China's Examination Hell


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The Civil Service Examinations of Imperial China

Ichisada Miyazaki; Translated by Conrad Schirokauer

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Written by one of the foremost historians of Chinese institutions, this book focuses on China’s civil service examination system in its final and most elaborate phase during the Ch’ing dynasty. All aspects of this labyrinthine system are explored: the types of questions, the style and form in which they were to be answered, the problem of cheating, and the psychological and financial burdens of the candidates, the rewards of the successful and the plight of those who failed. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including Chinese novels, short stories, and plays, this thought provoking and entertaining book brings to vivid life the testing structure that supplied China’s government bureaucracy for almost fourteen hundred years.
“Professor Miyazaki’s informative work is concerned with a system. . . that was, in effect, . . . the basic institution of Chinese political life, the real pillar which supported the imperial monarchy, the effective vehicle for the aspirations and ambitions of the ruling class. Imperial China without the examination system for the past thousand years and more would have developed in an entirely different way and might not have endured as the continuing form of government over a huge empire.”—Pacific Affairs
“The most comprehensive narrative treatment in any language of [this] enduring achievement of Chinese civilization.”—American Historical Review

"A concise and entertaining study of one of the cornerstones of the traditional Chinese state."—Jonathon Mirsky, History Today

"This book is an important addition to the literature on the late imperial state and its appearance in paperback will no doubt make it a frequent addition to undergraduate reading lists."—Madeleine Zelin, Asian Thought and Society

"This short volume is an important work for many reasons but for one in particular.  It provides, for the first time in English, a detailed description of one of the most comprehensive and enduring examination systems devised by men."—Kenneth C. Schmidt, Educational Studies

"One of the most informative and readable books about the old China around. . . . Schirokauer's translation succeeds in abbreviating the discursive Japanese while retaining the casual and witty style of the original."—Jerry Dennerline, Journal of Asian History
ISBN: 9780300026399
Publication Date: September 10, 1981
146 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4