The Imperial Examination System in Ancient China as a Method of Preventing Corruption

Keywords: imperial examination system, state policy, higher justice, examination, corruption


Corruption in examinations is one of the major threats in the opinion of a modern democratic society, and its prevention in civil service is the most serious and important problem among all its variations. To avoid corruption and to build a transparent government culture, the examination system is of great importance. Therefore, the studied ancient Chinese imperial examination system is not only an important cornerstone of politics and culture but also China’s «fifth greatest invention», making a significant contribution to the history of world civilization. China became the first country in the world to appoint officials through examinations. It was there that applicants could demonstrate their knowledge and gain high state positions for their educational attainment and high qualification, rather than for the patrimonial, clan or other ties. Therefore, the examination system played the role of a kind of social elevator as well.

Moreover, modern Western government and civil examinations are derived from the ancient Chinese imperial examination system and contain cultural traditions of imperial expert examinations. Thus, the study of the ancient Chinese invention of passing examinations for applicants to take state positions as an element of the fight against corruption remains relevant.

The main methodological principle is the method of historicism for the study of the emergence, formation and development of the cult of the «fair ruler», which strongly prevented or punished the cases of fraud and defended the interests of citizens. The principles of analysis and comparison are also used and make it possible to explore the ancient Chinese system of imperial examinations, to understand the essence of creating an effective system of preventing corruption, in particular, the favoritism of examiners and segregation of applicants.

Therefore, impartiality in examinations is the indicator of social justice. In a society, that has significant differences between rich and poor, urban and rural residents, as well as vulnerable social groups with a lack of clear social position and resources, the examinations are the only chance and hope to change their lives for the better. That is why studying the experience of the ancient Chinese imperial examination system, strengthening of legal control, and resolute punishment for corruption can become an important part of the transparent government policy of modern democratic countries.


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World History and International Relations