Alas! This vast divine land, how gorgeous!Her heroes of a hundred generations, so numerous! Strong is China when strong are her youngsters; she thrives when education thrives. Her exuberant culture, permeating earth and heavens, stems from a podium three feet wide. Her enduring education, bridging past and present, grooms infinite worthies and luminaries.

Schools first appeared in the Xia dynasty1; they were called xiang in the Yin2, and xu3 during the Zhou4. In the Spring and Autumn period5, Confucius laid out seats in his house, where he lectured three thousand disciples without class distinctions, and groomed seventy-two virtuous scholars. Insatiably the disciples studied; tenaciously the master exhorted. By the Warring States period6, King Wei of the Qi7 paved a thoroughfare and erected great halls with huge doors. In the academy he thus opened at the Jixia Gate, rare talents from a thousand miles away gathered to orate eloquently and discourse wisely, and a hundred schools of thought converged to contend. A thousand years later, four academies8 shone forth at literature’s core; new disciplines of learning came to the fore, to diffuse the Way and impart knowledge face to face, with students sometimes “held by the ear.”9 Erudite arguments and rare works sublimed; gifted men and virtuous academics excelled. When another millennium set in, new trends10 carried the day across the world, with the five continents swept by wind and cloud. When the homeland was imperiled, noble minds groped for ways to national salvation. Modern education spread from the West; new-type schools answered the call of the day in the East. Alas, the Chinese culture, how ebullient! It is the root of the country’s age-old cause.

A century ago, the Revolution of 1911 buried the old; in six decades, the People’s Republic established the new. Amidst stirring drum beats a cloud-white sail was hoisted, as reform and opening-up set the nation on a new voyage. In pain, a decade-long catastrophe11 was weathered in the throes of pouring rain and howling wind — at once ten thousand horses12 were struck mute. In jubilee, the Third Plenum13 was hailed as the nation set about rearranging hill and vale, addressing disorder, and reversing wrong decisions. Following the mandate of the times, to the whirling and twirling of the four seas and the echoes of the five Holy Mountains, Deng Xiaoping, the standard-bearer, ushered science into springtime. In schools reopened, countless students learned from teachers rain or shine, day and night. The Radio and Television University took the lead to put education at learners’ door; though a tiny embryo, it set a trend by fusing work and study. Thus winter was gone, and spring began. When Hua Luogeng14 first went on the air, his lecture riveted four hundred thousand to televisions from houses on thoroughfares to abodes in great deserts and remote climes.15 Crossing ninety thousand miles, piercing nine heavens, the radiating microwaves filled time and space with music and songs; in three decades, in three strides, distance education performed meritorious deeds nurturing orchids into flowers.

Rivers may take a hundred turns; streams appear where water is. To keep up with the times, the Television University changes course. In the Lotus Month of the Ren-Chen Year,17 suburban Beijing looks its picturesque best; on Chang’an Boulevard, light pours and color spills when a dragon takes off at the Grove of Five Pines.18 Bathed in purple rays from the east, facing emerald peaks to the west, the complex of the Open University stands tall; at the new height it has scaled, its voice is heard far and wide, its new mission better served to improve people’s livelihood, promote equity for the masses, and boost national prowess. O this school, how splendid! Famed teachers and scholars are pooled, fine courses and ways of learning abound, by the millions new talents are produced. This form of education, how promising! Its cloud computing covers the whole nation, its information road connects every nook and corner, its multi-terminal network spans time and space. Thus tooled, the Open University evokes a steed that sees a thousand miles as nothing, or a boat sturdy enough to reach all rivers. Driving brushwood carts and wearing rags, out to reclaim mountain and jungle, our ancestors paid homage to the river before they did the sea. Only with ripe irises and orchids, and mature peaches and plums19 can we have reliable pillars, shields and walls20.

Written by LI DONGDONG, and Translated by Ling Yuan


1 The Xia dynasty (2070-1600 BC), founded by the Great Yu, was the first hereditary dynasty in Chinese history.
2 The Yin dynasty (1300-1406 BC) was what the Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC) was known after its 10th king, Pan Geng, moved its capital city from Yan 奄 near present-day Qufu, Shandong province, to Yin 殷 to the northwest of today’s Anyang, Henan Province.
3 Book of Han·Biographies of Confucians: “There were education institutions in the country, known as xiao 校 during the Xia, xiang 庠 during the Yin, and xu 序 during the Zhou.”
4 The Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BC), divided into the Western Zhou (1046-771 BC) and Eastern Zhou (770-256 BC) dynasties, was founded by King Wu (c. 1087-1043 BC) after he defeated the Shang dynasty.
5 The Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC), which roughly corresponded to the first half of the Eastern Zhou dynasty.
6 The Warring States period (475-221 BC), which began after the many fiefdoms of the Spring and Autumn period were annexed by seven major rivaling states, and ended after Qinshihuang (259-210 BC) wiped out the state of Chu and unified China under his rule as the founding emperor of the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC).
7 King Wei, who took the throne in 356 BC to rule the state of Qi for 36 years, was known in Chinese history for his willingness to heed different opinions and use capable people and his resolve to build the Qi into a powerful kingdom.
8 The four major academies of classical learning emerged during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127): the Yuelu Academy 岳麓书院 in Changsha, Hunan province; the White Deer Grotto Academy 白鹿洞书院 in the Lushan Mountain, Jiangxi province; the Yingtian Academy 应天书院 in Shangqiu, Henan province; and the Shigu Academy 石鼓书院 in Hengyang, Hunan province (or the Songyang Academy 嵩阳书院 on the southern side of the Songshan Mountain, Henan province).
9 This saying originates in the Book of Songs· Greater Ode of the Kingdom· The Decade of Tang· Yih: [of a father exhorting his son] “Not only did I charge you face to face,/But I held you by the ears.”
10 This roughly refers to the national liberation movements at the beginning of the 20th century.
11 This refers to the ten-year-long Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976.
12 A figurative speech denoting the populace.
13 That is, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Party Central Committee held on December 12-18, 1978, at which the policy of reform and opening up to the outside world was adopted.
14 Hua Luogeng (1910-1985), an eminent mathematician and a pioneer in many fields of mathematical research. In the early 1960s, he sought to apply mathematics to help the national economy as he led a team to promote overall-planning and optimization methods in more than 20 provinces. Both methods helped many factories fulfill production tasks at a minimum cost in the shortest possible time, thereby achieving good economic results.
15 On February 6, 1979, the China Central Radio and Television University was inaugurated together with counterparts in various provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities under central jurisdiction. A joint opening ceremony was held the same day, with Hua Luogeng delivering the first lecture televised live to 400,000 students sitting before televisions across the land.
16 A figurative speech denoting millions of students who have benefited from distance education.
17 The Ren-Chen Year is 2012, and the Month of Lotus the sixth lunar month, or July according to the solar calendar. The Open University of China was inaugurated in a ceremony held on July 31, 2012, in the Great Hall of the People at Tian’anmen Square, Beijing.
18 The Five Pines Grove is a literal translation of Wukesong 五棵松, a western Beijing neighborhood that sprawls astride the Chang’an Boulevard, where the building housing The Open University of China Headquarters is situated.
19 Iris and orchid are symbolic of noble character, and peaches and plums denote students. Put together, they symbolize the salt of the earth, or “stalwart, martial men” as referred to in footnote 20.
20 Book of Songs·The Odes of Chow and the South·T’oo tseu: “That stalwart, martial man/Might be shield and wall to his prince.”