Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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(1,382 words)

Chinese efforts to eradicate illiteracy originated at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century in conjunction with the rise of modern nationalism. Spurred by China's weakness in the face of mounting foreign encroachment and by Darwinian fears of national extinction, political reformers disparaged the traditional preoccupation of Chinese education with the civil service examination system and embraced universal literacy as an essential requirement in the pursuit of national wealth and power. The final decade of the Qing dynasty saw the emergence of a broad three-pronged lit…

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Peterson, Glen, “Literacy”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese. Consulted online on 22 February 2024 <>
First published online: 2008
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004168633, 20121018

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