[A-Z April Blogging] [U] University

In the West, the first universities were born at the time of the emergence of urban town life, and concurrently with mediæval guilds and similar institutions. Universities started out as specialised "associations of students and teachers with collective legal rights usually guaranteed by charters issued by princes, prelates, or the towns in which they were located" (Wikipedia). It was clearly a phenomenon that was concomitant of the explosion of communal freedom and urban life, a bottom-up evolution. In the Islamic world, universities were created around famous mosques thanks to endowments by wealthy families, so it was also more of a bottom-up phenomenon.

the Běijīng Guózǐjiàn
In contrast, and since well before the Táng, universities in China had been created and controlled by the government, clearly in a top-down endeavour. These institutions of higher learning were established in the capital city (or cities) of each dynasty: in Cháng'ān and in Luòyáng under the Táng; in Dōngjīng, then Lín'ān, under the Sòng; in Běijīng under the Yuán. Under the Míng and under the Qīng, there were two universities: one in Nánjīng and one in Běijīng (Míng), one in Chángshā and one in Běijīng (Qīng). This system ended in 1898 with a reform aimed at introducing western-style education in China.

These state-sponsored universities were called Guózǐjiàn 國子監 and aimed at imparting traditional Confucian learning and knowledge to a selection of students.

The Běijīng Guózǐjiàn was first established in 1287 during the Yuán Dynasty, and subsequently enlarged several times, attaining its present dimensions during the reign of Emperor Qiánlóng of the Qīng Dynasty. One may enter the compound through the Highest Scholarship Gate. Inside this gate is a glazed tile memorial archway with bell and drum towers to the east and west. Directly in front of the gate is the famous Jade Disc Hall. The square pavilion, which stands in the centre of a circular pond, has a double-eaved roof surmounted by a gilded sphere. The pond is crossed by four marble bridges and provided on four sides with stone spouts in the shape of dragon heads. It was here that the emperor came occasionally to expound the classics to an audience composed of civil and military officials from the imperial court and students of the Guózǐjiàn.
Behind the Jade Disc Hall stands a huge library. The complex contains six other palaces with dormitories and classrooms. The complex is flanked by the Confucius Temple (Kǒngmiào 孔廟) and the Yōnghé Lamasery (Yōnghé Gōng 雍和宮).

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