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Imperial Examination in Sui & Tang Dynasties

(People's Daily Online)

14:27, July 12, 2012

Imperial Examination as the Main Form of Education

The system of the Imperial Examination, or Keju in Chinese, became the method by which talented people were recognized and selected for future positions in civil service. It began to be put into practice in the Sui Dynasty and lasted more than 1,300 years until the last examination during the Qing Dynasty. Thus it enjoyed a long and dominant position in the history of ancient Chinese education.

The imperial examinations comprised two parts namely an arts exam and the wushu exam. The arts examination includeds composition, study of books, laws, calligraphy, paintings and so on, while the wushu examination was used for selecting military officials but was not subject to the same degree of importance as the arts examination.

In the ancient society, class consciousness was strong and many people from lower classes would had have little chance to reach high office, not mention having any position in the official court. But once the 'keju' evaluation system was introduced, children from poor families had opportunities to attend the government exams, and this enabled them to bring honor to their families. Also, was a special exam for smart little children - 'tongziju', which was similar in many ways to today's special classes for gifted children. Thus regardless of parentage, or age, nearly all males were eligible to realize their self-development.

Despite the significant effect of promoting Confucian culture and education, it also influenced education systems in many other countries like Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, and similarities can be found in the personnel selection methods employed in France, America and Britain. Today's education system is surely its successor.

Origin of Imperial Examination in Sui Dynasty

It was during the Sui Dynasty that the many separate states were unified into a whole. To enforce the centralization of power, the emperor realized the need for a strong, well educated civil service, one that employed the best talents in the land. To bring this into effect the most influential system was initiated and substituted for what had gone before - jiupinzhongzheng. Although it was immature at the outset, it inter-wove closely the three essentials for state officials, those of learning, examination and administration. This system proved to be fairer and more far-reaching than any that had preceded it.

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