Tens of millions of Chinese students recently went through one of the most important examinations in their life, the national college entrance examination or the senior high school entrance examination. With the release of the exam results, they will soon be taking the next step in their educational journey.
Speaking of examinations, the Imperial Examination system in ancient China lasted for over 1200 years, from its founding to its abolition near the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1905.
As an old Chinese saying goes: “Today's brilliant success is a result of ten years of painstaking preparation for the Imperial Examination.” The Imperial Examination System was perhaps one of the fairest ways of official selection in feudal times, enabling numerous talented individuals to serve in the imperial government.
The Imperial Examination System in the Ming and Qing Dynasties evolved into a cumbersome system with different levels, social classes and rules. It had five primary levels: the county examination, the city examination, the provincial examination, the academy examination and the palace examination, and each level could be further subdivided.
As the foundational level of the Imperial Examination, the county examination was held in counties. Those who passed it could go on to the city examination and be awarded the title “Xiu Cai”. The next level examination was the provincial examination and the qualifiers were called “Ju Ren”, who were eligible for the academy examination at the national level, aiming for the title of “Gong Shi”.
As the last hurdle in the Imperial Examination, the palace examination was held in imperial palaces by emperors and all “Gong Shi” could sit for it. The qualified scholars would be awarded the title of “Jin Shi” and categorized into three groups according to their scores, among which the top tier was devoted to the three top scholars.
As a result, the ancient Chinese scholars regarded the titles “Xiu Cai”, “Ju Ren” and “Jin Shi” as good omens for successful political careers, and tended to imprint such titles on plaques and placards, hoping to inspire and encourage the next generation.
Six Arts sincerely wishes all students great success!