The ThreeCharacter Primer (San Zi Jing) was an outstanding premier in ancient times. It was said that the book was edited by the great scholar Wang Yinglin in Song Dynasty. Some people called it “A Pocket Outline of Historical Events Retold as a Mirror for Government” or “The book of zi history” as the “unique book through the ages if one could understand or explain sentence by sentence”. Since the Song Dynasty this book has become known to every family and won universal praise, enjoying great popularity even in todays China.
The book in total has only 1,128 Chinese characters but its content is very wide and rich. First, it tells us “If a son is uneducated, that is his fathers fault; If the education not strict, that is his teachers laziness.” “If a jade is not carved and polished, it can be of no use; If a man does not study, he can not understand the truth.” These sentences have become dictums and they still have positive meanings. Second, it points out the standard of rites in which there is some feudalistic ethical morality such as three guiding principles and five constant virtues. Indeed it has some weaknesses or mistakes. But the sentences such as “Huang Xiang who was only nine years old was able to know how to warm his parents bed by using his own body temperature. Kong Rong was only four years old but could present bigger pears to his elder brothers” tell us the traditional beautiful morality and can influence the children very positively and up to now we should also advocate it highly. Third, it introduces the numbers: four seasons, five elements, six cereals, six animals — the basic names of objects. It also imparts knowledge: Small Learning, the Four Books, Six Classics and Five Intellectuals which should be studied by young students. There it uses a lot of space to tell Chinese history from Fuxi, Shengnong and Emperor Huang up to the Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing dynasties. Finally, it tells us very clearly and completely some historic stories of talented scholars who studied very diligently that help encourage and educate children.
The books text has also special features. It deserves to be studied. It adoptes threecharacter sentences with rhythms which are easy for reading and remembering as well as for understanding. Its character contains no difficult or strange words. The book contained three words, six words or twelve words in a sentence with multichanges. Since its publication in the world, it has exerted great influence both at home and abroad.
The book is so widely known in the world to advocate Chinese civilization. I like to write this preface to our readers to let China know the world and the world know China.