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Author: WendyBG Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Feste Award Winner! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 459120  
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 8:08 PM
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I forgot to mention...

Hebrew is easier to read than English because Hebrew is phonetic with no inconsistent letter combinations (e.g. "enough").

A phonetic language like Hebrew, English, Greek, Cyrillic, etc. is fairly easy to learn because there are fewer than about 30 letters.

However, phonetic writing is useless if the people speak different languages. Chinese character writing is more suited to a multilingual nation than phonetic writing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Written_Chinese

Written Chinese is roughly logosyllabic; that is, a character generally represents one syllable of spoken Chinese and may be a word on its own or a part of a polysyllabic word. The characters themselves are often composed of parts that may represent physical objects, abstract notions, or pronunciation.

Various current Chinese characters have been traced back to the late Shang Dynasty about 1200–1050 BC, but the process of creating characters is thought to have begun some centuries earlier. After a period of variation and evolution, Chinese characters were standardized under the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC)....

Literacy requires the memorization of a great many characters: Educated Chinese know about 4,000; educated Japanese know about half that many. The large number of Chinese characters has in part led to the adoption of Western alphabets as an auxiliary means of representing Chinese. Chinese speakers in disparate dialect groups are able to communicate through writing, because standard written Chinese is based on a standard spoken language ("Mandarin"). Although most other varieties of Chinese are not written, there is a well-developed Written Cantonese tradition....
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There are many languages and dialects in China. The advantage of character-based written Chinese is that they can all read the same characters even though the pronunciation is completely different.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_varieties_of_Chinese

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandarin_%28bureaucrat%29


For around 1300 years, from 605 to 1905, mandarins were selected by merit through the extremely rigorous imperial examination.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_examination

The imperial examination (??, keju) was an examination system in Imperial China designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and was partly responsible for changes in the power structure of the Tang and Song Dynasties that would hold long after their dissolution. The system assisted in the replacement of what had been relatively few aristocratic families with a more diffuse and populous class of typically rural-dwelling, landowning scholar-bureaucrats, organized into clans. ...

Under the Song dynasty the emperors expanded the examinations and the government school system in order to counter the influence of military aristocrats, increasing the number of those who passed the exams to more than four to five times that of the Tang. Thus the system played a key role in the emergence of the scholar-officials, who came to dominate society. ...

In AD 605, For the first time, an examination system was explicitly instituted for a category of local talents. This is generally accepted as the beginning of the imperial examination system (??).[7][8]

Theoretically, any male adult in China, regardless of his wealth or social status, could become a high-ranking government official by passing the imperial examination, although under some dynasties members of the merchant class were excluded, and it was not until the Song dynasty that a majority of civil servants came into their positions via the examination system. Moreover, since the process of studying for the examination tended to be time-consuming and costly (if tutors were hired), most of the candidates came from the numerically small but relatively wealthy land-owning gentry. ...

Even though only a small fraction (about 5 percent) of those who attempted the examinations passed them and received titles, the studying and the hope of eventual success on a subsequent examination served to sustain the interest of those who took them. Those who failed to pass—most of the candidates at any single examination—did not lose wealth or local social standing; as dedicated believers in Confucian orthodoxy, they served, without the benefit of state appointments, as teachers, patrons of the arts, and managers of local projects, such as irrigation works, schools, or charitable foundations.

In late traditional China, education was valued in part because of its possible pay-off in the examination system. The overall result of the examination system and its associated study was cultural uniformity—identification of the educated with national rather than regional goals and values. ...
[end quote]

The imperial exam system was theoretically open to any male student. I read a story about a peasant village that rallied support for an exceptionally talented young man for years until he succeeded in passing the exam.

The concept of a learning-based meritocracy fostered respect for learning and education that is evident in Chinese culture to this day. Although the common man was not expected to read and write until recently, learning was fostered and advancement based on education was a real possibility.

Chinese and Jewish culture have many similarities, among which is the respect for learning.

Wendy
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