China’s teachers have a long and complex history. Confucius, the intellectual architect of the traditional system of social relations, is also remembered as the country’s preeminent teacher. With this tradition, China has long officially recognized the importance of teachers. Teaching in China, however, has often been a less distinguished profession than its proponents would hope or claim. A popular adage, paraphrased, recommends that “as long as there is rice in the house, don’t be a teacher.” Yet, in the political rhetoric of reform-era China, national development goals hinge on reforms to the educational system. Teachers, their training, and their professional development stand at the center of successful educational reform.