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Gardeners & Flowers: Celebrating Teacher’s Day in China

Let me just say: I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for a particular teacher who helped me unlock my potential. 

Can you relate? 

If so, you’ll agree that the importance of teachers and their role in society can’t be undermined. 

In China, Teacher’s Day is a major holiday—and it has been for thousands of years! In this article, you’ll learn how the Chinese celebrated teachers in ancient times, what celebrations look like today, and why teachers are compared to gardeners. 

Let’s get started.

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1. What is Teacher’s Day?

a Chinese Teacher Sitting behind a Desk

There’s an old saying that goes: “Three to respect: the emperor, father, and teacher.”

In Chinese culture, people place equal value on those who guide the country, those who raised them, and those who teach them. 

In China, Teacher’s Day is a time for students to show 爱戴 (àidài), or “love and esteem,” for their teachers, both past and present. It became an official holiday in 1985, though the Chinese have long considered teaching to be one of the most 受人尊敬的 (shòu rén zūn jìng de), or “respectable,” professions. 

Ancient Chinese Teacher’s Day Celebrations

In feudal China, people celebrated a similar holiday on the birthday of 孔子 (Kǒng Zǐ), or “Confucius,” one of the greatest thinkers and teachers of all time. During the Eastern Zhou Period, Confucius was held in high esteem, with people calling him a saint and a holy sage. So revered was Confucius that even the Emperor, alongside great intellectuals, would worship him.

Besides celebrating the birth of Confucius, the Chinese treated their teachers well on this day. All teachers were given the day off of work, bestowed with gifts of dried meat, and the very best teachers were also given silver coins. Up until the Qing Dynasty, it was common for teachers to get raises or promotions on this day. 

What is the Importance of Teacher’s Day in Modern Times?

While modern-day Teacher’s Day celebrations may not be as lavish as in times past, this holiday still holds an important place in Chinese society. 

The 1985 implementation of Teacher’s Day as an official holiday stemmed from a lack of people in 教育事业 (jiàoyù shìyè), or “educational work,” following the Cultural Revolution in China. Government officials hoped that emphasizing this holiday—and with it, the significance of teachers—would encourage more people to go into the educational field.

Today, 教诲 (jiàohuì), or “teaching,” is still considered one of the most admirable professions. Teachers are respected and held in high esteem by their students—not just on Teacher’s Day, but year-round! 

2. When is Teacher’s Day in China?

Each year, Teacher’s Day takes place on September 10.

In Ancient China, however, the holiday was celebrated according to the lunar calendar. Back then, the date was on the twenty-seventh day of the eighth lunar month. 

3. Celebrations and Traditions for Teacher’s Day

a Chinese Student Giving Flowers to Her Teacher

The most popular Teacher’s Day celebration in China is that of visiting the school or university from which one graduated. This tradition allows previous students to show appreciation for their teachers, who taught them well and prepared them for life.

Students who are still in school may offer Chinese Teacher’s Day cards or other small tokens of appreciation to their teachers. Perhaps the best gift for Teacher’s Day in China is 鲜花 (xiānhuā), or “fresh flowers.” In addition to the beauty and lovely scents of the flowers, they also correspond to an old metaphor about teachers (which we’ll talk about later!). Many schools also allow for class celebrations on this day, which might make up for the fact that teachers don’t get this day off work. 

On Teacher’s Day, China offers recognition for its teachers through awards ceremonies. Schools often gift their best teachers with certificates and flowers for their hard work, and upper-level authorities present exceptional teachers with the Annual Excellent Teacher award. On a smaller scale, students sometimes hold a Western-style competition for “Most Popular Teacher.”

4. The Gardener Metaphor

A Woman Gardening

In China, teachers are often compared to gardeners and students to flowers.

This is because, like flowers, students must be properly nourished and taken care of in order to bloom to their full potential. In a sense, the education and guidance that teachers offer their students serve as that nourishment. 

And, of course, the most skilled gardeners grow the most beautiful flowers! 

5. Essential Teacher’s Day Vocabulary

Commemorative Postage Stamps for Teacher’s Day in China

Let’s review some of the Chinese vocabulary words and phrases from this article!

  • 书桌 (shūzhuō) – “writing desk”
  • 粉笔 (fénbǐ) – “chalk”
  • 纪念邮票 (jìniàn yóupiào) – “commemorative postage stamp”
  • 讲台 (jiǎng tái) – “teacher’s platform”
  • 孔子 (Kǒng Zǐ) – “Confucius”
  • 黑板 (hēibǎn) – “blackboard”
  • 鲜花 (xiānhuā) – “fresh flowers”
  • 擦 () – “erase”
  • 爱戴 (àidài) – “love and esteem”
  • 敬佩 (jìng pèi) – “admire”
  • 受人尊敬的 (shòu rén zūn jìng de) – “respectable”
  • 讲授 (jiǎngshòu) – “teach”
  • 教诲 (jiàohuì) – “teaching”
  • 园丁 (yuándīng) – “gardener”
  • 教育事业 (jiàoyù shìyè) – “educational work”

Remember to head over to our Chinese Teacher’s Day vocabulary list to hear the pronunciation of each word, and add them to your flashcard deck! 

Final Thoughts

Isn’t it fascinating to see how old traditions carry over into modern times? It looks like China’s admiration for teachers won’t go away any time soon

Do you celebrate Teacher’s Day in your country? Let us know in the comments! 

If you want to learn more about Chinese culture and the language, explore and our many useful features. From insightful blog posts like this one to numerous video and audio lessons for learners at every level, we have everything you need to achieve your language-learning goals. We hope to see you around. 😉

Happy Teacher’s Day from the team! 

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