Abstract The evolution of the imperial examination policy in the Southern Song Dynasty was not as large as that in the Northern Song Dynasty. It was not only a period of summarizing the experience and lessons of the reformation, but also a stage of implementing the previous imperial examination policy ideas. The imperial examination was the main way to select the bureaucrats who govern the Empire. The Southern Song Dynasty was the key period for the imperial examination society to mature. Under the background of the large number of candidates and the increasing difficulty of management, the biggest contradiction faced by the policy designers of the imperial examination was that they should not only formulate unified and operable examination and selection standards to give the competition platform to scholars at all levels and regions as much as possible to maintain fairness, but also avoid the disadvantages of poor selection caused by the excessive pursuit of openness and fairness. In combination with the actual situation, basing on the principle of pragmatism and reconciliation, the policy designers during the Southern Song period took the subject setting, Chengwen (程文) essays’ examination and the official school training as main means to formulate relevant policies for balance, and deepened the implementation rules for standardization and guidance. First of all, in terms of the subject setting, the debate on the advantages and disadvantages of the Shifu (诗赋) and the Confucian classics had appeared since the early Song Dynasty. It was more prominent during the imperial examination reformation in the Xining period. The Southern Song government played down the absolute understanding of which was better or worse in talent selection. Conceptually, the government not only recognized that Shifu were irreplaceable in the fairness of the primary examination, but also took into account the practical significance of Confucian classics in the content of imperial examination knowledge. Specifically, in terms of admission proportion, the above two subjects should be considered and the admission proportion of Confucian classics should be protected by means of setting admission quotas and so on. Secondly, in terms of the weight of Chengwen essays’ contents, the examination returned to the rule of attaching importance to the Shifu in the early Northern Song Dynasty, but at the specific implementation level such as topic setting and paper grading, it referred to the trend from emphasizing the Shifu to Celun (策论) since the middle of the Northern Song Dynasty and gave full play to the role of Celun in the primary election. Finally, in the training and selection of official schools, both encouragement and control measures were adopted to build official schools into supplementary official channels of the regular recruitment. By retaining preferential treatment channels such as internal promotion of Imperial College and awarding officials to outstanding graduates and providing policy means such as a high proportion of the preliminary examination admission, scholars were encouraged and guided to enter Imperial College and received preparatory education for the professional quality of officials. Also, assessment system and process were refined to achieve the purpose of training and assessing preparatory officials before the examination. In terms of the imperial examination policy design ideas and specific provisions in the Southern Song Dynasty, a perfect, detailed and operable unified standardized system was formed which provided a practical example for the maturity and finalization of the imperial examination system. However, with the continuous refinement of the policy, the negative effects which solidification and rigidity of the imperial examination system brought were gradually strengthened. This is the institutional paradox that the original intention of the imperial examination policy design is opposite to the actual effect. The imperial examination policy in the Southern Song Dynasty inherited, sublated and reconciled the heritage of the previous generation, and further refined the rules based on the principles of balance, openness and incentive. The positive and negative effects of the above practices had a great impact on the imperial examination policy of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Wang Xiaochen. A Study on the Change of the Imperial Examination Policy in the Southern Song Dynasty: Focus on Subject Settings, Chengwen Essays’ Contents and Official Education Trainings[J]. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 0, (): 1-.