The ancient traditional six arts can be dated back to the Zhou Dynasty, 1046 BC. The noble class used the six arts as a standard to judge whether a son of aristocrats was fit to hold his title. The six arts included courtesy, music, archery, riding, writing and math.
Courtesy is an extraordinarily important cornerstone in Chinese culture. Without courtesy, the 5,000-year-old country would never exist. In ancient China, there were officers in charge of courtesy for every aspect of life, like marriage, funerals, school entry and sacrifice.
Chinese people started to live with a sense of ritual thousands of years ago and nothing can remove it from Chinese culture.
Music was not just a melody or a pastime for entertainment in ancient China. It was a symbol of great manners and a well-educated person. It was not just a melody but also contained music theory. To learn music, one should have high aesthetic standards.
Confucius himself studied from three different people to learn courtesy, music and how to play music. Music was also an indispensable part of Chinese culture. People play music in every ritual to express feelings and emotions. Also, there was a special position for a music officer in the court.
Archery was not only a way to protect the kingdom or to kill enemies, but was also a good sport. China measured its force of strength as much as literature. A real gentleman should not only be well-educated but also should be strong and demonstrate great archery skills. A good archer was highly admired in ancient China not only among the nobility but also among ordinary people. The ancient emperors took archery classes as a required course and it was a tradition to hold a big hunting ceremony every year.
Riding is an interesting subject in ancient China. If you wanted to compete in riding, your skills and your talents would be both required. Riding contests were always popular, and the winner always showed great leadership and great skills in operation research. Also, riding was so important in wars, so almost every man and even woman had to learn how to ride.
Writing usually included handwriting, reading, drawing and composition. There have been so many great calligraphers throughout the history of China and Chinese greatly valued handwriting. There’s a saying that your handwriting reflects your alter ego. (Note: I think this is what is meant. If not, let me know so we can fix it) Especially in ancient China, it was necessary for an emperor to write beautifully. There were many emperors in China who were not only calligraphers, but also poets. Having the ability to compose poems is the skill of an educated person. Chinese ancient poetry is a precious heritage for every Chinese and to the whole world.
In ancient times, math was a useful method to make predictions. Ancient Chinese also developed links between math and ancient astronomy. Ancient Chinese used math to develop astronomy, to predict the weather and applied knowledge to real life. The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art was the earliest Chinese math book. The ancient Chinese also developed the abacus to benefit daily living and this invention is one of China’s material cultural heritages.