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A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China

A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China

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Key Metrics

  • Benjamin A Elman
  • University of California Press
  • Hardcover
  • 9780520215092
  • 9.52 X 6.03 X 2.2 inches
  • 2.99 pounds
  • History > Asia - China
  • English
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Book Description

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.
A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China

Author Bio

Benjamin Elman (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 1980) is Professor of East Asian Studies and History with his primary department in East Asian Studies.

His teaching and research fields include:

1) Chinese intellectual and cultural history, 1000-1900; 
2) history of science in China, 1600-1930; 
3) history of education in late imperial China; 
4) Sino-Japanese cultural history, 1600-1850. 
His publications include:

From Philosophy To Philology (1984, 1990, 2001); 
Classicism, Politics, and Kinship (1990); 
A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China (2000). 
He has recently completed two book projects: On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900 (2005), and A Cultural History of Modern Science in Late Imperial China (2006).

A new work entitled Meritocracy and Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China (HUP) appeared in Fall 2013.

I also edited several volumes from conferences held at Princeton under the auspices of PIIRS, EAP, and the Mellon Foundation on "Science in Republican China" (Brill 2014), "Languages, Literacies, and Vernaculars in Early Modern East Asia" (Brill 2015), and "Medical Classics and Medical Philology in East Asian, 1400-1900" (Brill 2016).

During my leave, I visited archives in China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea.  

For my leave in AY17, I have continued working on a new project entitled "The Intellectual Impact of Late Imperial Chinese Classicism, Medicine, and Science in Tokugawa Japan, 1700-1850," under the auspices of summer research grants from my Mellon Foundation Career Service Award (2011-2017).

 

Source: Princeton University Department of East Asian Studies 

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