倚仗生生而不息的社會人群，其生活技能、特殊知識，如何由長而幼，代代相傳，一向是人類社群存活、成長、擴張或消亡關鍵之一繫。過去學者析述人群間知識更替，技藝移轉之歷史時，嘗關注典範移轉（paradigm shift）的問題，以為漫長的思念傳承，大抵循直線而前進（linear progression）的基本預設。
This is a study of discursive changes regarding early education during the Ch’ing period (1368-1644). Positioned against the assumption of linear progression in history, or the enlightenment to modernity thesis in some historiographical narrative, this essay attempts to uncover and construct a development in childhood culture that is at once multi-facet and complex. Based on an investigation and discussion on three sets of primary sources on children’s education and childhood culture in early-Ch’ing, mid-Ch’ing and late Ch’ing periods respectively. In which exercise, it is shown that some advocacy and teaching materials circulating during the seventeenth century could be quite liberal and liberating. Although at the same time, throughout the late-Ming and entire Ch’ing period, conservative voices spreading a view about children’s intelligence and childhood development as pre-determined by ancestral blessing and super-natural forces continued to circulate and remained popular. For the mid-Ch’ing or eighteenth century period, against this background of a more sympathetic and child-friendly attitude toward early education that was part of a elitist advice for a gentle and less-pushy approach to child education, popular beliefs in and ordinary people’s pursuits for child prodigy was wide-spread and influential. As history moves on to the late-Ch’ing or nineteenth century, we see that reformist’s ideas a less disciplinary, more understanding attitude toward early education continued to grow as they connect with early modern western convictions in childhood education rooted in enlightenment thesis. Furthermore, modern notions in pediatric physiology and child psychology began to make their way into Chinese newspaper and social thoughts. So much so that physical punishment, along with the harsher ways in children’s treatment were see as outdated and reactionary.
To conclude, the paper argues that a chronological reviewing of childhood culture and early education during the early-, mid-, and late- Ch’ing periods reveals that the historical developments in this area are by no means progressive in the linear fashion. Contrarily, the overall picture is one of ambivalence, contradiction, uncertainty as advocates, teachers, parents, and commoners moved back and forth among numerous progressive, liberal, or traditional, conservative even reactionary options.