This commentary on Wu Zongjie’s article ‘Interpretation, autonomy and transformation: Chinese pedagogic discourse in a cross-cultural perspective’ begins by suggesting the usefulness of Wu’s polar opposite depiction of Confucian and modern pedagogy as ideal types
for comparative exploration. It goes on to suggest that the term ‘modern pedagogy’ may need to be de-constructed, along the distinctive lines of rationalist and pragmatist epistemologies of modernity and the ways in which they have affected the development of a modern pedagogy
over China’s 20th-century. Then, the life stories of three influential Chinese educators of different periods are drawn upon to identify echoes of the Confucian ideal type in their remarkable educational legacy, suggesting the continued dynamism of a Confucian pedagogy that
persists under the surface of the modern epistemologies that have shaped the terminology of modern education in China.