A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China

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University of California Press, Mar 22, 2000 - History - 847 pages
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In this multidimensional analysis, Benjamin A. Elman uses over a thousand newly available examination records from the Yuan, Ming, and Ch'ing dynasties, 1315-1904, to explore the social, political, and cultural dimensions of the civil examination system, one of the most important institutions in Chinese history. For over five hundred years, the most important positions within the dynastic government were usually filled through these difficult examinations, and every other year some one to two million people from all levels of society attempted them.

Covering the late imperial system from its inception to its demise, Elman revises our previous understanding of how the system actually worked, including its political and cultural machinery, the unforeseen consequences when it was unceremoniously scrapped by modernist reformers, and its long-term historical legacy. He argues that the Ming-Ch'ing civil examinations from 1370 to 1904 represented a substantial break with T'ang-Sung dynasty literary examinations from 650 to 1250. Late imperial examinations also made "Tao Learning," Neo-Confucian learning, the dynastic orthodoxy in official life and in literati culture. The intersections between elite social life, popular culture, and religion that are also considered reveal the full scope of the examination process throughout the late empire.
 

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Contents

Rethinking the Historical Roots
1
FIG URES
2
Imperial Power Cultural Politics
66
Institutional Dynamics and Mobilization of Elites
125
IO A 1685 Black Ink Examination Paper
192
of Late Imperial Civil Examinations
239
and the Examination Life
295
Io An Immortal Presents Medicine in 1541
342
The Cultural Scope of Civil Examinations
371
Examiner Standards Literati Interpretation
421
Natural Studies History and Han Learning
460
Io Acceleration of Curricular Reform
521
Civil Examination Primary Sources 11481904
627
Major Types of Civil Examination Sources
738
IND Ex
797
Copyright

Temple in 1822
358

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About the author (2000)

Benjamin A. Elman is Professor of Chinese History and Director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles; from 1999 to 2001 he will be a Visiting Professor at the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study. He is author of Classicism, Politics, and Kinship: The Ch'ang-chou School of New Text Confucianism in Late Imperial China (California, 1990; Chinese edition, 1998) and coeditor of Education and Society in Late Imperial China, 1600-1900 (California, 1994).

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