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Competition over Content: Negotiating Standards for the Civil Service Examinations in Imperial China (1127-1279)

Competition over Content: Negotiating Standards for the Civil Service Examinations in Imperial China (1127-1279)

by Hilde de WeerdtHilde de Weerdt


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Between the sixth and twentieth centuries, the civil service examinations created and maintained political coherence across the Chinese polity. Preparation for the examinations transformed the lives of literate elites by defining educational standards and disseminating a language that determined elite status. However, as participation in the examinations became central to that status, an intense competition to determine the educational curriculum and the subject matter of the examinations erupted between intellectual and political rivals. The principal goal of this book is to explain the restructuring of the examination field during a critical point in its history, the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), which witnessed the increasing domination of the examinations by the Neo-Confucian Learning of the Way movement.

By analyzing textbooks, examination questions and essays, and official and private commentary, Hilde De Weerdt examines how occupational, political, and intellectual groups shaped curricular standards and examination criteria and how examination standards in turn shaped political and intellectual agendas. These questions reframe the debate about the civil service examinations and their place in the imperial order.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674025882
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/31/2007
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #289
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 508
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Hilde De Weerdt is Professor of Chinese History at Leiden University.

Table of Contents

Tables and Figures




Part I: Prolegomena

1. Intellectual Traditions and Teachers

2. Examination Expositions and Policy Response Essays in Literati Culture

Part II: "Yongjia" Teachers in the Examination Field

3. The "Yongjia" Teachers' Standards for Examination Success (ca. 1150-ca. 1200)

4. Preparing for the Examinations (ca. 1150-1200):The "Yongjia" Curriculum

Part III: The Court in the Examination Fields

5. Court Politics and Examination Standards (1127-1274)

Part IV: The Learning of the Way Movement in the Examination Field

6. Preparing for the Examinations (ca. 1150-1274): Developing the Learning of the Way Curriculum

7. The Learning of the Way Transformation of Examination


Appendix A. Notes on Primary Sources

Appendix B. Tables

Works Consulted


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