Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 1998, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (6): 528-536.doi: 10.11821/xb199806006

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Han Maoli, Hu Zhaoliang   

  1. Department of Geography, Peking University, Beijing 100871
  • Received:1996-10-01 Revised:1998-06-01 Online:1998-11-15 Published:1998-11-15

Abstract: Ttraditional China’s civil service examination system was designed to recruit government officials. The top winner of the final examination held at the capital was granted the highly respected title of “zhuangyuan” (meaning “number one scholar”). This paper investigates and explains its geographic distribution in different time periods. The creation of the imperial examination system in the Sui Dynasty (581~618) significantly altered the old way of selecting imperial officials. No longer was a candidate’s family background a criterion for selection, and all candidates were judged by their performance on the examinations. Only the top scorer of the final examination was granted the title of “zhuangyuan” after he had passed all lower level examinations and the final text. A “zhuangyuan” was always seen as the most brilliant person in his community and an instant star in the nation at the time, and he was normally appointed to a very high official post. During the 1300 years of imperial rule when the examination system was implemented, some 700 “zhuangyuan” were selected, of whom 378 can be identified by their native places of origin. Our analysis of their places of origin in different time periods shows that most of them had come from north China prior to the Tang and Song Dynasties (618~1279), but after that the number from the south gradually increased. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1278~1911), the south clearly dominated the distribution. Jiangsu Province led the nation in the production of “zhuangyuan”, with a total of 27 produced at different times. The spatial and temporal distribution of “zhuangyuan” was shaped primarily by regional economic conditions. Beginning with the Song Dynasty (960~1279), the nation’s economic, educational and cultural center began to shift from the north to the south. From the Song to the Qing, the number of schools in the south always exceeded that of the north. In addition, the changing locations of the capital city and the changes in the examination system also affected the geographic distribution of “zhuangyuan”. Such a pattern of distribution is a consequence of China’s geographic, historical and cultural characteristics, and the pattern has had profound impact on China’s socioeconomic development, up to today.

Key words: Zhuangyuan”, historical China, spatial distribution, cultural context

CLC Number: 

  • G07