Imperial Examination System In ancient China

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Imperial Examination System
Imperial Examination System
Imperial Examination System

Spanning 1,300 years from AD 605-1905 in China, the imperial examination system, (Keju Zhidu) was the most important way of selecting government officials for Chinese dynasties from the Sui (581-618) to the Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The ancient imperial examination, on which the Chinese bureaucracy was built, continues to inspire modern talent. The soaring popularity of the nation’s civil service exam is a clear indication. In November of 2005, the civil servant exam reportedly attracted 365,000 participants, a 47 percent increase over the year before, with Beijing alone having 56,000 participation. For each out of the 10, 282 positions at state and provincial levels, there was an average of 35 competitors and for some positions the competitors amounted to even 2,000. In ancient times, the exams were virtually the only path to a privileged life for common people and that made the national keju competition extremely fierce. It was common in ancient China for intellectuals to fall victim to the examination system after years of preparation. Cheating became a big problem despite tough measures to prevent it. And passing the exams became the ultimate goal of schooling. Most candidates tended to repeat the same topics, studying only for the exams’ sake, rather than thoroughly understanding all the material. Memorizing just enough to pass the exams, they could not put their knowledge to practical use. Humiliated by a series of bitter defeats in the declining late Qing Court. China, then plagued by rampant political corruption and troubled by frequent foreign invasions, was forced to re-examine its education system, which was suffocating under the imperial exam system. The imperial examination system finally came to an end in 1906.

Imperial Examination Glossary

Provincial examination: under the Ming and Qing civil examination system, the examination for the selection ot yuren out of xiucai, held triennially in the various provincial capitals

Metropolitan examination: under the Ming and Qing civil service examination system, the examination for the selection of jinshi out of juren, held triennially in Beijing, the national capital.

The palace examination: final imperial examination, presided over by the emperor

No1  at the highest imperial examinations

No2  at the highest imperial examinations

No3  at the highest imperial examinations

Juren: A successful candidate in the imperial examinations at the provincial level in the Ming and Qing dnasties

Jinshi: A successful candidate at the highest imperial examinations

According to historical records, since the introduction of imperial examination system in the

Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) in China to its abolition by Empress Dowager Cixi in 1905 during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), thirteen people had won the first place for the imperial examinations at three different levels (provincial examination , metropolitan examination and palace examination) in succession in the Chinese history.

Sanyuan refer to

Jieyuan: Those who passed the provincial examination and were enrolled were called Juren  and the person who came in first in the exam was named Jieyuan; the second one was called Yayuan.

Huiyuan: Those who passed the metropolitan examination and were enrolled were called Gongshi and the person who came in first in the examination was called Huiyuan.

Zhuangyuan: The highest imperial examination and was presided over by the emperor in the feudal China; Those who took part in the exam were called Gongshi; Those who passed the exam and were enrolled were called Jinshi the person who came in first in the exam was called Zhuangyuan, the second was bangyan, and the third was Tanhua.

According to statistics, from 1415 to 1904 during the Ming and Qing dynasties, 201 imperial examinations were held in Beijing, and 51, 624 Jinshi (successful candidates in the highest examinations) were selected during the Exams.

Civil Service Exam

The huge thirst for jobs in the civil service has made the national civil servant examination one of the china’s most competitive tests. Since the first exam was held in 1995, and since then more and more people have signed up for it, with applications reaching a peak over the last two years. They were attracted by the job’s stability, guaranteed health care and pension. Nearly 1 million people applied to take the exam in 2005, yet only just over 10,000 were finally employed. The year 2006 the stiff competition continued. The exact number of applicants is not known, with the final day for applications today. (October 24, 2006) Positions as civil servants are attractive, not only because of the stable income and good health care, but also because of the low risks compared with the power and resources the positions enjoy.

Jobs in civil service are turning from iron rice bowls—secure jobs—to gold ones, against the social background where more people’s iron rice bowls have become clay ones—insecure jobs. For example, the annual elimination rate below 0.03 percent in the past 11 years has made civil servants nearly a zero risk occupation, prompting the current gold rush. Additionally, there are two obvious factors that have heated up the civil servant test. First is the surplus of laborers with high educational backgrounds. Second is the unbalanced economic development among different regions. People from undeveloped have fewer choices for personal development and must choose the path of civil service jobs. Internationally, the social status of civil servants is high in many countries, and their incomes and welfares are above the social average. Public employees in China used to be called cadres. Now they are called civil servants; but despite the change of name, there is more to be done to enhance their consciousness of serving the public. The civil servants team should not turn into a privileged group. Otherwise, social harmony will be damaged. The popularity of civil service Jobs shows the imbalance of social development and interest distribution. Institutional reform is needed to change the phenomenon.