Chinese Civil Service Examination

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The Imperial Examination System in Ancient China
Abstract: Imperial examination in ancient China was developing based on the nine-rank system. From Sui and Tang dynasties to Guangxu year, Qing dynasty, it took more than 1300 years to evolve. The Imperial Examination is officially called Keju Examination in China, which was an important part of education system of feudal society in ancient China. In the mean time, it was a kind of officer-selecting system as well. It played a significant role in cultivating, selecting, and making use of talents. Modern examination system also takes example by the imperial examinations in ancient China. So we should attach importance to researching and studying it due to its enlightenment to the innovation of education system.

Have you ever wondered why there is an examination this kind of stuff which makes students “suffer” a lot and how it comes about? What is its origin? And how did it develop? Actually, China has a long history in examination system. So, I will talk about the imperial examination system in China which has a far-reaching impact to other Asian countries. The establishment of the nine-rank system

“A certain system cannot be created without foundation and time, it must have an origin, and before the establishment of the system, there must have been a predecessor originating gradually” ——Ch’ ien Mu① Imperial examination did not arise suddenly. Before the imperial examination was created, the nine-rank system was considered to be the precursor of it. According to Ci Hai dictionary, the explanation of the word “nine-rank system”: At the end of the Eastern Han dynasty, Cao Cao was in power, he advocated “Wei Cai Shi Ju”, which means everyone has an opportunity to be an official as long as he is outstanding enough. In the year 220, Cao Pi adopted Ministry of Personnel, Chen Qun’s suggestion that every prefecture could elect a reputable man to be the “Zhongzheng” (a kind of official), and the government classified them as nine ranks according to their capability. Cao Pi maintained Cao Cao’s principle that pedigree will not be the prerequisite. According to baike.baidu.com, at the beginning when nine-rank system was established, the criterion for estimating candidates was focused on extraction, morality, and ability. However, with the development of nine-rank system, extraction became the prerequisite, event the sole touchstone. When it came to Western Jin Dynasty, there had been a situation that first-class positions only admitted aristocrats and inferior-class positions only admitted people who didn’t have eminent background. Until the Northern Dynasty, national minority was in charge of the government. So the nine-rank system couldn’t efficiently work as before and became formalistic. Finally, it was abolished because of the lapse of aristocrats by Sui Dynasty.

The establishment of Keju System (The Imperial Examination System) Sui Dynasty: In 589, Sui Wendi (the emperor) set up two subjects of Xiu Cai and Ming Jing. In 606, Sui Yangdi (the next emperor) started to add another subject of Jin Shi. Therefore, it became the mark of the establishment of Keju System. Tang Dynasty: Tang Dynasty carried forward the system from Sui Dynasty practicing Keju System which used the subject of Jin Shi as the dominative way to select dedicates to upper level. Those who hoped to be the officials of the bureaucracy should compete in the Jin Shi exams, which tested their knowledge about the Five Confucian Classics. They are: Title (English)| Title (Chinese)| Brief Description|

Classic of Poetry| 詩經| A collection of 305 poems divided into 160 folk songs, 105 festal songs sung at court ceremonies, and 40 hymns and eulogies sung at sacrifices to gods and ancestral spirits of the royal house.| Book of Documents| 尚書| A collection of documents and speeches alleged to have been written by rulers and officials of the early Zhou period and before. It is possibly the oldest Chinese...
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