Although Protestant missionaries had been publishing Chinese language periodicals for children since the 1870s, the Mengxue bao 蒙學報 (The Children’s Educator, 1897-1902) was the first magazine established by Chinese editors. The periodical was modelled on an American missionary publication, the Xiaohai yuebao (The Child’s Paper, 1875-1915), and launched by the Mengxue gonghui (Society for Enlightenment Education) in Shanghai. The Mengxue bao not only reflects changing concepts of childhood in China in the early twentieth century, it is also a rich site for uncovering educational debates and anxieties about China’s youth and China’s future in the late Qing and early Republican era.
The Mengxue bao editors were eager to promote Liang Qichao’s ideas of educational reform, criticising the existing Chinese system of education for stifling the minds of the young by requiring too much time to be devoted to rote memorisation. In this presentation, I compare the content of the journal with the articles published in the Xiaohai yuebao and delineate the influence of missionary publications on this Chinese magazine. While some of the articles still reflect Confucian ideals of filial piety and fulfilling one’s duty towards the society and state, the Mengxue bao respected child readers by using colloquial language that was easier to understand, providing numerous illustrations to make the content more visually appealing, injecting humour into stories, and introducing them to children’s texts from other countries.
About the Speaker
Shih-Wen Sue Chen (PhD, ANU) is a Lecturer in Writing and Literature in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University. She is currently a 2017 National Library of Australia Fellow, completing her book manuscript Children’s Literature and Transnational Knowledge in China (under contract with Palgrave Macmillan). She is an elected board member of the Australasian Children’s Literature Association for Research (2016-2018). Prior to joining Deakin, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World. She is the author of Representations of China in British Children’s Fiction, 1851-1911 (Hardback, Ashgate, 2013; Paperback, Routledge, 2016), which was nominated for the International Research Society for Children's Literature Book Award in 2015. Her work has been published in edited books as well as in Children’s Literature in Education, Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, Barnboken: Journal of Children’s Literature Research, Australian Literary Studies, and Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies.