One thing that struck me early upon arriving in China and immersing myself in the language (almost ten years ago!) was how modern Chinese is permeated with classical Chinese. I soon came to the horrific realization that if I were to learn Chinese beyond a basic level, I would have to accept this fact. Of course the most common way this shows up is in chengyu, but we see references to this older language everywhere, especially if we examine how school kids are taught.
One thing that horrified me as a parent was that my kids were asked to blindly memorize many long classics. One of these is the Three Character Classic. Because of its three character limitation, it has less possibility for variation in syntax. There are only these four possibilities for phrase structure (where a repeated letter represents a multi-syllable word (the number of letters equals the number of syllables) and a single letter represents a one syllable word): XXX, XXY, XYY, and XYZ.
I’m not opposed to studying these things; there is a lot of wisdom in them. But the way they are normally studied is ridiculous: they are memorized with very little explanation and recited in a banal rhythm at high speed. And that’s that. And they seem to be brainwashed into thinking that by doing so, these treasure troves of ancient wisdom will become part of them, slowly infusing them with beneficence throughout their lives.
Colgate seems to have picked up on this, and has made their own version. Continue…