Baohe hall(Hall of Preserving Harmony)
Baohe means preserving things (objects) harmonized. Architecturally, the Hall of Preserving Harmony has no supporting pillars in its front part, something typical of Ming architecture. In the Qing Dynasty, banquets were given on New Year’s Eve and the Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao Festival,the 15th day of the 1st lunar month) in honour of the nobility and civil and military ministers in the capital city. The imperial examinations were held here. In the late reign period (1736-95) of the Qing emperor Qianlong, imperial examinations were held in this hall. There were three levels of exams: the county and prefecture level, the provincial level and the national level. The nation level exam was presided over by the emperor. After the imperial examination, the emperor selected three best students from among all the candidates. Those three persons were called Zhuang Yuan, Bang Yan and Tan Hua. Zhuang Yuan referred to the “Grand laurel-scholar” (the scholar-candidate came first in the palace-examination in old China). Another translation for Zhuang Yuan was a title for people who scored highest on the highest imperial examinations in old China Bang Yan referred to No 2 “Grand laurel-scholar”(the scholar-candidate came second in the palace examination)Tan Hua referred to No 3 “Grand Laurel Scholar”(the scholar-candidate came third in the palace examination). They got promotion and became high officials in the palace court.
The civil service examinations in China started in the Han Dynasty(206 BC-AD 220). It served the purpose of recruiting Confucian scholars to be ministers and high officials. During the centuries of disunity that followed, the Han Dynasty system of selecting officials by exam went out, and men were appointed, not on merit but by favour and nepotism.
The ancient Keju (imperial examination) system was imitated during the Sui Dynasty (581-618), and lasted for more than 1, 300 years until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The imperial examination system finally came to an end in 1906. It served as a fundamental system for china’s feudal dynasties to select government officials. Held mainly at county, provincial and national levels, the examinations were based on Confucian classics, the main sources of ruling ideology in feudal China, and had many sections including interviews, writing from memory, answering questions, composition writing, and ode writing. Other subjects, such as history, law, calligraphy, and math, were used as a gauge to test professional knowledge. The examination system offered average Chinese an opportunity to make their way up quickly, based on the strength of talent, as only the most gifted were chosen to participate in the administration of the empire. Through the system, China brought up at least 110,000 “ jinshi,” a successful candidate in the national examination, and millions of “ jinshi,” a successful candidate in the provincial examination.
The Qing Dynasty took over the ancient system of imperial examination. Once every three years, three hundred scholars from all over the country came to Beijing and took the exams for three days and three nights in this hall. The examinations were so rigid that competitors sometimes went insane or died of exhaustion. Those who failed sometimes took poison and threw themselves off the high balconies. Those who passed would get honourable titles and become high officials or consort of a princess.
Although controversial for its problems, especially in the later stage, the system played a substantial role in discovering talent through nationwide public examinations. For centuries, this system had great influences on the way in which officials were selected in the West and other Asian countries. The most eye-catching exhibit is an answer sheet with an article handwritten by Zhao Bingzhon (1576-1626), who won the first place in the national examination in 1598 and became a leading official of the Ming Dynasty.