I am interested in any answer to that question. I already found a few elements in the older question How were Chinese characters taught to Chinese children before the introduction of pinyin?

I have already found some information on the web, and it looks like kids were learning using "expressions dictionaries" to fix grammar points, use of function words as " 之 平 者 也 “ and there was no use of any grammar books.

I would be very happy to find links for any of these "expressions dictionaries" available on internet.

  • 1
    To be honest I believe the question you linked already answers your question, no? If not maybe you can edit your question here to state why you think it's different.
    – Mou某
    Commented May 21, 2019 at 8:00
  • thank you, but the answers are as old as the question ! it's why i asked again, and got the link for a pdf :-) i am still interested by the " expressions dictionaries " ( dictionnaires d'expressions ) mentioned in that article below ( in French :-( )
    – faure
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 7:47
  • < L’apprentissage progressif de locutions figées permet alors de fixer certains emplois. Les outils favorisés sont des dictionnaires d’expressions, proches de cahiers de rhétorique. L’élève doit faire l’apprentissage de ces expressions destinées à exprimer tous les sentiments humains, toutes les formes de descriptions physiques et psychologiques, afin de pouvoir les employer dans un contexte congruent. > available here : cairn.info/revue-carrefours-de-l-education-2011-4-page-211.htm#
    – faure
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 7:48
  • Well, here we don't open new questions for questions that already exist to solicit new answers. Unless there is something more specific or more technical that you have a question about - then this is just a duplicate question.
    – Mou某
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 9:04

1 Answer 1


If you can read traditional Chinese characters, I recommend the book "釧影樓回憶錄" by 包天笑 (PDF file).

It is in written vernacular Chinese, an easy read, with numerous "gems". The author talks about his own experience of learning, and attending examinations at about 1883. related chapter: p43~p54, p72~p78, p83~p114.

Briefly, when children had a teacher, or went to a private school (私塾), they were given a book (without punctuations); the teacher would pronounce a verse, students recited what the teacher said; again and again, until they can recall from memory.

While reciting the teacher's words, the students look at the characters, so they could gradually connect each character wiht its pronunciation.

Also, at the same time, students marked the pause and stop (句讀) with dots & circles.

Such activities were repeated daily, weekly, and monthly.

They started from the trimetrical classic (三字經), thousand character writing (千字文) or other "books for children learning" (童蒙讀物). afterwards, the "proper" reading materials are four books and five classic (四書五經).

Back to your question: in the past, no one cared about unifying the pronunciation; each learned in his/her dialect.

About the tools needed: just books, brush pens and black ink, red ink. Possibly a "夏楚" (a stick?) as a punishment instrument.

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