Six Arts

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The Six Arts formed the basis of education in ancient Chinese culture. During the Zhou Dynasty (1122–256 BCE), students were required to master the "liù yì" (六藝) (Six Arts):

  1. Rites (禮)
  2. Music (樂)
  3. Archery (射)
  4. Charioteering (禦)
  5. Calligraphy (書)
  6. Mathematics (數)

Men who excelled in these six arts were thought to have reached the state of perfection, a perfect gentleman.

The Six Arts have their roots in the Confucian philosophy. As such, Xu Gan (170–217 CE) discusses them in the Balanced Discourses.

The Six Arts concept developed during the pre-imperial period. It incorporated both military and civil components. The civil side was later associated with the Four Arts (qin playing, chess, calligraphy and painting). However, the latter was more a leisure characteristic for the late imperial time. It evidently overlaps with the Six Arts, since the qin epitomized music, the chess (Go, a board-game known by its Japanese name) related to the military strategy, while calligraphy dealt with the aesthetics of writing and the character cultivation (the rites).

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