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Modern approach promotes old ways

BEIJING: Many Chinese may not have heard of the Donglin Academy, but nearly all of them are familiar with the 17th century couplet that goes, “The sounds of the winds, rain and reading enter our ears and the affairs of the family, state and world draw our attention.” The couplet, which is learned at school, was written by Gu Xiancheng (1550-1612), a bureaucrat and educator during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Gu and a group of other scholars repaired the storied academy in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, in 1604.
Founded in 1111, the academy was considered unique because it aimed for scholars to use their knowledge for the betterment of the nation. Some of the scholars’ peers in similar establishments, who mainly recited ancient texts and lacked motivation to foster change in society, were thought to be too divorced from reality.
The couplet is located in Yiyong Hall at the academy-a sprawling site in downtown Wuxi that passes on neo-Confucian traditions.
With its charming stone memorial archway, the academy is among the city’s most iconic landmarks, and in 2006, it was named a National Key Relics Conservation Unit by the State Council, China’s Cabinet. Rong Junyan, director of the academy’s administration office, said: “Donglin Academy is a really good place for people to learn about traditional Chinese culture. I can walk around it for hours and never feel bored.” However, most people used not to share Rong’s sentiments. Despite its reputation, the site was popular solely with older people from other Chinese cities, but these visitors spent only about 20 minutes touring the academy, Rong said.
The administration office found that this problem needed to be addressed.
Rong said, “If a historic venue like the Donglin Academy had continued to put only ancient couplets and calligraphy on its walls, it would be difficult to attract younger audiences and share with them the culture, history and meaning of these relics.”
– The Daily Mail-China Daily News exchange item

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