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In the early 1900s, the Qing dynasty implemented a nationwide school system to buttress its power. Although the Communists, contemporary observers, and more recent scholarship have all depicted rural society as feudal and these educational reforms a failure, Elizabeth VanderVen draws on untapped archival materials to show that villagers and local officials capably integrated foreign ideas and models into a system that was at once traditional and modern, Chinese and Western. Her portrait of education reform both challenges received notions about the modernity-tradition binary in Chinese history, and addresses topics central to debates on modern China, including state-making and the impact of global ideas on local society.