Records of Shaanxi Provincial Civil Examinations


The civil examination system in China, designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy, officially came into existence during the late Sui and early Tang dynasties and continued with various modifications until its abolition in 1905 during the late Qing dynasty. A work of provincial civil examination records represents a registry of those who participated and succeeded in passing the exams. The examinations took place in provincial seats as well as in the capital. A successful candidate was given the degree of ju ren. These records not only contain the registry; they also include the names of the participating officials, with their titles and duties. Such a collection of records normally contains a preface, and the names and ranks of officials in different roles for the examination, such as examiners, supervisors, examination overseers, collectors, copyists, proofreaders, and suppliers. In addition, exam topics and outstanding essays by candidates were also included. The examination questions ranged from classical studies, such as Si shu (The Four Books), scholarship, economy, statecraft, and the world order, to literature and poetry, governance, national defense, history, law, agriculture, and so forth. These published records illustrate the educational, cultural, social, and political aspects of the times. The Library of Congress owns some eight provincial civil examination records. Presented here is a collection of Shaanxi provincial civil examination records dated to the 34th year (1555) of the Jiajing reign of the Ming dynasty. It has one juan in four volumes in a case. It was printed during the reign of Jiajing (1522‒66). The name of the compiler of this particular volume is not given, but there are two prefaces, one by an official named Pu Zhihao and another by the Confucius scholar and professor Zhang Guozheng. These two individuals were also the chief examiners. There is also a post-preface, written by Ning Wenguang, a Confucius instructor. This work lists 65 successful candidates. Many of the records and documents of civil examinations during the Ming dynasty have been preserved. They represent important primary resources for research.

Last updated: January 10, 2018