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Micro histories of intercultural knowledge exchange: Tao Xingzhi’s educational poetry

Jing Qi ( RMIT University , Melbourne, Australia)
Catherine Manathunga ( Victoria University , Melbourne, Australia)
Michael Singh ( Western Sydney University , Kingswood, Australia)
Tracey Bunda ( University of Southern Queensland , Penrith, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 20 February 2019

Issue publication date: 10 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to provide a micro historical account of the work of a key Chinese educational reformer, Tao Xingzhi (1891–1946), who transformed educational ideas from John Dewey to effect social and cultural change in 1920s–1940s China.


This paper examines English and Chinese language sources, including Tao’s poetry, to present a fresh analysis of Tao’s epistemological life history. It draws upon transnational historical approaches to chart the multidirectional circulation of progressive education philosophies around the globe. It also explores some conceptual dimensions of Chinese historical thinking and historiographical strategies.


Tao Xingzhi engaged in critical intercultural knowledge exchange in implementing educational reforms in China. He blended and critiqued Chinese and Deweyian educational philosophies to create unique educational reform, which involved reversing some of Dewey’s approaches as well as adapting others.


This paper foregrounds Tao Xingzhi’s agency in transforming some of Dewey’s ideas in the Chinese context and challenges studies that adopt an “impact-response” approach to Tao’s contribution, which suggest a one-way flow of knowledge from a “modern” West to a “traditional” China. It brings hitherto unexplored Chinese language sources to an English-speaking audience, particularly Tao’s poetry, to gain new historical insights into Tao’s educational reforms. It contributes to transnational understandings of the multidirectional flows of knowledge about Progressive educational philosophies around the world.



Qi, J., Manathunga, C., Singh, M. and Bunda, T. (2019), "Micro histories of intercultural knowledge exchange: Tao Xingzhi’s educational poetry", History of Education Review, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 2-14.



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