This is a response to the commentaries on my essay, ‘Interpretation, autonomy, and transformation’. However, the response is reoriented to further interpretation of Chinese pedagogic discourse in the late-19th century, which is often blamed for hampering China’s
educational advance. Instead of considering Classical Confucian pedagogy as a blueprint for future development, my inquiry aims to provide alternative ways of thinking about sources of pedagogic innovation in the philosophical perspective of language. By presenting and analysing an eight-legged
essay of the Imperial Civil Examination, I argue that pedagogy is a process of meaning-making, which is not only a question of synchrony inside a system attributed with causality and analysis, but also of diachrony by registering meanings to what was said by sages. ‘Speak in the place
of sages’ should be taken as a continuous tradition to secure flow of meanings from the past for the purpose of meeting with the challenge of modernity in China.