Metropolitan Civil Examination Records from the 23rd Year of the Chenghua Reign (1487)


This work is a collection of civil examination records dated the 23rd year of the Chenghua reign of the Ming dynasty (1487). The civil examination system in China officially began in the first half of the seventh century and continued with various modifications until its abolition in 1905 in the late Qing dynasty. Its purpose was to train and select qualified officials to form an efficient bureaucracy to administer the vast nation under the emperor. The system was designed to reward merit in any male candidate, rather than social or political connections or wealth. However, sons of gentry and wealthy merchants, the “elites,” were disproportionately successful in passing the examinations and receiving appointments. In return, they supported and strengthened the imperial and social structure. Together with the imperial court, they also influenced the curriculum and the educational requirements for the civil examinations, which presented difficulties for the lower classes. The primary resources contained in these published civil examination records of the Ming and Qing dynasties shed light on the educational, cultural, social, and political aspects of the times. These records often contain a preface, exam topics, and the names and ranks of the officials in different roles for the examination, such as examiners, supervisors, invigilators, collectors, copyists, proofreaders, and suppliers. The examinations were held at different levels, from local, prefectural, provincial, and metropolitan, to the highest palace level. The syllabus ranged from classical Confucian studies, such as Si shu (the Four Books), to economy, statecraft, literature and poetry, governance, national defense, history, law, military matters, natural studies, agriculture, and customs. In late imperial China, the examination system provided entry to official appointments. Among the chief examiners listed in this book are Yin Zhi (1427–1511), a member of the Imperial Academy, president of the Bureau of War, and junior guardian of the heir apparent during the Chenghua reign, and Wu Kuan (1435–1504), a Ming poet and essayist, who was from an artisan family in Jiangsu, won highest honors in the metropolitan and palace examination in 1472, and became president of the Board of Rites. The preface was written by Yin Zhi and the postscript by Wu Kuan.

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1 juan in 1 volume

Last updated: January 3, 2018