A system of examinations in Imperial
that was organized in order to select candidates for the civil service,
including for certain high-ranking offices at the Imperial Court.
Wealthy families, especially merchants, often opted into
the system by educating their sons, e.g. the
Chen Clan from Guangzhou, who in the Qing Dynasty (ca.
AD 1644 - 1911) founded
Chen Family Temple, a centre of education used to prepare their junior members
for the Imperial Examinations (fig.).
There are records of Imperial Examinations as early as in the Han Dynasty (BC
206 - AD 220), though the system
became the main path to civil office only in the mid-Tang Dynasty (ca.
AD 618 - 690). In 1905, near the end
of the last Dynasty, the system was abolished. See also
LIST OF CHINESE DYNASTIES.