The imperial academy was the highest educational institution and educational administrative department in feudal China. The term first appeared in the Western Zhou Dynasty, but the first imperial academy was not officially established until 124 BC during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. Teachers of the imperial academy were called “grand academicians” (literarily “scholars of broad learning”). They were well versed in Confucian classics, had rich teaching experience, and possessed both moral integrity and professional competence. Their students were called “students of the imperial academy” or “students of the grand academicians.” At its peak the imperial academy had 10,000 students.
The central governments of all subsequent dynasties, including the Ming and Qing, had an imperial academy or a similar institution of education, usually located in the capital. It had different names and systems in different dynasties. The imperial academy, the top institution of learning run by the central government, along with local institutions of education and private schools, formed a complete education system in ancient China. They were significant in disseminating the Confucian classics and ancient China’s mainstream values with Confucianism as its main school of thought.
May I propose Your Majesty establish an imperial academy where teachers well versed in the Confucian classics can train students from all over the country. (The History of the Han Dynasty)