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Encyclopedia > Imperial examinations

The imperial examinations (Chinese: 科舉; Pinyin: kējǔ) in dynastic China determined positions in the civil service based on merit and education, which promoted upward mobility among the population for centuries. Hanyu Pinyin (Simplified Chinese: 汉语拼音; Traditional Chinese: 漢語拼音; Hanyu Pinyin: , lit. ... A civil servant or public servant is a civilian career public sector employee working for a government department or agency. ... Social mobility is the degree to which, in a given society, an individuals social status may change throughout the course of his or her life. ...


The system was finally abolished in the last few years of Qing Dynasty. According to the historical record of China (史书), from the start of the Sui Dynasty (605 CE) to its abolition near the end the Qing Dynasty (1905 CE), the Imperial Examination System had lasted continuously for 1300 years.


Before the system was introduced, most appointments in the imperial bureaucracy were based on recommendations from prominent aristocrats and existing officials, and it was commonly accepted that recommended individuals must be of aristocratic rank. The origin of the system can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE). By 115 CE a set curriculum had become established for the so-called First Generation of examination takers. They were tested on their proficiency in the "Six Arts": music, archery and horsemanship, arithmetic, writing, and knowledge of the rituals and ceremonies in both public and private life. The curriculum was then expanded to cover the "Five Studies": military strategy, civil law, revenue and taxation, agriculture and geography, and the Confucian classics. In this form the examinations were institutionalized during the sixth century CE, under the Sui Dynasty. These examinations are regarded by most historians as the first standardized tests based on merit. The Han Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 漢朝; Simplified Chinese: 汉朝; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Han Chau; 206 BC–AD 220) followed the Qin Dynasty and preceded the Three Kingdoms in China. ... The Sui Dynasty (Chinese: 隋朝; Hanyu Pinyin: 581-618) followed the Southern and Northern Dynasties and preceded the Tang Dynasty in China. ... Originally a standardized test was simply a standard test – of academic achievement or of knowledge in a specific academic or vocational domain. ...


By 1370 CE the examinations lasted between 24 and 72 hours, and were conducted in spare, isolated examination rooms. In order to obtain objectivity in evaluation, candidates were identified by number rather than name, and examination answers were rewritten by a third person before being evaluated to prevent the candidate's handwriting from being recognised.


The degree types were as follows:

  • shēngyuán (生員), also called Xiucai (秀才), quasi-bachelor degree, administered at the local level each year
    • Anshou shēngyuán who ranked #1
  • jǔrén (舉人) quasi-masters degree, administered at the provincial level every three years
    • Xieyuan (解元) jǔrén who ranked #1.
  • jìnshì (進士) quasi-doctoral degree, administered in the capital every three years
Enlarge
状元翁同和扇面
    • Jinshi jidi (进士及第) Jinshi who ranked #1-#3
      • Zhuangyuan (状元), jìnshì who ranked #1.
      • Bangyan (榜眼), jìnshì who ranked #2.
      • Tanhua (探花), jìnshì who ranked #3.
    • Jinshi Chushen (进士出身) jìnshì who ranked 2rd class
    • Tong Jinshi Chushen (同进士出身) jìnshì who ranked 3rd class
    • Huiyuan (会元), jǔrén who ranked #1 in prequalification
    • Gongsheng (贡生) or Gongshi (贡士), jǔrén who passed prequalification

The degree types are labeled as "quasi-" degrees not to denigrate their content, but to point out that while they may roughly correspond to Western conceptions of bachelor, master and doctoral degrees, they had different content, different methods of instruction and very different social functions. Image File history File links 状元翁同和扇面.jpg I took this picture during my trip to China. ... Image File history File links 状元翁同和扇面.jpg I took this picture during my trip to China. ... Huiyuan (334-417 B.C) was a Buddhist teacher who founded a monastery in Jianxi province and wrote the text ‘A Monk Does Not Bow Down Before A King’ (404B.C.). Huiyuan worked with monks, lay people, and even rulers to further Buddhist principles and Buddhist acceptance in China. ...


Theoretically, any male adult in China, regardless of his wealth or social status, could become a high-ranking government official by passing the test, although under some dynasties members of the merchant class were excluded. In reality, since the process of studying for the examination tended to be time-consuming and costly (private tutors had to be hired), most of the candidates came from the numerically small but relatively wealthy land-owning gentry. However, there are numerous examples in Chinese history in which individuals moved from a low social status to political prominence through success in imperial examination. Under some dynasties the imperial examinations were abolished and official posts were simply sold, which increased corruption and reduced morale.


In late imperial China the examination system and associated methods of recruitment to the central bureaucracy were major mechanisms by which the central government captured and held the loyalty of local-level elites. Their loyalty, in turn, ensured the integration of the Chinese state, and countered tendencies toward regional autonomy and the breakup of the centralized system. The examination system distributed its prizes according to provincial and prefectural quotas, which meant that imperial officials were recruited from the whole country, in numbers roughly proportional to each province's population. Elite individuals all over China, even in the disadvantaged peripheral regions, had a chance at succeeding in the examinations and achieving the rewards of holding office. Late Imperial China refers to the period between the end of Mongol rule and the establishment of the Republic of China and includes the Ming and Qing dynasties. ...


The examination system also served to maintain cultural unity and consensus on basic values. The uniformity of the content of the examinations meant that the local elites and ambitious would-be members of those elites across the whole of China were indoctrinated with the same values. Even though only a small fraction (about 5 percent) of those who attempted the examinations passed them and received titles, the study, self-indoctrination, and hope of eventual success on a subsequent examination served to sustain the interest of those who took them. Those who failed to pass--most of the candidates at any single examination--did not lose wealth or local social standing; as dedicated believers in Confucian orthodoxy, they served, without the benefit of state appointments, as teachers, patrons of the arts, and managers of local projects, such as irrigation works, schools, or charitable foundations.

Examination hall with 7500 cells, Guangdong, 1873.
Enlarge
Examination hall with 7500 cells, Guangdong, 1873.

In late traditional China, then, education was valued in part because of its possible pay-off in the examination system. The overall result of the examination system and its associated study was cultural uniformity--identification of the educated with national rather than regional goals and values. This self-conscious national identity still underlies the nationalism that has been so important in China's politics in the 20th and 21st centuries. Download high resolution version (968x720, 236 KB) This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... Download high resolution version (968x720, 236 KB) This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... Guangdong (Simplified Chinese: 广东; Traditional Chinese: 廣東; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Kuang-tung; Postal System Pinyin: Kwangtung or Canton Province, Jyutping: gwong2 dung1), is a province on the south coast of the Peoples Republic of China. ... The May Fourth Movement in 1919 marked a turning point in the history of Chinese nationalism. ...


The Taiping regime was the first in Chinese history to admit women as candidates in the examination system, although it later suspended the system altogether. The Taiping Rebellion (太平天國, 1851–1864) was the second bloodiest conflict in history[citation needed], a clash between the forces of Imperial China and those inspired by a Hakka self-proclaimed mystic named Hong Xiuquan, a Christian convert who had claimed that he was the new Messiah and younger brother of...


The examination system was abandoned for a time under the Yuan Dynasty, and completely abolished a few years before the fall of the Qing Dynasty. The Yuán Dynasty (Mongolian: Dai Ön Yeke Mongghul Ulus; Chinese: 元朝) lasting officially from 1271 to 1368, also called the Mongol Dynasty, was the name given to the significant ruling family of Borjigin in Asia. ... The Qing Dynasty (Manchu: daiching gurun(warrior country in Mongolian language); Chinese: 清朝; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: ching chao), sometimes known as the Manchu Dynasty, was a dynasty founded by the Manchu - a nomadic nation of over two million people. ...


Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who led the movement to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and founded the Republic of China, developed similar procedures for the new political system through an institution called the Examination Yuan, although this was quickly suspended due to the turmoil in China between the two world wars. After defeating the Japanese offensive in the Second World War, the Guomindang administration attempted to revive the Examination Yuan, but just three years later it moved to Taiwan. It continued the system there. Sun Yat-sen (November 12, 1866–March 12, 1925) was a Chinese revolutionary and political leader who had a significant role in the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty. ... National motto: None Official language Mandarin Chinese Capital and largest city Taipei President Chen Shui-bian Vice President Annette Lu Premier Su Tseng-chang Area  - Total  - % water Ranked 138th 35,980 km² 2. ... The Examination Yuan (考試院) is one of five government branches of the Republic of China and is in charge of validating the qualification of civil servants. ... Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 18 km into the air. ... The Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalist Party of China (Traditional Chinese: 中國國民黨; Simplified Chinese: 中国国民党; pinyin: Zhōngguó Guómíndǎng; Wade-Giles: Chung-kuo Kuo-min-tang; Tongyong Pinyin: Jhongguo Guomindang; literally the National Peoples Party of China) is a conservative political party currently active in the Republic of China (ROC) on...

Candidates gathering around the wall where the results had been posted. This announcement was known as 放榜, a term that continues in modern use. (c. 1540)
Candidates gathering around the wall where the results had been posted. This announcement was known as 放榜, a term that continues in modern use. (c. 1540)

[Note: This article incorporates material from the Library of Congress that is believed to be in the public domain.] Civil service exam candidates gather around the wall where results had been posted. ... Civil service exam candidates gather around the wall where results had been posted. ... The Great Hall interior. ...


See also

China has a wealth of classical literature, both poetry and prose, dating from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC - 256 BC) and including the Chinese classics texts, or Chinese canonical texts. ... The Nine rank system (ch. ... This article is about education in mainland China. ...


  Results from FactBites:
 
Reference.com/Encyclopedia/Imperial examination (1222 words)
In late imperial China the examination system and associated methods of recruitment to the central bureaucracy were major mechanisms by which the central government captured and held the loyalty of local-level elites.
The examination system distributed its prizes according to provincial and prefectural quotas, which meant that imperial officials were recruited from the whole country, in numbers roughly proportional to each province's population.
The Imperial examination system was abandoned for a time under the Yuan Dynasty, and completely abolished in 1905 before the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.
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Imperial units are the measurement units that were generally used in the British Commonwealth countries in the past.
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