Educating Through Aesthetics 《美育学刊》 A Publication Announcement
The interweaving of literary composition and artistic practice with socio-moral transformation was a feature of pre-modern Chinese cultural practices, be they elite or demotic. The melding of the personally expressive with the politically and morally inflected aspects of life continued far beyond the end of formal dynastic rule.
Zhejiang First Normal College (Zhejiangsheng diyi shifan xuexiao 浙江省立第一師範學校), established in Hangzhou in 1908, would train generations of students to play a role in modern Chinese culture, be it revolutionary, reformist or more importantly humanist. The school was under the direction of the noted educational reformer Jing Hengyi (經亨頤, 1877-1939). Through an educational ethos that espoused nurturing the spirit while inculcating a sense of moral rectitude the aim of Jing and his colleagues was to strengthen the 'hearts and bodies' of the students the school and train 'new citizens' (xinmin 新民), an idealized type of person expected to play a role in transforming and modernizing China. The following publication announcement for the academic journal Mei Yu which was launched in late 2010 by Ye Gaoxiang 葉高翔, president of Hangzhou Normal University, notes, that a cohort of Zhejiang First Normal College graduates went on to establish the first Mei Yu in Shanghai in 1920.
The revived Mei Yu (called Meiyu Xuekan 美育學刊) operates in the prescribed environment of the People's Republic. Today, efforts to support a broad, post-revolutionary aesthetic education can hardly escape the requirements of the party-state, which even compared to the era of 'partification' (danghua 黨化) of the Nationalist Republic remain stifling. These paternalistic strictures are aimed at imposing in students a form of 'correct' thinking, as well as appropriate cultural attitudes and a constricted political consciousness. Nonetheless, the editors of the new Mei Yu, as well as many of its contributors, identify also with the positive heritage of its Republican ancestor, part of an intellectual lineage that draws inspiration from thinkers such as Wang Guowei, Liang Qichao and Cai Yuanpei (王國維、梁啓超、蔡元培).
Fig.1 The Master Hongyi and Feng Zikai Research Institute (Hongyi Dashi, Feng Zikai Yanjiu Zhongxin 弘一大師、豐子愷研究中心), Hangzhou Normal University (Hangzhou Shifan Daxue 杭州师范大学). (Photograph: Lois Conner)
The writer and editor Chen Xing 陳星 who with his colleagues established the new Mei Yu was also founder in 1997 of the Master Hongyi and Feng Zikai Research Institute (Hongyi Dashi, Feng Zikai Yanjiu Zhongxin 弘一大師、豐子愷研究中心.[Fig.1] The institute is located on the grounds of Hangzhou Normal University. It encourages and supports academic and popular work related to two of the most important cultural figures active in and around West Lake in the twentieth century. Li Shutong (李叔同, 1880-1942, later the monk Hongyi 弘一) was one of Feng Zikai's (豐子愷, 1898-1975) teachers at Zhejiang First Normal College in the 1910s, and a man who had the most profound influence on the aspiring artist. As Wen-hsin Yeh has noted, the principal of the school, Jing Hengyi, was anxious that the students in his progressive educational enterprise avoid the lyrical lure of West Lake. He 'advised his students to stay away from the natural poetry and religious aura of the lake, lest they be tempted to give up their social mission.' In the case of Feng Zikai, Jing's anxieties were well founded. Feng went on to become a cultural figure (artist, essayist, translator and educator) whose achievement quietly challenged China's modern politicized culture. In late 2011, Chen Xing published a major new study of Feng Zikai's life and work.—The Editor
Fig.2 Cover of the first issue of Mei Yu xuekan with the calligraphy of Li Shutong/Hongyi.
 Wen-hsin Yeh, Provincial Passages: Culture, Space, and the Origins of Chinese Communism, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994, p.84.
 Geremie R. Barmé, An Artistic Exile, A Life of Feng Zikai (1898-1975), Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002, p.30.