The examinations did not offer a formal route to commissioned office and the primary path to office remained through recommendations. Though connections and recommendations remained more meaningful than the exam, the initiation of the examination system by Emperor Wu had a cultural significance, as the state determined the most important examination material to be Confucian.
During the Han dynasty, these examinations were primarily used for the purpose of classifying candidates who had been specifically recommended. Even during the Tang dynasty the quantity of placements into government service through the examination system only averaged about nine persons per year, with the known maximum being less than 25 in any given year. Beginning in the Three Kingdoms period with the nine-rank system in the Kingdom of Wei , imperial officials were responsible for assessing the quality of the talents recommended by the local elites.
This system continued until it was abolished in by Emperor Wen of Sui who created a system wherein every prefecture would supply three scholars a year. For the first time, an examination system was explicitly instituted for a category of local talents. However, the Sui dynasty was short-lived, and the system did not reach its mature development until afterwards. The civil-service examination was institutionalized, where six categories were created.
Eventually these became just one jinshi degree. At this point the exam became administered by the Ministry of Rites. A pivotal point in the development of imperial examinations arose with the rise of Wu Zetian. Wu Zetian was exceptional: a woman not of the Li family, she came to occupy the seat of the emperor in an official manner in the year of , and even beforehand she had already begun to stretch her power within the imperial courts behind the scenes.
Reform of the imperial examinations to include a new class of elite bureaucrats derived from humbler origins became a keystone of Wu's gamble to retain power. Wu lavished favors on the newly graduated jinshi degree-holders, increasing the prestige associated with this path of attaining a government career, and clearly began a process of opening up opportunities to success for a wider population pool, including inhabitants of China's less prestigious southeast area.
Wu's progressive accumulation of political power through enhancement of the examination system involved attaining the allegiance of previously under-represented regions, alleviating frustrations of the literati, and encouraging education in various locales so even people in the remote corners of the empire would work on their studies in order to pass the imperial exams, and thus developed a nucleus of elite bureaucrats useful from the perspective of control by the central government. In , a written test on knowledge of the Confucian classics was introduced, meaning that candidates were required to memorize these works and fill in the blanks on the test.
In , Wu Zetian's government further expanded the civil service examination system,  part of a policy to reform society and to consolidate power for her self-proclaimed "Zhou dynasty". Examples of officials whom she recruited through her reformed examination system include Zhang Yue , Li Jiao , and Shen Quanqi. She introduced major changes in regard to the Tang system, increasing the pool of candidates permitted to take the test by allowing commoners and gentry previously disqualified by their non-elite backgrounds to attempt the tests.
Successful candidates then became an elite nucleus of bureaucrats within her government. Sometime between and , after the Tang restoration, a section requiring the composition of original poetry including both shi and fu was added to the tests, with rather specific set requirements: this was for the jinshi degree, as well as certain other tests. The less-esteemed examinations tested for skills such as mathematics, law, and calligraphy. The success rate on these tests of knowledge on the classics was between 10 and 20 percent, but for the thousand or more candidates going for a jinshi degree each year in which it was offered, the success rate for the examinees was only between 1 and 2 percent: a total of jinshi were created during course of the Tang dynasty an average of only about 23 jinshi awarded per year.
During the early years of the Tang restoration, the following emperors expanded on Wu's policies since they found them politically useful, and the annual averages of degrees conferred continued to rise; however with the upheavals which later developed and the disintegration of the Tang empire into the " Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period ", the examination system gave ground to other traditional routes to government positions and favoritism in grading reduced the opportunities of those taking the tests who lacked political patronage.
With the disappearance of the old aristocracy, Wu's system of bureaucrat recruitment once more became the dominant model in China, and eventually coalesced into the class of nonhereditary elites who would become known to the West as "mandarins," in reference to Mandarin , the dialect of Chinese employed in the imperial court. In the Song dynasty — more than a hundred higher level examinations were held. Officials selected through the exams became dominant in the bureaucracy.
The number of jinshi degrees also increased.follow url
The Great Qing Dynasty History Essay
This included even individuals from the occupied northern territories. Examples include Wang Anshi , who proposed reforms to make the exams more practical, and Zhu Xi , whose interpretations of the Four Classics became the orthodox Neo-Confucianism which dominated later dynasties. Two other prominent successful entries into politics through the examination system were Su Shi and his brother Su Zhe : both of whom became political opponents of Wang Anshi. Indeed, one of the major objectives of the examination system was to promote diversity of viewpoints and to avoid over-filling of offices with individuals of particular political or partisan alignment, as might occur with alternative, more biased methods, which could allow for active recruitment.
Most of the candidates came from the numerically small but relatively wealthy land-owning scholar-official class.
The Chinese Imperial Examination System
Since , by the decision of the Taizu Emperor of Song, the palace examination was supervised by the emperor himself. In , the practice of anonymous submission of papers during the palace examination was introduced; it was spread to the departmental examinations in , and to the prefectural level in The practice of recopying the papers in order not to allow biases by revealing the candidate by his calligraphy was introduced at the capital and departmental level in , and in the prefectures in Various reforms or attempts to reform the examination system were made during the Song dynasty, including by Fan Zhongyan and those by Wang Anshi.
Fan's memorial to the throne actually initiated a process which lead to major educational reform through the establishment of a comprehensive public school system. Governmental examinations ended with the defeat of the Song in by a disintegrating Mongol empire. After a period of turmoil, the part of the Mongol empire that was led by Kublai Khan established itself in China as the Yuan dynasty.
One of Kublai's main advisers in this event was Liu Bingzhong , who wrote a memorial, among other things, recommending restoration of the examination system: however, this was not done. The examination system was revived in , with significant changes, during the reign of Emperor Renzong. The new examination system was one of regionalism with Mongol characteristics. The provincial restrictions resulted in a greater effect; for example, only 28 Han Chinese from South China were included among the candidates, the rest of the South China slots 47 being occupied by resident Mongols or Semu-ren, although 47 "racial South Chinese" who were not residents of South China were approved as candidates.
The Ming dynasty — retained and expanded the system it inherited. Shortly after the inauguration of the dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor in declared that the exams should cover the Four Books , discourses, and political analysis, accepting the Neo-Confucian canon put forth by Zhu Xi in the Song dynasty. But he firmly insisted on including the martial arts. The curriculum at the Guozijian National Academy [ which? The three levels of examination were created during this period, whose degrees were in order, shengyuan elementary , juren provincial , and jinshi metropolitan examination.
The Ming established Neo-Confucian interpretations as the orthodoxy guidelines and created what the historian Benjamin Elman called a "single-minded and monocular political ideology" that "affected politically and socially how literati learning would be interpreted and used.
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As a result, the higher and more prestigious offices were dominated by jinshi Palace degree-holders, who tended to come from elite families. The Ming thus started a process in which access to government office became harder and harder and officials became more and more orthodox in their thought.
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Near the end of the Ming dynasty, in , there were roughly half a million licentiates in a population of million, that is, one per people; by the midth century the ratio had shrunk to one civil licentiate for each 1, people. The social background of metropolitan graduates also narrowed as time went on. In the early years of the Ming dynasty only 14 percent of metropolitan graduates came from families that had a history of providing officials, while in the last years of the Ming roughly 60 percent of metropolitan exam graduates came from established elite families.
The Qing dynasty largely adopted the Ming civil-service exam in the year of its establishment, The shengyuan degree holders were give some tax exemptions from the general public. During the Qing dynasty a total of jinshi examinations were held within years — , averaging 2. By the s and s, proposals emerged from officials calling for reforms to the Imperial Examinations to include Western technology.
In , Li Hongzhang submitted proposals to add a new subject into the Imperial examinations involving Western technology, that scholars may focus their efforts entirely on this. A similar proposal was tabled by Feng Guifen in and Ding Richang mathematics and science in In , and again in , Shen Baozhen submitted proposals to the throne for the reform of the Imperial Examinations to include Mathematics. Shen also proposed the abolition of the military examinations, which were based on obsolete weaponry such as archery.
He proposed the idea that Tongwen Guan students who performed well in mathematics could be directly appointed to the Zongli Yamen as if they were Imperial examination graduates. The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom , which attempted to overthrow the Qing dynasty in the middle of the 19th century, in admitted for the first time women as examination candidates.
The exams administered by the Heavenly Kingdom differed from those administered by the Qing dynasty, in that they required knowledge of the Bible. Fu Shanxiang took the exam and became the first female zhuangyuan in Chinese history. With the military defeats in the s and pressure to develop a national school system, reformers such as Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao called for abolition of the exams, and the Hundred Days' Reform of proposed a set of modernizations.
After the Boxer Rebellion , the government drew up plans to reform under the name of New Policies. Reformers memorialized the throne to abolish the system. On 2 September , the throne ordered that the examination system be discontinued, beginning at the first level in The new system provided equivalents to the old degrees; a bachelor's degree, for instance, would be considered equivalent to the xiu cai. The details of the new system remained to be worked out by the fall of the dynasty in , but the end of the system meant the end of Confucianism as an official state ideology and of the scholar official as a legal group.
Reformers charged that the set format of the " Eight-legged essay " stifled original thought and satirists portrayed the rigidity of the system in novels such as Rulin waishi. In the twentieth century, the New Culture Movement portrayed the examination system as a cause for China's weakness in such stories as Lu Xun 's " Kong Yiji.
On the other hand, the political and ethical theories of Confucian classical curriculum has been compared to the classical studies of humanism in European nations which proved instrumental in selecting an "all-rounded" top-level leadership. US leaders included "virtues" such as reputation and support for the US constitution as a criterion for government service.
In late imperial China , the examination system was the major mechanism 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 Ming Dynasty
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 and emoluments office brought. The examination based civil service thus promoted stability and social mobility. The Confucian-based examinations meant that the local elites and ambitious would-be members of those elites across the whole of China were taught with similar values.
Even though only a small fraction about 5 percent of those who attempted the examinations actually passed them and even fewer received titles, the hope of eventual success sustained their commitment.
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Those who failed to pass 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.
After the fall of the Qing in , Dr. Sun Yat-sen , the leader of the newly risen Republic of China , developed similar procedures for the new political system through an institution called the Examination Yuan , one of the five branches of government, although this was quickly suspended due to the turmoil in China between the two world wars, such as the warlord period and the Japanese invasion.
The Kuomintang administration revived the Examination Yuan in after the defeat of Japan. This system continues into present times in Taiwan along with the government itself after loss of the mainland to the Communist Party of China. The Civil Service in the People's Republic of China since the economic reform era maintains a system of examinations for selection and promotion of civil servants.
The Forbidden City
The examinations consisted of tests administered at the district, provincial, and metropolitan levels. Tight quotas restricted the number of successful candidates at each level—for example, only three hundred students could pass the metropolitan examinations. Students often took the examinations several times before earning a degree. Each candidate arrived at an examination compound with only a few amenities: a water pitcher, a chamber pot , bedding, food which he had to prepare himself , an inkstone , ink and brushes.
Guards verified a student's identity and searched for hidden printed materials. There were no interruptions during those three days, nor were candidates allowed any communication. If a candidate died, officials wrapped his body in a straw mat and tossed it over the high walls that ringed the compound.
Intense pressure to succeed meant that cheating and corruption were rampant, often outrunning strenuous attempts to prevent or defeat them.