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China Examination Systems

Fields Of Learning

Literati fields of learning, such as natural studies and history, were also represented in late imperial examinations. Such inclusion showed the influence of the court, which for political reasons widened or limited the scope of policy questions on examinations, and of the assigned examiners, whose classical knowledge echoed the intellectual trends of their time. In the eighteenth century new guidelines were also applied to the civil examination curriculum. As a result, the Song rejection of medieval belles lettres in civil examinations was revoked.

In the late eighteenth century the examination curriculum started to conform with philological currents popular among literati. The scope and content of the policy questions increasingly reflected the academic inroads of newer classical scholarship among examiners. Beginning in the 1740s, high officials debated new initiatives that challenged the classical curriculum in place. They restored earlier aspects of the civil examinations that had been eliminated in the Yuan and Ming dynasties, such as classical poetry.

In the mid-eighteenth century, because of the increasing numbers of candidates, Qing officials emphasized "ancient learning" to make the examinations more difficult by requiring all the Five Classics. In addition, the formalistic requirements of poetry gave examiners an additional tool, along with the eight-legged essay grid, to grade papers more efficiently. Later rulers failed to recognize that an important aspect of the civil examinations was the periodic questioning of the system from within that gave it credibility from without.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Evolution to FerrocyanideChina Examination Systems - Power, Politics, And Examinations, Literacy And Social Dimensions, Fields Of Learning, Delegitimation And Decanonization