Yuelu Academy, located at the foot of Yuelu Hill in Changsha City, was praised as one the top four ancient academies in China. With over 1,000 years history, Yuelu Academy is one of the top attractions in Changsha,capital of Hunan Province.
As one of the four most prestigious academies over the last 1000 years in China, Yuelu Academy has been a famous institution of higher learning as well as a centre of academic activities and cultures since it was formally set up in the ninth year of the Kai Bao Reign of the Northern Song Dynasty (976). Yuelu Academy, surviving the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, was converted into Hunan Institute of Higher Learning in 1903, and Hunan Normal College, Hunan Public Polytechnic School in succession, and was finally named Hunan University in 1926. The Academy has witnessed a history of more than one thousand years without a break, so it is called a "one-thousand-year-old academy". The historical transformation from Yuelu Academy to Hunan University is an epitome of the development of China's higher education, which mirrors the vicissitudes of China's education system.
Yuelu Academy was known throughout the whole of China for its style of school management and its role in the dissemination of academic learning. When Emperor Zhenzong of the Northern Song Dynasty summoned the dean, Zhou Shi, to an interview, and conferred upon the Academy his Majesty's inscription, Yuelu Academy vaulted into great fame, and enjoyed the reputation "xiao xiang zhu si", meaning it was a place in Hunan where great scholars assembled. It is right here that the renowned "Huxiang School of Learning" in the history of the li philosophy (the philosophy of principle) began to gain currency when Zhang Shi lectured in the Academy in the Southern Song Dynasty. And when Zhu Xi came here twice to give lectures, so popular were the lectures that there were too many visitors for the Academy to seat, and the water in the Yinma Pond (the Horse-Watering Pond) was drained by their horses. Later on, the Academy saw other learning and ideas promulgated and exchanged such as the Yangming School in the midst of the Ming Dynasty, the Donglin School in the last years of the Ming dynasty, the Han School of the Qian Long and the Jia Qing Reigns (1736-1821) and the New Learning of the last years of the Qing Dynasty. The academic learning and education system of Yuelu Academy have had a far-reaching impact on the formation and development of Hunan's cultural tradition.
What To See?
Yuelu Academy mainly comprises Main Gate, Lecture Hall, Lushan Temple Tablet, Yushu Library, Wenchang Pavilion, Six Gentleman Hall, Ten-sacrificial-vessels Hall, Grand Sunlight Platform, the Banxue Building, the Hexi Platform, etc.
The four characters "Yue Lu Shu Yuan” (Yuelu Academy in Chinese) on the horizontal board of the Main Gate were inscriptions of Zhenzong, an Emperor of the Song Dynasty (960AD-1279AD). From then on, Yuelu Academy became well-known all around the country and students came to study in an endless stream. On the door posts of the gate are couplets which read Wei Chu You Cai, Yu Si Wei Sheng (the Kingdom of Chu, the unique home of talents; the Academy of Yuelu, the very cradle of all). This couplet originates from Chinese classics and is considered appropriate, given the fact that talents have been delivered continuously by the Academy since its establishment.
The Lecture Hall, also called a "Hall of Loyalty, Filial Piety, Integrity and Chastity", is a core building of the Academy. Located at the heart of the Academy, the Lecture Hall is the most important place for teaching and momentous ceremony. In the 6th year of Qiandao Reign (1168 A), the Southern Song Dynasty, the famous idealists Zhang Shi and Zhu Xi made a joint lecture here, which was the first joint lecture in the Confucian academies of China.
There are also many valuable cultural relics made of steles in the Lecture Hall. On the inner walls of the hall are engraved four big Chinese Characters- Zhong, Xiao, Lian, Jie (loyalty, piety, honesty and integrity) which were written by the great scholar Zhu Xi. There are others' famous sayings inscribed as well, such as "Uniform and stand as a mark of respect" written and set by Ouyang Zhenghuan, a master of the Qing Dynasty, and the stele "School Regulations" written by master Wang Wenqing of the Qing Dynasty are all important historical materials for the study of the education in China's Confucian academies. They still hold their own enlightening meaning to us nowadays.
Today, Yuelu Academy, which has undergone restorations, has been listed as a key historical site under the state protection. It still shoulders the responsibility of conducting academic researches and training professionals.