An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

kemu 科目, examination type

Apr 28, 2017 © Ulrich Theobald

Kemu 科目 was a term referring to various types of examinations in the system of state examinations in imperial China. Different types of examinations were established during the Sui period 隋 (581-618) which were differentiated during the Tang era 唐 (618-907). During that time, more than fifty types of tests in various fields (ke 科) were known.

The most important were the examination for "cultivated talents" (xiucai 秀才), classists (mingjing 明經), "presented scholars" (jinshi 進士), *"talented scholars" (jushi 俊士), experts in law (mingfa 明法), experts in writing and calligraphy (mingzi 明字, mingshu 明書), experts in arithmetics (mingsuan 明算), experts in one history book (yishi 一史), experts in three history books (sanshi 三史), experts in ritual matters as defined during the Kaiyuan reign-period 開元 (713-741, in the regulations Kaiyuan li 開元禮), *apprentice examinations (tongzhi 童子), examinations only held on imperial order (zhiju 制舉), and the military examinations (wuke 武舉).

The examination for classicists again was divided into such for experts in five, three or two, or only one of the Confucian Classics, for such of the three ritual classics (sanli 三禮) or such of the three commentaries on the Spring and Autumn Annals (sanzhuan 三傳). The history examination evolved to an important regular type of test. It was obligatory for examinees of the classicist and the jinshi examination to pass them.

The Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) first took over this multiplicity of regular (change 常科) and special examinations only held on imperial order (zhike 制科). Later on the jinshi examination became the most important one, and most of the others were abolished or reduced to tests on a local level.

Jiaoyu da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 《教育大辭典》編纂委員會, ed. (1991). Jiaoyu da cidian 教育大辭典, Part VIII, Zhongguo gudai jiaoyu shi 中國古代教育史 (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 176.
Liang Zhongyi 梁忠義, Che Wenbo 車文博, ed. (1989). Shiyong jiaoyu cidian 實用教育辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 455.
Shi Xuanyuan 施宣圓, et al., ed. (1987). Zhongguo wenhua cidian 中國文化辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe), 421.