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Culture Note: Teacher’s day in China – 10th September

Too many celebrations these days. 

Firstly, yesterday was my mum’s birthday—an important one to celebrate in China (but I cannot tell you the exact number as she does not want to celebrate birthdays any more and see the number go up).

This particular birthday normally comes with a big celebration — happy birthday to my mum. Unfortunately I cannot be there with her. Hearing my mum happily talking about all the details of her day on the other side of the phone miles away made me feel a bit less guilty. :)

Today is teacher’s day in China . If you are browsing Chinese TV channels, everywhere is about the celebration. Teacher’s day is not considered as a festival, but it is an important day in Chinese calendar. In China, it is important to show respect to teachers and the main purpose of teacher’s day is to show people’s appreciation towards them.

Respect towards teachers is a big thing in China. It probably started with Confucious - always respect your teacher and appreciate that she/he led you towards knowledge. According to Confucious, there are many people with knowledge that you can learn from. He said, ‘In a group of three people, there will be one who can be my teacher.’

In times of the Yuan dynasty, Guanhaiqing famously said that ‘He who teaches me for one day is my father for life.’ Well, it does not really mean you have to treat him as your father, rather you need to respect him as you respect your father, because he gave you knowledge.

In Chinese literature, teachers are usually compared to gardeners, and students are the flowers or young trees, only gardeners take good care of the plants, the trees can eventually grow big and strong, and can provide a shadow.

Being teacher in China is considered as a ‘selfless’ job – in a way that teachers pass on the knowledge without asking back for a reward. People always say that even in case of students who will accomplish great achievements in the future, the teachers who give them the knowledge would not obtain any benefit other than the satisfaction of seeing them succeed.

All this may sound a bit too philosophical and unreal, but I can tell you a story of mine. I worked as an art teacher before coming to England to do my MA and PhD. A few years back, one day, I suddenly saw an email in my main box, the address I could not recognize. Then I opened and read, ‘Dear teacher, probably you do not remember me, but I was in your class before, I found your email address today, just want to say ‘thank you’, because of you, the class you gave, I got interested in art, although I did not become an artist, I am doing a creative job, thought you would be happy to know…’ My eyes well up with tears. So I do believe that there is a great deal of truth in all those old Chinese sayings about teachers.:)

Anyway, but being a teacher is not an easy job, it means that you need to pay attention to every single word you say and every gesture you do, inside and outside the class, it is called ‘Wei Ren Shi Biao’ – means that you are a teacher to students, you need to set up a model, and to be good person.

On teachers day, normally there are many programs going on in schools and universities for students taking the opportunity to say ‘thank you’. Teachers normally can get a day or half day off as holiday. Although the main purpose is for students to show appreciation for teachers’ hard work, at the same time, it makes teachers be proud of their profession.

So happy Teacher’s day to all the teachers in the world!!

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