was a Jinshi(进士, a honorary title of winner in Imperial Examination, but it was inferior to Zhuangyuan), particularly preferred by Zeng Guofan(曾国藩,1811-1872),a top official, literator, confucian, calligraphist and militarist of middle and late Qing Dynasty and roughly acted as many important officials like today's Minister of Defence Ministry and also a famous leader and reformist During Yangwu Movement(1861-1894) of Qing Dynasty, for his success in tackling the odd written question themed with the illustration of ancient poems in the form of poem-style answer composed by Zeng Guofan himself during the imperial examination.

Yu Yue was quite influential, so his arrival made the booksellers much joyful. Many learners rushed to being his students, because it was not only an honor but the realistic benefit to their future. His style of teaching and study was rooted in studying the ancient knowledge on the precondition of the interpretation of classics in the aspect of characters and words. Hence the book named Shuo Wen Jie Zi( 说文解字),Chinese oldest and first dictionary created by Xu Shen(许慎) of Han Dynasty, used to be out of stock. However, due to incomplete management, there were people lived in academy but refused to move out, even some rooms of Jingshe became the place to keep the coffins. It really annoyed Yu Yue. But via his network of guanxi, or social relationship, in political circle, this obstacle was cleaned away at once. Yu Yue was quite familiar with the regulations and hidden rules of Keju Examination or Imperial Examination. Under his guidance, the students paid much attention to study of classics and history and the orientation of imperial examination. In 1870, under his no more than 2-year management, there were 19 students won in Xiangshi Examination(乡试,an intermediate level of examination in the whole imperial examination system) and became Juren(举人, an honorary title of examination and also the status sign in society), besides, there were extra 3 students directly entered in Guozijian(国子监, the highest educational institute in Ming and Qing Dynasties). The whole Jiangnan Region was shocked. Since then many students from Fuwen Academy, Ziyang Academy and Chongwen Academy moved to Gujing Jingshe for learning and study. Moreover, majority of students of Gujing Jingshe was selected from other three academies, which were Fuwen Academy, Chongwen Academy and Ziyang Academy. In this way, Gujing Jingshe was the top educational institute in Hangzho. In 1897, Liao Shoufeng(廖寿丰), the governor of Zhejiang Province integrated six academies together, which included Gujing Jingshe, and specially built up a unique academy named Qiushi Shuyuan(Academy of Pursuing Truth,求是书院), which was the origin of today's Zhejiang University. Since then, Gujing Jingshe got declined.

In 1898, at the age of 78, Yu Yue resigned, in the meantime, a building named Yue Tower(俞楼) was constructed on the side of West Lake by his students, which is today's Memorial of Yu Yue near to Xiling Society of Seal Arts on the foot of The Solitary Hill. Gujing Jingshe was stopped in 1904 with a duration of 103 years, except the time of pause, the whole time is more than 70 years, and Yu Yue operated it for 31 years, which is really hardly available in Chinese history of education.

The Relevant Cultural Site, Famous Teachers and Students of Gujing Jingshe

The famous teachers of Gujing Jingshe surely were Ruan Yuan and Yu Yue, and the famous students included Zhang Taiyan, Wu Changshuo, Yuan Chang, Wang Yishou and perhaps Yu Pingbo, the grand-grandson of Yu Yue, was another one. Today's cultural sites we can get are Memorial of Lord Ruan and Memorial of Yu Yue, both of which are for commemorating Ruan Yuan and Yu Yue respectively. Besides, there are also the former sites of other related academies like Ziyang Academy.

Writer: David from Seeraa International
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