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A Journey through Ancient China

The Chinese Civil Service Exams

Evening Course

Wednesday, May 15, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0358C
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Palace Examination at Kaifeng, Song Dynasty, China

China has more than three thousand years of recorded history, but misconceptions abound at every stage. Historian Justin Jacobs takes you on a thematic tour of four important topics in ancient Chinese history: relations with nomads, sacred mountains, the civil service exams, and the maritime voyages of Zheng He. Each lecture includes a rich, nuanced overview based on the latest scholarship and illustrated with copious slides.  

Justin M. Jacobs, professor of Chinese history at American University, is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Plunder? How Museums Got Their Treasures.

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The Chinese Civil Service Exams

Developed during the Tang dynasty (618-907) and institutionalized during the Song dynasty (960-1279), the Chinese civil service examinations constitute the world’s first standardized exams—and the first attempt anywhere to implement a large-scale recruitment process based solely on merit. Jacobs examines how this ambitious recruitment system worked, the career paths of those who passed it and those who didn’t but found ways around it, the content of the exams, and alternative paths to recruitment that persisted until the end of the imperial era.

Additional Sessions of Ancient China Series

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