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Europe has many universities founded in the Medieval period; in the United States, universities started to be founded almost as soon as English settlers arrived. China, however, I know very little about.

I do know that China has a millenia-long history of scholarship and science, but that is not the same as organizing academia into universities or university-like institutions.

When did "universities" in the modern sense (i.e., permanent institutions that gather scholars to conduct research and provide higher education to students) begin to be founded in China?

  • Can you be a little more specific about what you mean by "modern sense"? – Ric Nov 27 '15 at 17:52
  • @Ric I have added clarification. – jakebeal Nov 27 '15 at 18:29
  • Please clarify what you mean by permanent institutions. Must it have a campus? Must it have departments? Must it have more than one teacher (professor)? – scaaahu Nov 28 '15 at 2:10
  • @scaaahu I don't think that a campus and departments are important for my question, but I do think it should have more than one professor, i.e., it is some form of durable organization, rather than a group of students choosing to attach themselves to a single individual. I would be fascinated to learn what a "Chinese style" institution of higher learning is/was. – jakebeal Nov 28 '15 at 4:32
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    @NajibIdrissi The sense of long-running scholarly tradition is very much a live presence at many European and American universities. I suspect if Chinese academia has any such similar pride that it will be both an active influence today and also something that many Chinese academics would be readily able to answer. – jakebeal Nov 28 '15 at 12:04
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  • Western Style Chinese Academy

    From Tongwen Guan 同文舘 wiki page

    Tongwen Guan (Chinese: 同文舘), or the School of Combined Learning was a government school for teaching Western languages (and later scientific subjects), founded at Beijing, China in 1862 during the late-Qing dynasty ... It became part of the Imperial Capital University (now Peking University) since 1902. ...

  • Government sponsored Chinese style academy

    From Shang Xiang 上庠 wiki page

    Shang Xiang (Chinese: 上庠; pinyin: shàng xiáng; Wade–Giles: Shang Hsiang), was a school founded in the Yu Shun (虞舜) era in China. Shun (2257 BCE–2208 BCE), the Emperor of the Kingdom of Yu (虞, or 有虞/Youyu), founded two schools. One was Shang Xiang (shang (上), means up, high), and the other one was Xia Xiang (下庠, xia (下) means down, low).[1][2] Shang Xiang was a place to educate noble youth. Teachers at Shang Xiang were generally erudite, elder and noble persons.

    From Taixue (太学) wiki page

    Taixue ... was the highest rank of educational establishment in Ancient China between the Han Dynasty and Sui Dynasty ... The first nationwide government school system in China was established in 3 CE under Emperor Ping of Han ...

  • Privately owned Chinese style academy

    From Academies (Shuyuan書院) wiki page

    ... shuyuan were usually private establishments, ... The shuyuan originated in 725 ...

    From China’s Ancient Academies-Academies Tours to China

    ... According to “Records of All Officials,” a volume of The New Chronicles of the Tang Dynasty, “in the sixth year of the Kaiyan Reign (AD 718) Qianyuan Academy changed its name to Lizheng Academy (Academy of Elegance and Rectitude), the newly created positions of supervisors and copy editors were filled and compiler-academicians became auxiliary-academician ...

  • Thank you, this is very helpful: following the links, I find it particularly fascinating how these institutions have risen and fallen over the centuries. The articles are maddeningly vague in a number of places, however. Do you know: are any of these academies (either the ancient or from the more modern Ming and Qing revivals) still operating today? – jakebeal Nov 28 '15 at 11:48
  • @jakebeal Sorry for the vagueness of those articles. Those are the articles in English I can find today. There are some articles in Chinese which may be more clear, but I can't cite here. I promise you I will update my answer if I come across better articles in English. Peking University is one of the best university in China at present. Others are gone, as far as I know. Some people are trying to re-build some of those good old schools, but they are not popular. – scaaahu Nov 28 '15 at 12:00
  • What you've been able to gather I already appreciate very much, because it gives names and starting points that would not be readily discoverable otherwise. Why is re-building the old schools not popular? – jakebeal Nov 28 '15 at 12:08
  • @jakebeal In China, most people want to study STEM fields. Many don't think going to those old schools will let them have better life, I guess. – scaaahu Nov 28 '15 at 12:24
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According to Wikipedia:

Peking University is the first formally established modern national university of China. It was founded as Imperial Capital University (京師大學堂) in 1898 in Beijing

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    I think this answer is a good beginning, but I am not sure whether this fully answers Jake's question. Note that "modern national" leaves a lot of room for interpretation whether other kinds of universities existed before, and if so which, and for how long. – xLeitix Nov 27 '15 at 14:26
  • I have added clarification of my definition... are these in fact the first university-style scholarly institutions in China, or just the first Western-style? – jakebeal Nov 27 '15 at 18:30

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