科举制 The Imperial Civil Examination System
Starting in the Sui Dynasty, the imperial government selected its officials from the ranks of the successful candidates in the imperial civil examinations.
The imperial civil examination in the Tang Dynasty was classified into two types: the regular one and the irregular one. The regular examination was held every year. It had many levels, such as Xiucai, Mingjing and Jinshi. The Jinshi degree was the most difficult to attain. Every year hundreds of men took the Jinshi examination, but only one or two passed.
Those who passed the Jinshi examination would attend a lavish banquet held by the Qujiang Pond, and their names would be announced under the Greater Goose Pagoda in the Ci'en Temple. The irregular examination was set spontaneously by the emperor himself, who acted as the chief examiner. However, it was of less importance than the regular one.
There were two kinds of people who took the imperial civil examination. One consisted of students chosen by academies, who were called shengtu; the other kind, called xianggong, consisted of those who had passed the examinations held by prefectures and counties. The imperial civil examination in the Tang Dynasty was usually presided over by the Board of Rites. Those who passed the examination would be re-examined by the Board of Rites, and then receive various kinds of official positions according to their examination results.
The imperial civil examination system was the method used until the late years of China's last feudal dynasty, the Qing, which fell in 1911, to choose talented men for official positions. However, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the imperial civil examination system, which stressed knowledge of the Confucian classics exclusively, became a rigid and stultifying institution which kept China from adopting modern scientific methods.