In 2005, Ronald Suleski bought a used, handwritten book at the Panjiayuan Flea Market in Beijing. It is a 102-page textbook on which he researched and published.
The Teacher Xu (徐) lived from around 1840 to 1910. He was able to complete an education and a low exam, but could not continue studying. In the society of that time with 70% illiterate people, holders of an exam were considered intellectuals and were respected accordingly. Anyone who could read and write used this skill for their job and became a doctor, fortune teller, master of rituals, legal counsel or teacher. One could also simply offer his services as a scribe for wedding verses and ceremonies.
In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) there was no national curriculum or mandatory teaching aids. However, there has been a constant consensus on the set of important texts over the centuries.
Since there were no official teaching materials, teacher Xu had a book copied by hand according to his specifications in the Zhizhoutang (志周堂, “Hall of Great Purpose”) copy shop around 1880.
Among other things, this book contains 4 puzzles for his students. In the blog The riddle of Teacher Xu I have made up interesting information for calligraphy students and provided one of the puzzles with instructions on how to solve it.