Common Knowledge of Chinese Culture

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Examination

In traditional China, for centuries the social mobility was achieved though a system of examinatons, which originally started with testing the ability of those already in office, had gradually widened in scope until it was all-embracing in point of geographical extent, and was the test of ability which all had to undergo who desired admission into the Civil Service of the Empire with its thousands of officials. With this end in view, boys were incited to lean their lessons and be diligent; with this aim, men pursue their weary course of study, year inand year out, till white haires replaced the black, and the shoulders, which at first merely aped the sholarly stoop, eventually bended beneath the weight of years of toil. There was the curious sight of grandfather, father, and even son, competing at the same time. The following was the system of civil examinations in the Qing (variations existed):

District Examination (Xiang Shi) - The lowest and initial examination held in Examination Hall of the district city under the supervision of the Imperial Chancellor. Examinees were supposed to produce an original poem and one or two essays on the subjects assigned to them. A night and a day were spent on these. 20 of the best received the degree of Scholar (Xiu Cai). They had no office,or appointment, but admission into the charmed circle of those who were entitled to wear the lowest grade of gold button on the tops their hats, who were protected from "corporal punishment;" it raised him above the common people, rendered him a conspicuous man in his native place and eligible to enter the triennial examination for the second degree held in the provincial capital.

Provincial Examination - The secondary degree examination held at the provincial capital. The successful candidates received a degree called Ju Ren (promoted scholar). This exam lasted through three sessions of nearly three days each. The examiners were the Imperial Commissioner and ten provincial officers. Essays in prose and verse were required in a higher style than the district exams. The successful candidates still had no office or appointment but rose higher in the public estimation, wearing a higher grade of gilt button, when in dress, and put a board over the front doors of their houses with the words "Ju Ren" as well as the date of attaining this distinction.

Capital Examination - The third degree exams were held at Beijing, the capital. The successful candidates received a degree called Jin Shi (Entered Scholar) and might begin his official career as a district magistrate.

Palace Examination - The highest degree exams held at the Emperor's palace and in the presence of the Emperor himself. The successful candidates would be admitted into the Hanlin College. The member of this college were constituted poets and historians to the Celestial Court or deputed to act as Chancellors and Examiners in the several provinces. The first three highest were called Zhuang Yuan (Laureate), Tan Hua and Ban Yan.

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