Yukun Zeng

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9767

Approve Date

October 24, 2018

Project Title

Zeng, Yukun, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Canonical Reading, Alternative Education, and Perennial Wisdom in Contemporary China,' supervised by Dr. Michael Silverstein

YUKUN ZENG, then a graduate student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded funding in October 2018 to aid research on ‘Canonical Reading, Alternative Education, and Perennial Wisdom in Contemporary China,’ supervised by Dr. Michael Silverstein. Renamed ‘ Canonical Reading, Alternative Education, and the Social Movement of Eternal Wisdom (Dao) in Contemporary Chinese Societies ,’ this project is an ethnographic study focusing on dujing , a grassroots Confucian education movement in PRC, Taiwan, and Chinese American communities. This movement mobilizes youths to read (Confucian) canons aloud without understanding, with the hope that repetitive recitation will lead eventually to eternal wisdom ( dao ). In its most intensive forms, students read eight hours a day for years, often urged by parents (usually mothers) to drop out from legally mandatory mainstream schooling. This dissertation argues: 1) although dujing features reading classics without regard for understanding, the sound, media, materiality, and repetition in dujing practitioners’ reading are perceived and practiced by them as the pursuit of wisdom ( dao ); and 2) Dujing families intensify reading from two hours a week to supplanting mainstream schooling with dujing . This process is shaped by the gender dynamics in dujing families, the authoritative politics of wisdom that dujing promotes, the value and network of religious groups, and the highly competitive education in East Asian communities. Dujing is eventually mobilized as a conservative yet radical social movement. 3) The developments of dujing are affected by the different histories and cultural politics in situated contexts, such as the Cultural Revolution (Mainland) and the Chinese Cultural Renaissance (Taiwan) during the Cold War, current nationalism (Mainland) and multiculturalism (Taiwan), and the anxiety and reproduction of ‘model minority’ (Asian American Community in the US).