Civil Examinations and Meritocracy in Late Imperial China by Benjamin A. Elman

By Benjamin A. Elman

During China's overdue imperial interval (roughly 1400-1900 CE), males may assemble by means of the thousands each or 3 years outdoors reputable exam compounds sprinkled throughout China. just one percentage of applicants may whole the tutorial routine that will earn them a put up within the administrative paperwork. Civil Examinations assesses the function of schooling, exam, and China's civil provider in fostering the world's first specialist classification in keeping with verified wisdom and skill.

While hundreds of thousands of guys dreamed of the worldly development an imperial schooling promised, many extra questioned what went on contained in the prestigious walled-off exam compounds. As Benjamin A. Elman unearths, what happened used to be the weaving of a fancy social net. Civil examinations have been instituted in China as early because the 7th century CE, yet within the Ming and Qing eras they have been the nexus linking the highbrow, political, and monetary lifetime of imperial China. neighborhood elites and contributors of the courtroom sought to steer how the govt regulated the classical curriculum and chosen civil officers. As a guarantor of academic advantage, civil examinations served to tie the dynasty to the privileged gentry and literati classes--both ideologically and institutionally.

China did away with its classical exam procedure in 1905. yet this conscientiously balanced and always contested piece of social engineering, labored out over the process centuries, used to be an early harbinger of the meritocratic regime of faculty forums and different front assessments that undergirds larger schooling in a lot of the realm today.

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Mencius and Ming Civil Examinations During the early Ming, Jinhua and Jiangxi literati especially hoped that the Hongwu emperor would revive Song cultural ideals. Zhu Yuanzhang, however sympathetic, believed power descended downward from the ruler to his officials and subjects. 20 The former peasant-soldier sought legitimation by relying on his southern Jinhua advisers. He also learned to admire the statist institutions and rituals presented in the Rituals of Zhou (Zhouli). 20 Becoming M a instr e a m This source book of statecraft traditions since the early empire, later used to authorize the Northern Song’s failed reform program, was also frequently cited in the early Ming.

1399–1402), but Lian had served both the founding Hongwu and succeeding Jianwen emperor. When Lian rebuked the prince for his usurpation, Zhu Di had Lian’s tongue cut off to silence him. ”68 In Fang Xiaoru’s case the confrontation was equally chilling. The Prince of Yan, politely at first, demanded that Fang, a confidant of the Jianwen emperor and likely the last official to see him still alive, draft the announcement of the prince’s succession. When Fang labeled Zhu Di a criminal, the two men got into a heated argument:69 Prince: I modeled myself on the Duke of Zhou who served King Cheng and no more.

48 Since the Northern Song, cutthroat competition for the limited number of degrees, particularly the highly coveted palace degree, meant that an official appointment was not guaranteed. 51 Because of this differential, southern candidates for the palace examination were better prepared for the required literary answers. 52 Southern dominance in the early civil examinations became a ticklish problem for the Hongwu emperor and his successors. Zhu Yuanzhang’s efforts to limit the domination of the civil examinations and, thus, appointment to political office by southerners led him to suspend the examinations.

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