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Model moral education has two aspects. The first is for the people in society, on the one hand, learning this process from the model will make them continue to discipline themselves. On the other hand, learning from exemplary people will make them become a morally recognized person. For the model itself, on the one hand, the identity of exemplary people gave them glory. On the other hand, this glory will give him discipline and make him more suitable for exemplary moral standards. The existence of these two things is like a yoke of glory, glorious yet full of shackles.

Model's Morality for the People

In China, in order to make society better, the country will establish and promote moral exemplary people through various methods. In society, the virtue of exemplary people has become one of the bases for the judgment of "goodness". Xi Jinping made an important comment on the National Moral Modeling Activity: "The moral model is an example of moral practice" (2014: 1). From these words of Xi Jinping we can see exemplary characters are of great significance to moral education in China. Foucault stated in "Discipline and Punish" that "Public execution has a political function of judicial justice. It is a ritual of reconstructing a monarch that has been hurt for a while" (1979: 53). Criminals are representatives of "evil" in society, and the execution ceremony is to warn the people to stay away from this evil. The propaganda of exemplary characters is a kind of good discipline. Through this method, people learn the concept of "good" and "beautiful". People will continue to change their behavior to meet this kind of good. As Foucault puts it, "the human being, with his power to represent himself with representations, arises in a space hollowed out by living being, objects of exchange, and words..." (1966: 313).

In China, reverence for exemplary people has a long history. During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States period, Junzi (Gentleman) had a high social status. "Junzi" became a role model for some people. Therefore, the people will continue to learn from the "Gentleman" through "self-cultivation" and "introspection". "See the wise and think, see no good and introspection." (Confucius, Spring and Autumn Period) This sentence describes the process of learning and self-discipline through exemplary characters.

Different model figures at different times guide people's understanding of goodness. The representative figure of 1950s was Huang Jiguang. What he represented was a brave fighting spirit and a patriotic sentiment. Huang Jiguang's propaganda will inspire people's patriotic feelings and increase them for overreaction; In 1960s, in the context of the collective economy, the development of the people's communes required the laborers of selfless devotees. So, the model figures promoted should have this spirit of serving the country and the people. Lei Feng became the main character praising him at that time. The song "Learning a Good Model for Lei Feng" became popular in that era. It represented people's learning of Lei Feng's moral character. At that time, the good in the eyes of the public was a kind of patriotic sentiment and selflessness; in 1970s, it was the period of the Great Revolution. This was a special period. During the Cultural Revolution, people's values were distorted, and the image of the general model figure was overturned. At that time, the scientific and technical figures became exemplary only 0.97% (2012: 73). During the Cultural Revolution, people who criticized, exposed, and attacked others became exemplary. For example, Wangli who was a famous "rebel hero" (2011: 107) during the Cultural Revolution. It can be seen that the model figures of that era had a strong political power. For political reasons, the concept of morality was distorted and model figures became a tool of propaganda for this kind of distorted morality, thus encouraging people to be hostile to each other.

Today, with the development of the Internet, the influence of exemplary people is everywhere. The advancement of network technology and the improvement of monitoring system technology have allowed everyone to be monitored at all times. The "panorama optimism" in the Internet era will increase the influence of model figures and the role of discipline in this society. At the national level, the state gives a high degree of publicity and recognition to these model figures and thus educates the people of the whole country. The lowest level of discipline is as small as mutual supervision and discipline among individuals. This kind of discipline will have daily behaviors of the people. Have a significant impact. The fact that China "does not help the fallen elderly" has caused great controversy because the model figures we have been praising are all known for their selflessness, helpfulness, and friendliness. It will give us a definition of a good deed, thinking that we should be able to help others at any time. This is a good judgment. But today, because of the fear of being cheated by the elderly and giving up this kind of good, there is a kind of morality that is contrary to society.

The good of the model gives us a kind of discipline in this society. This kind of discipline is not a completely externally enforced behavior, because most individuals in society will agree with the connotation of this kind of good, though they control or restrict their behavior. But when they insist on this, their position in society will be planned to the good side. This is a standardized training for becoming an ethical person.

Self-discipline of Model

Once you become a model person, it means that you will be exposed to the public. The Chinese movie "Youth" (Fang Hua) is about the story of a model youth in the 1870s. In the movie, the moral model youth expressed love to the girl, but this was discovered by two passing soldiers, and they reported the matter to the leader. The leader severely punished this young man and finally made the boy's second half of life go to the bottom. In 1970s, the public interest became dominant and political control extended to the private sector, only the model characters preserved the spirit of selfless dedication and could make their exemplary image. In real life, in order to maintain their exemplary image, the model must continue to self-discipline. China's typical model figure is Lei Feng who is famous for his diligence and thrift, but many people do not know that he likes fashionable clothes like all young people. In fact, Lei Feng also has a leather jacket, but as a model figure under the collective economy, his fashion is considered to be non-advancement and ideological corruption. Lei Feng said: "After I bought the clothes in the youth store, I received a letter from Secretary Zhao... He said 'Xiao Lei. You forgot that you are a poor family's child. You can't forget this.'" After receiving the letter, Lei Feng was very guilty, so he never crossed the suit again (Hua Qi, 2003, pp. 118-119).

"Discipline is in the first sense a verb--what we impose on ourselves or on others. The second meaning of discipline is a noun--a series of qualifications that we have in order to get into a certain field and receive attention in this field" (Reno, 2004, p. 106). Once a person becomes a model, he should discipline himself. Although the process of self-discipline is painful, the rewards are honor and respect. Foucault believes that punishment tends to be moderate and universal in contemporary society (1971: 107). The current role of exemplary training has gradually become moderate and widespread. In the past, a very small number of people became models. Only those with extremely high morale or people with great achievements can become model figures, but since the development of the network, exemplary people have gradually become more "grassroots." Each individual may become a model. Under these circumstances, the effect of exemplary training and self-discipline training will be enhanced.


Foucault, Michel (1980). Body/Power. In C. Gordon (Ed.), Power/Knowledge selected interviews and other writings 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon Books.

Foucault, Michel (1995). Discipline and punish. New York: Vintage Books.

Huaqi (2003). Lei Feng's real life. Beijing: Mass Publishing House.

Jinping, Xi (2015). Better constructed the Chinese spirit, Chinese values, and Chinese strength, and provided spiritual motivation and moral nourishment for the socialism with Chinese characteristics. Ren Min Ri Bao, 10-14.

Liquan, Liu, and Zhuang Qinzao. (2017). The diachronic evolution of New China's moral model and its contemporary enlightenment. Lun li Xue Yan Jiu, 70-74.

Mingshi, Zhang (2012). 1949-1978: A Study on the group of British models in the Republic. Central China Normal University.

Qinghe, Zhu, and Lin Yan (2011). Logic of historical procrastination and development of typical figure reports. Dang Dai Chuan Mei.

Reno, Brian (2004). Foucault ten lectures. Beijing: Popular Culture & Arts Publishing House.

Wei, Chen (2009). Another form of "charismatic." The political significance of model in China. Wuhan: Central China Normal University.


Department of Education,

East China Normal University


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Author:Wei, Lincui
Publication:Knowledge Cultures
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Jul 1, 2019

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