The last prodigy of the Qing Dynasty, died in 2004

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“This prodigy is terrible!”

In 1918, Mr. Lu Xun launched an attack on an 11-year-old child prodigy in an article. To be precise, it should be pointing at the good father behind the child prodigy.

The 11 year old boy, named jiangxizhang, was born in Licheng, Shandong Province. He was called the “first prodigy” of the late Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China.

Where is God?

Jiang Xizhang “can read more than 800 Chinese characters and recite more than 100 Tang poems at the age of 3. By the age of 4, he has been able to recite poems skillfully, and the artistic conception of his poems has caught up with that of ordinary adults”.

At the end of the Qing Dynasty, sunbaoqi, the governor of Shandong, once recommended him to go to Beijing at the age of 4 to serve as a companion for emperor Xuantong, who was one year older than him.

When Kangyouwei saw him, he expressed his willingness to make an exception and showed him his manuscript.

When Jiang Xizhang was 7 years old, he compiled a set of commentaries on the four books in vernacular. This book is simple and easy to understand, with novel ideas, and just in time for the new culture movement. Once it was launched, it rushed to the top of the hot search.

After that, Jiang Xizhang, the “child prodigy”, published his works such as “three thousand pictures of the world”, and his reputation became more and more famous. Even Lu Xun heard of his name.



? childhood Jiang Xizhang.

According to Jiang Xizhang’s later experience, he was indeed a man of great talent. However, the reason why he was so “divine” since childhood is that his father, jiangzhongxiu, was an expert in making child prodigies. Jiang Xizhang only played a role in the scam he planned.

Since he was born, jiangxizhang’s father has made great efforts to “package” him. He said that he had a dream that a beggar had changed into a baby in front of him. Soon after his son was born, jiangxizhang was “reincarnated by martial arts training”. Wu Xun is a fellow townsman of Laojiang’s family in Shandong. He begged for decades before he died, but he saved money and ran three local schools. He has become a great philanthropist respected by the society and a synonym for culture.

The “strange beggar” was reincarnated into a “child prodigy of the Qing Dynasty”. He is really divine!

Jiang Zhongxiu is a scholar and a well-known cultural man in a dozen miles. He not only let Jiang Xi learn Confucian classics, but also forced his son to instill religious thoughts such as Taoism, Buddhism and Hui. He also hyped that his son “has completed all the classics at the age of five, can write, and knows the outline of foreign languages.” until no one in Shandong knew it, and even shocked the governor of Shandong.

Jiang Xizhang’s famous work, commentary on the four books in vernacular when he was 7 years old, was written by his father who invited several scholars to “guide” his son. However, only one “seven year old boy Jiang Xizhang” was signed in the book, which is not Jiang Xizhang’s personal work at all.

Many people saw through the scam of jiangxizhang’s father, but they didn’t tell it. Newspapers also reported it as an anecdote. But Lu Xun couldn’t go on. He talked about “nonsense and science” in his article, specifically criticizing this “child prodigy”, saying that he (perhaps they) came to make trouble, and his works were not well written:

First of all, science was dragged around and mixed in with nonsense, which made the right and wrong unclear. Even science was demonic… What made the trouble worse was a child prodigy’s “three thousand worlds”. He took the dregs of Confucianism, Taoists, monks and Jesuits, made a mess, and secretly inserted nonsense… But he talked about heaven far less than the story of ten continents by the alchemists of the Six Dynasties, and about hell only by attacking the biography of jade calendar and money. This prodigy is terrible!

Jiangxizhang is not the first child prodigy to be over packaged, nor is he the last.

There has been no shortage of child prodigies in China since ancient times, and there are different types of child prodigies in different times. What happened to those who were called prodigies?


What is a child prodigy? In fact, it is a little adult.

A child is a child. He has done something that only adults can do. People think it is great, so they call him a “prodigy”. “CE Fu Yuan GUI” has discussed this kind of child prodigy: “if a man is young and wise, and if he becomes young, he will be valuable… If he becomes old, he will write in tolerance, write in beauty, and become Russian…”

In China, “child prodigy worship” has a long history. Even for some big people who were not child prodigy, people are willing to believe that they were child prodigy.

The earliest child prodigy tiantuan is an ancient monarch recorded in historical books, such as the Yellow Emperor, the head of the five emperors, Yu, the founder of Xia, Qi, the ancestor of Shang, Hou Ji, the ancestor of Zhou, etc. they were all born in the face of child prodigy, either with strange birth experience or with extraordinary wisdom from childhood.

In ancient history books, the Yellow Emperor could speak soon after he was born. By the age of 15, he knew everything.

In fact, such records are based on the ancestors’ psychology of “holy and unknowable is God” (Mencius, heart to heart). Due to the belief in gods and the worship of nature, people believe that these great leaders must have some relations with gods, even the son of God. This kind of child prodigy is more like a “deified child”, which is still common in later religious myths and Emperor legends.

Times have changed, and the child prodigy who is respected has changed.

In the spring and Autumn period, rites collapsed and music was ruined. At this time, people needed a child prodigy of propriety and righteousness, so there was a story that “Xiang Tuo [tu รณ] was a Confucius teacher at the age of seven”.

During the Warring States period, when people were in need of strategic prodigy, there was a story of “Ganluo 12-year-old official worshipping Qing”.

According to the historical records, Ganluo was the grandson of Gan Mao, the Prime Minister of the Qin state. He was only 12 years old and had become a confidant of LV Buwei, the Prime Minister of the Qin state.

At that time, LV Buwei wanted to expand his territory. He planned to send Zhang Tang, Minister of the state of Qin, to the state of Yan as his prime minister, and then united with the state of Yan to attack the state of Zhao. Zhang Tang refused, saying that he could not do it.

Ganluo stood up and told LV Buwei that I had a way. Ganluo went to persuade Zhang Tang and asked, “who is more responsible for you than Baiqi, the emperor of Wu’an?”

Zhang Tang replied, of course I’m not as good as Wu’an Jun.

Ganluo then said, you know that you are inferior to Wu’an, and you should also know that the power of Prime Minister Lu is greater than that of Ying Hou fan Ju. Bai Qi prevented fan Ju from attacking the state of Zhao and was executed by the king of Qin. Now Prime Minister Lu asked you to serve as Prime Minister of the state of Yan and you insisted on not going. I don’t know where you will die!

Zhang Tang is so scared. I’ll take your advice and try my luck in Yan.

The story is not over yet. After that, Ganluo sent an envoy to the state of Zhao alone to cheat the state of Zhao to attack the state of Yan on the grounds of Qin Yan alliance.

Ganluo told King Zhao that the state of Yan would appoint Zhang Tang, a Qin man, as its prime minister. The state of Qin would also return Yan Crown Prince Dan, the hostage of the state of Yan. The state of Yan is going to beat you up with the state of Qin. As soon as the king of Zhao heard this, he started to attack the state of Yan, captured 30 towns in Shanggu, and presented 11 of them to the king of Qin to please the state of Qin.

Ganluo provoked the two countries to fight without a single soldier. He got a dozen cities. After returning to the state of Qin, he was worshipped as the supreme minister.

Most of the stories about child prodigies in the pre Qin period can not stand scrutiny.

As one of the most famous prodigies in Chinese history, Ganluo’s story has long been “refuted”.

Liang Yusheng of the Qing Dynasty made textual research on this period of history in his historical records and records. He believed that the circumstances such as the Qin State taking the initiative to return Yan Crown Prince Dan and the Zhao state offering eleven seats to the Qin state after capturing 30 cities of the Yan state were not historical facts. Ganluo’s story is the story of the Warring States period strategists who, in order to exaggerate the merits of their tongues, added fuel and vinegar, and imposed the merits of the Qin Dynasty on a child.



? stills of the film Gan Luo Zhuan.

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Some scholars believe that the Han Dynasty was the peak of China’s ancient child prodigy.

The examination system in the Han Dynasty was an official selection system in which local officials investigated, selected talents and recommended them to their superiors. Among them, “Tong Zi Lang” was a special way for prodigies to enter the official position.

Many young and promising talents will be called “prodigy”. For example, “Ren Yannian was born on the twelfth day of the Imperial College, and was named as” Ren Shengtong “in the Imperial College. Zhang Cannian received his career in Chang’an on the twelfth day of the year, and was determined to work hard. The Confucian scholars gave him the name of” Shengtong “. Du’an entered the Imperial College on the thirteenth day of the year, and was named as” Qitong ” (general examination of documents – election section)

In this era, such prodigies as Ganluo who can tell stories have gone out. The standard for measuring prodigies is not only their superior intelligence, but also their filial piety and honesty, which is also the result of the dominant position of Confucianism.

Kongrong is a typical prodigy of Han Dynasty.

We all heard the story of Kongrong letting pears when we were young. Kongrong is the sixth of seven brothers. Once, little Kongrong ate pears with his brothers. His brothers all took big ones, but he deliberately picked up small ones.

He was asked why?

Kongrong said, “my child, the law should be the smaller one.”

This is a kind of spirit of humility, which is in line with the moral standards of prodigies in the Han Dynasty.

Another story better reflects Kongrong’s quick thinking when he was a child.

According to the book of the later Han Dynasty, when Kongrong was 10 years old, he followed his father to Luoyang to see the world. At that time, Li Ying, the then Sili school captain, was a well-known scholar all over the world. He was not easy to see guests at ordinary times. Kongrong ran to Li Ying’s house and said to the doorman, “I’m Li Yuanli’s relative.”

The doorkeeper thought what the child said seemed to be all right, so he put Kongrong in and asked him to meet Li Ying.

Li Ying, of course, did not know Kongrong. He asked him, “did your grandparents ever make friends with me?”

Kongrong calmly replied, “yes, my ancestor Confucius and your ancestor Lao Tzu are teachers and friends. Kongrong and you have been masters for generations.”

This remark surprised everyone. Chen Wei, the doctor of Taizhong who just came in [w ? i] But he didn’t think so, and said, “when I was young, I was smart, but when I grow up, it may not be of great use.” Kongrong was belittled for no reason and immediately fought back. Then Chen Wei said, “you must have been very smart when you were a child.”

Chen Wei was speechless for a moment. Most afraid of the sudden quietness of the air, Li Ying relieved her embarrassment with a laugh and said to Kongrong, “you will be very promising in the future.”



? Kongrong rang pear is a familiar story.

Another child prodigy, Cao Chong, left us a story about Cao Chong calling himself an elephant.

According to the records of the Three Kingdoms, at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Cao Cao got an elephant. To know the weight of the elephant, his officials were at a loss. Only Cao Cao’s son, Cao Chong, who was only five or six years old, came up with a method to measure the weight by using buoyancy.

Caochong said to his father, Caocao, “let’s drive the elephant to a boat to see how much the boat sinks, and then draw a line for the boat along the water surface. Then we drive the elephant ashore, and then load the boat with the same weight until the boat sinks to the place where the line is drawn. Finally, we can know how heavy the elephant is by weighing these items.”

According to historical records, Cao Cao’s “great joy means how to perform”.

Cao Chong called it a successful “child prodigy marketing”.

Later generations often see only the wit of the prodigy Caochong, but at that time, such deeds were accumulating official capital. However, although Cao Chong was deeply loved by Cao Cao, he lived only 13 years. After Cao Chong’s death, when Cao Pi, Cao Cao’s second son, came to comfort his father, Cao Cao also said, “this is my misfortune, but your luck.”

The prodigies of Han, Wei and Jin Dynasties were smart and good at thinking, which was also reflected in Shishuoxinyu. This book mainly records anecdotes from the Eastern Han Dynasty to the Wei and Jin Dynasties. Of the 1219 stories recorded in 36 schools, hundreds are related to children, accounting for about 8%. This is rare in Chinese ancient books. It can be seen that the phenomenon of child prodigy flourished in the Han, Wei and Jin Dynasties.

During this period, the emergence of child prodigies was mainly to meet the needs of the imperial examination system in the Han Dynasty and the nine grade middle system in the Wei and Jin Dynasties. The vast majority of prodigies come from either famous families or official families.

Why can’t the Zhangsan and Lisi families who farm in the next village produce prodigies? If a child prodigy was born in their family, it would be hard for them to have the opportunity to behave in front of senior officials and celebrities like Kongrong and Caochong, and then successfully get the “debut” and reach the peak of their life.

Child prodigy marketing itself needs capital, and so it is today.



? stills: Cao Cao and Cao Chong.


The imperial examination in the Tang and Song dynasties had children’s subjects, and children’s participation in this kind of examination was called “responding to child prodigies”. The Tang Dynasty stipulated that “anyone under the age of 10 who can read one Sutra, the filial piety Sutra and the Analects of Confucius in each volume will be given an official position, and those who can read seven are related to their origin”. The former got an official position, while the latter gave birth. Although the number was very small, it was more hard core than the prodigy of Han and Wei dynasties.

Tang and song imperial examinations examined poetry and Fu, and prodigies wrote poetry in metropolis.

Luobinwang’s “chanting the goose” is one of the earliest Tang poems that many people have studied. The whole poem is naive, romantic and catchy: “geese, geese, geese sing to the sky. White hairs float in the green water, and red palms stir the waves.”

At the time of writing this poem, luobinwang was only 7 years old, about the same age as the children who learned this poem more than a thousand years later.

Another prodigy of the Tang Dynasty is hidden in the Three Character Classic: “Liu Yan of the Tang Dynasty, at the age of seven, holds a prodigy as a script. Although he is young, he is an official himself. He is also an accomplished person.”

At the age of 7, Liu Yan, a famous financier and Prime Minister of the Tang Dynasty, gave the official secretary the title of “province”, which was the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

According to the Ming emperor’s miscellany, one day, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty held a acrobatic performance in the qinzheng building. He called Liu Yan upstairs and said, “Qing is the official character. How many characters are you getting?”

Liu Yan, knowing that the power of the central court was in power and that his friends were fighting with each other, deliberately admonished him with words, saying: “all the words in the world are right, but the word” friend “is not right.” A friend is a friend. Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty admired the prodigy and later rewarded him with an ivory Wat and a yellow robe.

Many years later, Liu Yan, the prime minister, carried out economic reform, which once reversed the lack of national finance after the an Shi rebellion.



? stills: Li Bi, another famous prodigy in the Tang Dynasty.

The Song Dynasty ruled the world by culture. Shentongju came down in one continuous line with the Tang Dynasty and selected a number of children with excellent literary talent.

Wangyucheng [ch ? Ng]5-year-old wrote poem on white lotus: “after the third watch of last night, she fell into a jade hairpin. Feng Yi dared not accept it, but held out her blue wave heart.”

At the age of 7, Kou Zhun wrote a poem named “Huashan Mountain”: “only the sky is above, and there is no mountain with Qi. The red sun is near, and the white clouds are low.”

In the future, Yan Shu, a generation of CI master who wrote famous sentences such as “I have no choice but to spend the flowers, I seem to have known Yan back.” at the age of 7, he should be cited as a child prodigy, and his fame moved the capital for a while. At that time, Kou Zhun, who was already the prime minister, attached great importance to Yan Shu. He specially sent him back to his residence with the horse given to him by the emperor, and gave him the bridle of the horse as a fee for going to Beijing. The friendship between two generations of prodigies has been a good story for a while.

All of them were great masters of the Song Dynasty. When they grew up, they became important officials in the court and the Prime Minister of the country.

However, the most classic child prodigy tragedy also occurred in the Song Dynasty.

Wang Anshi’s shangzhongyong describes Fang Zhongyong, a child of a peasant household in Jinxi, Jiangxi Province.

FangZhongYong was able to write poems and compositions at the age of 5. He became famous in the village. However, his father used this to make profits. He took his son to visit relatives and friends every day, and asked him to see Xiangda. He exchanged FangZhongYong’s poems for money, and refused to let his son study. After a few years, FangZhongYong’s article was no longer “called the news of the past”, and finally disappeared from the public.

Wang Anshi sighed with emotion: “Zhong Yong’s enlightenment is the heaven he receives. The heaven he receives is far better than the talent. If he dies as a public figure, he will not receive from others.” Due to the lack of nurture and guidance, Fang Zhongyong, even if he is gifted, can hardly become a talent.

Coincidentally, Yan Shu met another child prodigy, caibochang, while giving lessons to Zhaozhen, the son of songzhenzong. Caibochang was also a genius. At the age of 3, he took the children’s test. Songzhenzong praised him as a “three-year-old wonder child”. After passing the test, he asked him to act as the companion of crown prince Zhaozhen.

However, Cai did not use his wisdom in the right way. He learned to drill camp and welcome people from an early age. When reading in the East Palace, the threshold in the palace was a little high. Every time Zhaozhen passed the door, caibochang fell down and asked the prince to step on his back and cross the threshold.

Caibochang, who was so clever, later became a corrupt official. After leaving the palace at the age of 17, he took a local post. For many years, he “disobeyed the law” and was often impeached. Songrenzong thought he was an old official of the east palace. He was lenient for many times, but only transferred to another post.

The prodigy caiboxui almost gave up his talent and fell to the ground. He took the imperial salary for 75 years for nothing and did nothing in his life. He became “Fang Zhongyong” in the system.

Chinese prodigies have been as bright as stars since ancient times, and there are countless examples of them that have been excavated since childhood. Why are many people still on the road of “hurting Zhongyong”?



? stills: Yan Shu is also a child prodigy.


After the yuan and Ming Dynasties, the momentum of children’s science decreased slightly, and the Qing Dynasty completely abolished children’s science, leaving only the first level of the imperial examination for children. Candidates for the children’s test are collectively referred to as “students” regardless of their age, and those who pass the test are commonly referred to as “scholars”. Prodigies have lost the shortcut to official positions, but have the opportunity to test scholars with the old men.

However, the admiration for child prodigies has not disappeared in history.

Early witted adults are still attracting attention, and parents hope that their children are the most beautiful children in the street since childhood. Children who study, even those who are not gifted, have to bear the heavy pressure of schoolwork since childhood. The so-called “diligence is meritorious, play is useless, and you should try your best”.

By depriving children of their childhood and imposing the will of adults on children, the mass production of “child prodigies” has been realized.

The concept of “child prodigy” actually negates childhood, and the packaged fake “child prodigy” is spreading lies while destroying childhood. So there are children who learn “quantum wave speed reading”, talented girls who can write 2000 poems one day, and primary school students who complete scientific research papers under the careful guidance of the researcher’s father.

In the west, Rousseau, the French Enlightenment thinker, also found a similar phenomenon. He believes that children should look like children. “If we disrupt this order, we will create some premature fruits that are neither plump nor sweet, and will soon rot: we will create some young doctors and old children.”

Rousseau complained and questioned this act of squeezing childhood: “what did we think when we made him so miserable?”

Do you still remember what Mr. AI said earlier about Jiang Xizhang, the “prodigy” of the late Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China who was scolded by Lu Xun?

Jiangxizhang is a lucky child prodigy. In his best years, he successfully got rid of the control of the packaging team.



? young Jiang Xizhang.

Jiangxizhang was indoctrinated with feudal dross by his father since childhood. He became more and more disgusted with these knowledge, became an atheist, and longed to play “Crazy” like other children. When he was in middle school, jiangxizhang’s parents died one after another. Finally, in the spring of 1927, with the ideal of saving the country through science and technology, 20-year-old jiangxizhang went to France for a work study program and was admitted to the University of Paris to study chemistry.

After returning to China, jiangxizhang worked as an engineer in a chemical enterprise in Shanghai. After liberation, he has become a renowned chemical expert in China. The legend of a child prodigy that caused a sensation in the late Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China was gradually forgotten, and he never boasted in front of people.

After retirement, Jiang Xizhang lived in an old-fashioned West Building and lived a simple life. He occasionally answered questions to the younger generation of chemistry students until he died peacefully in 2004 at the age of 97.

No one asked about the past of the child prodigy. What people remember is a scientific research worker who devoted most of his life to the national industrial construction.

Hopefully, this is not an era that needs “prodigies”.


[Southern Song Dynasty] liuyiqing: Shi Shuo Xin Yu, Zhonghua Book Company, 2011

Yanbuke: historical manuscript of Chaju system change, China Renmin University Press, 2009

Prince Jin: Children’s life in Han Dynasty, Sanqin publishing house, 2012

Zhaozhongxin, Chinese child prodigy, China Legal Publishing House, 2003

Maxiujuan: prodigy and prodigy poetry in Song Dynasty, Chinese classics and culture, 1992, issue 3

Guoshaolin: early wisdom in Tang Dynasty, Journal of Luoyang Teachers’ College, 1995, issue 3

Huangqingyuan: the “prodigy” and the father of “prodigy” in Lu Xun’s articles, Journal of Linyi teachers’ College, 1996, issue 5

Lvzhihong and Tangshu: historical review and Reflection on child prodigy education, research on preschool education, 2001, issue 5

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