Popular Science Monthly/Volume 68/February 1906/The Passing of China's Ancient System of Literary Examinations
|THE PASSING OF CHINA'S ANCIENT SYSTEM OF|
By CHARLES KEYSER EDMUNDS, Ph.D.,
CANTON CHRISTIAN COLLEGE.
IN a previous paper we reviewed the subject matter of Chinese education and recalled the fact that there is not, and practically never was, a school system in China, though a characteristic method of instruction has prevailed for ages, which by reason of its imitative and servile nature has repressed originality and drilled the nation into a slavish adherence to venerated usage and dictation without supplying real or useful knowledge.
Without doubt, the heart of China's nationhood thus far has been her system of literary examinations, and the place given to scholars in all phases of the nation's life combined with the inefficient character of the learning they possessed has been the primary cause of the nation's peculiar course and its present weak condition, from which happily it is awakening through the adjustment of education to the real needs of life.
The darkest days of the west, when Europe was wrapped in the ignorance and degradation of the middle ages, were the brightest days in the east. China was then probably the most civilized country on earth and exercised a humanizing influence on all surrounding states. Had she kept the lead she then held, instead of presenting to the world as she now does the most remarkable case of arrested development within historic time, China would be in fact what for so many centuries she has so fondly but mistakenly considered herself to be, the mightiest of the mighty powers.It is indeed striking in a country which can count back to schools more ancient than those of any other living race that the scholars of
the realm should of all the learned men of the age be the most ignorant of essential and practical truths; that a nation which possessed the most elaborate system of civil service examinations should be served by officials at least as corrupt and as inefficient as those of any other great nation; that a government which made literary attainment a condition of office-holding was content to develop an imposing superstructure of examinations and rewards and neglected to lay the foundation for such in a system of common schools.
The method of instruction which has prevailed wherever there have been any schools at all—a method not only very ancient, but proceeding from, and at the same time in great part responsible for, those characteristics which mark the Chinese under every variety of physical condition—has been of a hard and unyielding nature, and has caused enough wasted energy during the last seven hundred years to have sufficed for more than ten thousand years of true education, and this has made China what she is to-day. While the government has fostered culture by testing attainments and granting rewards, thus affording an efficient stimulus on a large scale and constituting a regulated state patronage of letters according to which the reward of literary merit was a law of the empire and a right of the people, it is also true that up to the present time Chinese education has been entirely political in aim and has been valued merely as a means of securing the repose of the state, and, as soon as a sufficient supply of disciplined agents has been at hand, the enlightenment of the people has lacked governmental regard.
But such a state of affairs can not longer endure—the wall is breaking down; and it is the purpose of the present paper, without attempting to characterize further this old method of instruction or to point out its gradual and general renovation under the influence of Western thought and life and especially of the christian schools throughout the land, to call attention to the latest and perhaps most important step in the line of advance, viz., the practically complete abolition of the ancient system of literary examinations and degrees given to advanced students in Chinese history, philosophy and poetry.Perhaps the most accomplished of China's long line of monarchs was Li Shi-min, second emperor of the Tang Dynasty (618-908 A.D.). 'Famed alike for his wisdom and nobleness, his conquests and good government, his temperance, cultivated tastes and patronage of literary men,' he ranks with Marcus Aurelius, or with Charlemagne, who came to his throne in the next century. Under his direction great pains were taken to preserve the records of former days and to draw up full annals of the recent dynasties. He published a complete and accurate edition of all the classics under the supervision of the most learned men of the realm, and honored the memory of Confucius with
The 'Clear Far-seeing Tower' or Lookout in the Midst of the
Examination Halls at Nanking.
special ceremonies. Under him, the system of education, dimly begun before Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees and continued till to-day, took on most of its modern aspects, so that 627 A. D. may be taken as the real birth time of this method of preparing statesmen by study and degrees. The colleges in Peking and all the chief cities were coordinated, and the officers of the empire recruited from the examination halls. These literary degrees in China dating from the seventh
Main Corridor, Examination Halls, Canton. Long rows of stalls on either side at right angles to the walk.
For the purposes of general government each of the nineteen provinces of the empire is divided into ten, fifteen or twenty prefectures, and, according to the system now passing away, each prefectural city, or county seat, has been a headquarters for the first degree, which is called Hsiu Ts'ai, or 'Flowering Talent.' Two resident examiners in each prefecture have kept records of competing students and exercised them from time to time. A literary chancellor in each province has held office for three years and visited each prefectural city to hold bi-annual examinations for the first degree. The halls in which these tests have been held are elaborate sets of buildings, where the students could sit in long rows and write their themes on topics taken from or dealing with the string of ideas which comprise the content of Chinese education. About two thousand were accommodated at once in an average test.
The trials for the second degree, Chü Jên or 'promoted scholar,' have been held in the provincial capitals, and the vast halls arranged for this purpose provide individual stalls sometimes, as at Nanking, for thirty thousand candidates at the same time, in which the aspiring scholars had to spend three sessions of three days each endeavoring to compose victorious essays on themes relating to Chinese history, philosophy, criticism and various branches of archeology, besides trying their skill as writers of poetry. Two special examiners for each province, generally Hanlin, were deputed from Peking to conduct these great triennial examinations which were the most elaborate and characteristic of the whole system. In them, as also in the tests for the first degree, the coveted honor was bestowed on not more than one per cent, of the candidates. The unsuccessful, however, were allowed to try again indefinitely, which some did.
The third degree, denominated Chin Shih, or 'Fit for Office,' has been awarded every three years in Peking, cabinet ministers presiding. The fourth degree has also been awarded every three years at Peking, the trial taking place in the palace and all the successful candidates becoming Hanlin, or members of the 'Forest of Pencils,' an association of imperial scribes, which constitutes one of the pivots of the empire and the very center of its literary activity. Membership in this Imperial or Hanlin Academy has then been the goal of literary attainment, for this long series of contests has culminated every three years in the appointment by the emperor of a member of the academy as the model scholar of the realm.To any one of these examinations only those were eligible who held
Rows or Examination Stalls at Nanking, as seen from the 'Clear Far-seeing Tower.'
in good standing the next lower degree. But there has been an imperial examination in the presence of the emperor open to all those who had at least the second degree. Those who attained the highest rank were made district magistrates. The men in the second grade were styled 'professors.'
Some idea Of the tremendous importance of any change in this system may be secured from the consideration that some 760,000 candidates competed biennially for the first degree, while about 190,000 competed triennially for the second degree—a total of 950,000 for the whole empire. (In the United States the totalin universities, colleges and professional and normal schools for 1902 was 246,000.) And this does not take into account another 1,000,000 students
Examination Stalls at Nanking, showing entrances to passages between long rows of stalls. The first stall in the right hand pasage is seen. Successive rows indicated by characters from the Millenary Classics.
who underwent preliminary tests at some 1,705 matriculation centers before they could enter the lists for the first degree. (In the United States the enrolment in public high schools and private academies and seminaries for 1902 was 735,000). Nor does it count the candidates for the third degree, triennially conferred at the capital. The stone lists at Peking show the award of 60,000 third degrees in the last 600 years. This system, operating at the 271 degree-giving halls throughout the empire, has produced every two years about 29,000 'bachelors' and every three years over 1,500 'masters' and some 300 'doctors' or a total of 123,000 successful graduates in the three grades every six years. (In all the universities of Europe the enrolment is less than 110,000.) With regard then to mere numbers the recent changes in the examination system affect some two million men, the flower of the nation. Of supreme significance is the part which they have played and are still playing in the national life. As Mr. E. E. Lewis has so well expressed it, the competitive civil service examinations of China have resulted in:
Now, by a recent imperial edict practically the whole scheme of literary civil service examinations is abolished, and no better indication of the depth to which new ideas have permeated the empire could be given than the fact that as yet, at least, scarcely a word of protest or remonstrance has been raised, even by this class of influential men whose very position is an outcome of the system they are commanded to aid in abolishing. An edict after all is only an edict, and it may be too early yet to say just how it will be received when its measures begin actually to operate. It seems scarcely credible that it will go into full effect without some opposition in some quarters. Nevertheless, it is sure that, be the opposition what it may, the new regime is bound to triumph and produce mighty results at no far distant date. 'Out of the shadows of night an empire rolls into light. It is daybreak everywhere.'
In order to understand the 'ins and outs' of educational reform, as well as of reform in general, during the last decade in China, it is necessary to review a bit of Chinese court history.
In 1875, Prince Tsai Tien, then four years old, was selected by his aunt, the empress dowager, to succeed on the dragon throne her son, the Emperor Tung Chih, who had just died at the age of eighteen. In so doing she was led by motives of policy. There were two distinctly more eligible princes whom she ignored in order to hold the reins of government more completely in her own hands, for they were young men likely to desire to have their own way. All the conspiracies to oust the empress dowager and her partisans resulting from the choice of the infant Kuang Hsü, which was the reigning title conferred on him, were promptly crushed by the late Marquis Li Hung-chang, then viceroy of Chihli, who occupied the 'Forbidden City' with his foreign-drilled troops. In 1889 his majesty was permitted by the empress dowager nominally to assume the reins of government, with herself, of course, as principal adviser and director of affairs. For nearly ten years nothing worthy of note can be recorded, except that his actions were dominated by the influence and policy of his aunt. But the psychological moment, though utterly unforeseen, was fast approaching.Through the continued influence of the mission schools and colleges throughout the land and the increasing contact in trade and diplomacy with western nations, western learning in all its departments assumed an increasing value, and ideas of change began to ferment in the Chinese mind. Prince Kung of the imperial family addressed the throne prior to the Japanese War, declaring that the progress of the empire demanded the casting aside of their superficial learning and the acquisition of the arts and sciences which are the foundation of the prosperity of western nations. Encouraged by the governmental approval of certain modern schools established in Shanghai and Tientsin, other men having the ear of the emperor, who was profoundly moved by the result of the war with Japan and clearly saw that there must be something wrong with his country and its mode of government, advocated the new education, and their pleas, aided by the
Mr. Wu, First Honor Man at the last 'Triennial' for the Second Degree in Chekiang Province.
pressure of foreign governments, notably Germany and Russia, brought about the change of policy which followed Prince Kung's memorial to the throne. The crisis arrived when Kang Yu-wei and his party of earnest, progressive young men arrived from Canton in 1898, nominally for the triennial literary examinations, but really to put on foot if possible the needed educational reforms. Kang Yu-wei became the confidential adviser of his majesty, and the first imperial decree seeking to inaugurate an era of general betterment in government and education was issued January 17, 1898. This was followed on June 23, with a decree ordering the Board of Rites to remodel the examinations, saying:
We have been compelled to issue this decree because our examinations have degenerated to the lowest point, and we see no other way to remedy matters than by changing entirely the old methods of examination for a new course of competition. Let us all try to reject empty and useless knowledge, which has no practical value in the crisis we are passing through.
The emperor further called for the establishment of a government university of foreign literature and science at Peking and of provincial schools of three grades: (1) in provincial capitals, (2) in prefectural cities, (3) in district cities, and demanded an immediate census of existing colleges and free schools providing that funds for education be derived from the earnings of the China Merchants' Steam Navigation Company, the Imperial Telegraph Administration, the Weising Lottery and the gifts of wealthy men, who were to be rewarded with rank beyond the usual scale. All memorial or other temples, except those in which sacrifices are required by edict, were to be turned into schools and colleges for the new learning, and all who studied in and graduated from these new institutions were to be accepted in the government service in the usual way. Other edicts commended copyright and patent privileges and offered rewards to authors of books and inventors of machinery and works of utility.
Considerable consternation was caused by these decrees. So long, however, as the reforms did not interfere with the dominance of the dowager, she offered no great opposition; but when the reformers aimed at her confinement at Eho Park, so as to remove her from the scene of action, she, backed by the reactionary party, which, after all, comprised the most powerful portion of both the metropolitan and the provisional mandarinate, promptly brought about the coup d'état of September 22, 1898, by which her majesty removed Kuang Hsu from power, became regent both in name and in fact once more, ordered the execution of Kang Yu-wei and many of his supporters of lesser rank, and cashiered those of higher station. Kang Yu-wei escaped, but six promising young men were put to death without trial within a few days. On November 13, the empress dowager issued a decree approving a memorial from the ministers of the Board of Rites, dilating on "the supreme importance of making it known throughout the whole empire that there are to be no changes from the old method of literary examinations among candidates for degrees, in order to set at rest, once for all, the present uncertainty that has been caused by the emperor's recent reform measures in the above direction."
Thus an era of intensified, bigoted conservatism returned, and strange to say, the literati, who as the real leaders of the people had for so many years solidly opposed western education, were the chief mourners. According to Mr. E. E. Lewis, there is evidence that in the inland provinces of Honan, Hunan, Shansi and Szechuan, as well as in the literary centers nearer the port cities, the literati were greatly disappointed when the Manchu clan leaders crushed the plans of reform. This new attitude of the literati was a revelation to most onlookers and foreshadowed the remarkable way in which more recent changes have been received by them.
The leaven which the emperor had introduced was working in the empire, though he himself was a discredited prisoner in his own palace. Editors of vernacular journals throughout the country, especially in Canton (the very stronghold of literary conservatism, yet the place where Kang Yu-wei had been conducting his progressive school) continued the crusade of reform, so that "one believed a cleansing storm would soon pass over the land. And the storm came drenching part of the country in blood." The era of conservatism and opposition to things western culminated in the Boxer uprising of 1900, which put Peking into the hands of the allies and drove the imperial court into exile as far as Hsian, the capital of Shensi province. Here in 1901, while still in exile, the empress dowager, into the hearts of whose advisers a desire for better things had come as a result of the lessons taught by the allies, astonished her people and the world by promulgating the very educational reforms for which the emperor had been deposed. Her decree provided that henceforth in provincial and central examinations the three groups of subjects should be as follows: (1) Five topics relating to the government and history of China; (2) Five themes upon the government, arts and sciences of all lands; (3) Exposition of two passages from the 'Four Books' and one from the 'Five Classics.' Examiners were commanded to weight the three groups equally, and in exposition of the canonical books candidates were forbidden to use the form of the eight-legged essay, hitherto required. In writing on the practical subjects in groups 1 and 2, the presentation of reality and not empty rhetoric was enjoined.
But it would be rash to declare this reform to have been complete in fact. 'Clean sweeps' are rare, perhaps rarer in China than elsewhere. How by the stroke of the imperial pen can the mind of the nation take a new course and a million of men yearly become acquainted with 'modern matters'? The vastness of the problem requires years of intelligent, patient effort for its solution. Most of the chancellors are as ignorant as the students they are set to examine as to the 'laws, constitutions and political economy of western lands.' In Shangtung at the first examination after the reform decrees of 1901, the chancellor did indeed prepare a list of books by means of which the candidates were to prepare themselves in such matters as 'political economy, commercial intercourse, military training, common law, international law, astronomy, geography, physics, mathematics, manufactures, sound, light, chemistry and electricity.' But the list, while containing one good arithmetic, consisted chiefly of out-of-date books, several lists of scientific terms, a scientific magazine defunct some ten years before, the whole being thrown together without order. Yet it is certain that a list of text-books in general use in the foreign-conducted schools of China was presented to him, though no use was made of it.
In order to get an idea of the exact nature of the change brought about in the subject-matter of the examinations by these decrees of 1901, let us compare briefly some of the questions and topics of the old regime with some of the most recent ones, viz., those of 1903, which are the last to be given under the passing system. To make our survey representative, we shall in the case of the recent examinations consider those held in Chihli as the province containing the capital of the realm, in Shangtung as the province where Confucius and Mencius lived and taught, in Kiangsu as the province of greatest literary
Yuan Shih-Kai, Viceroy or Chihli, Chief Memorialist in behalf of Educational Reform. The most powerful subject in China.
fame, and in Canton as the province deemed most conservative in literary affairs.
Sample Themes of the Old System.
To possess ability, and yet ask of those who do not; to know much, and yet inquire of those who know less; to possess, and yet to appear not to possess; to be full, and yet appear empty.
He took hold of things by the two extremes, and in his treatment of the people maintained the golden mean.
A man from his youth studies right principles, and when he arrives at manhood, he wishes to reduce them to practise.
In pentameters write on The sound of the oar, and the green of the hills and water.
1835. He acts as he ought, both to the common people and official men, receives his revenue from Heaven, and by it is protected and highly esteemed.(More practical.) Fire arms began with the use of rockets in the Chau dynasty; in what book do we first meet with the word for cannon? Is the defence of Kaigungfu its first recorded use? Kublai Khan, it is said, obtained cannon of a new kind; from whom did he obtain them? When the Ming emperors, in the region of Yunglok, invaded Cochinchina, they obtained a
Chang Chih-Tunq, Viceroy of the Hu Kuang Provinces, who aided Viceroy Yuan Shih-Kai in preparing the memorial advising the abolition of the examination system.
1853. In the Han Dynasty, there were three commentators on the Yih King, whose explanations, and divisions into chapters and sentences were all different: can you give an account of them?
Sz'ma Tsien took the classics and ancient records in arranging his history according to their facts; some have accused him of unduly exalting the Taoists and thinking too highly of wealth and power. Pan Ku is clear and comprehensive, but on astronomy and the Five Elements, he has written more than enough. Give examples and proof of these two statements.
Chin Shao had admirable abilities for historical writings. In his San Kwoh Chí he has depreciated Chu-koh Liang, and made very light of I' and I', two other celebrated characters. What does he say of them?
From the 'Five Classics.' Treatment to be more recondite and in a higher style.When persons in high stations are sincere in the performance of relative and domestic duties, the people generally will be stimulated to the practise of virtue.
Essays in this section were characterized by a jejune style and reasoning in a circle. Such topics as were given throughout the whole
Entrance to the Headquarters of the Bureau of Education for the two Kwong Provinces, Canton. Commodious buildings erected in 1889 by Chang Chih-tung as editorial rooms in connection with a large old-style school started by him when Viceroy in Canton. Occupied by the New Bureau of Education in 1903.
system involved a wide range of reading in the native literature, but narrowed the vision to regard this literature as containing all that is worth anything in the world. Yet the discipline of mind and memory incident to preparing for these tests, supplemented by the friction and experience of public life, made statesmen, out of scholars and did much to give China her influence in Asia. Contrast these topics, however, with more recent ones.
Sample Themes from the Last Triennial Examination (1903). On System as Modified by Edict of 1901.
Group II. Modern Matters.
Peking, Chihli.—2. Western commerce depends essentially upon knowledge of animals and plants. Cattle and sheep are raised by regulated methods, climates fit for separate kinds of cattle are distinguished, soils and their specific adaptations are studied. China should find out the best way to promote industry and commerce in like fashion. Discuss this.
3. Metternich and Bismarck greatly aided in the advance of their countries. Tell briefly what they did.
4. We should study Chinese literature as a subject in itself. Discuss whether Chinese literature should be a subject in a scheme of modern education. Tsi Nan, Shangtung.—1. Western economists always say that the production of wealth depends entirely on the three elements: Land, labor and capital. But the capital of China is getting less and less, when we Chinese want to do business we have to invite foreign merchants as partners, and the poor people who are out of work have to go to foreign countries to labor in order to earn their living. What must we do on the whole to strengthen our country and get back all the lost profits from foreigners?
2. No people can live without society. But where there is society there is struggle. The English scholar, Herbert Spencer, says: It is good for people to form societies, and that through wars a people are compacted. When the people are more of a unit, progress is easier and a higher civilization will be attained. And again, he says that among those people who like to fight wars, civilization will decline or be retarded. What does he really mean by these seemingly opposite expressions?
3. Penal codes of the east and west are different. One is severe and the other lenient. Since Japan has changed her penal code, she has gained power to punish even foreign offenders residing in Japan and to deal with other nations. China has changed a little in dealing with foreigners in the treaty-ports. But this rule differs from the method of internal or interior rule. If we want to change the penal code entirely, do you think there would be opposition from the people? If there is no opposition, can it be made universal throughout China?
4. Since the government has allowed the presence and work of foreign missionaries many foolish people have sought refuge from the law of the land under the protection of the missionary by becoming converts and some anti-christians make a great deal of trouble throughout the empire. Because of this foreigners look down on China and declare that she is a country without education and without religion. But foreign scholars who are familiar with the literature of China say that five hundred years hence, Confucianism will be spread over the whole world. The trouble at present is that we do not know how properly to propagate Confucianism, and not that the foolish people who are false christians can injure our religion. If we want our religion to grow and the people to progress, what shall we do, what is the best plan to follow?
5. All the nations of the world have now come into relation with each other by interchange of intelligence and commodities. Before this they had to protect their coasts and borders, but now they must maintain navies. But in the present condition of China, the navy is not well organized, the forts and fortifications have been destroyed and abandoned. The ports have been leased to foreigners. All the doors have been opened. Certain foreign railroads can go straight into Chinese territory. The condition of Manchuria and Tibet is critical. Neighboring nations are seeking an entrance. We can not rely on our dependencies for support. If we want to develop a strong army and navy, what is the best way to do so? Suggest the best plan to follow.
Nanking Kiangsu.—1. Western countries have established commercial centers and subsidized and protected great enterprises, railroad and steamship lines for transportation, banks and newspapers as a key to unlock the country's resources, postal routes and telegraph lines to spread news very quickly, and schools for education. In what order as to importance should we establish these things in China, according to the western principle?
2. Post offices are now gradually being established all over China. Tell by what postal routes and over what distances letters can be sent and how many offices there are. Should we establish any more? How improve the postal service?
3. At what place to the south of Europe are the Caucus. Has it any other name? Russia took it and established many new laws—what are these laws and when established?
4. Opium and salt taxes. In the last few years many provinces have paid different amounts toward the war indemnity to foreign countries, because the taxes in these provinces are different. There is much squeezing and the people suffer. Now we ought to get a good way to conduct this business. Suggest a plan.
Canton, Kwangtung.—1. Western countries all use gold coinage. They have the cent and shilling for local exchange and these have a fixed value. The government of China is planning to change its currency to a gold basis. The dollar and the cent of China ought to have a fixed value so as to expedite the payment of taxes and benefit the country. Discuss this proposition.
3. Industrial schools are good for the poor people. If China has this kind of schools the necessity of importing foreign goods will be done away with. Philanthropic societies in all the districts of China have done good work in aiding the poorer classes of the community. If we want to use a part of the funds of such societies to build industrial schools, so that the poor may have an education—to earn a living, besides being fed—in addition to these funds, what other way could be employed to secure money for this purpose?4. Foreign countries have power to manage their own affairs in the treaty ports of China. When the Chinese have trouble with a foreigner, they do not have the same or equal standing in the court or in the community at large. We want to alter the law and adopt some of the laws of foreign countries and to establish a code for international relations so that if we have affairs with foreigners, we can have the right to administer justice so that foreigners can not be unjustly shielded.
The introduction of even such meager questions in western sciences was an entering wedge which, aside from the more recent decision to eliminate the classical requirements entirely, was destined to lift the Chinese out of their medieval scholasticism into the full light of modern knowledge. The reform edict of the dowager was accompanied by other edicts providing for sending young men abroad to study, for the establishment of provincial colleges and the organization of a common-school system. Already these young men are returning, some of them with honors from the best schools of the west; and one of them, who also holds his Chinese second degree, wrote two years ago:
Thus the recent decree giving the last blow to the old system was not entirely unforeseen, though it was scarcely expected so soon.
H. E. Yuan Shih-kai, holder of the senior viceroyalty of the empire, that of Chihli, the most powerful subject in China, and the very man whose devotion to the empress dowager when the emperor called for his assistance in 1898 made her coup d'état possible, sent in a memorial which was approved and made operative in an imperial decree dated September 2, 1905, advocating the summary abolition of the old style literary examinations, in order to allow the expansion of modern modes of education throughout the empire. Associated with him as memorialists were H. E. Chao Erh-sên, the Tartar general of Mukden and viceroy of Fêngtien province (Lower Manchuria), H. E. Chang Shih-tung, viceroy of the Hukuang provinces, H. E. Chou Fu, acting viceroy of the Liangkiang provinces, H. E. Tsên Ch'un-hsuen, acting viceroy of the two Kuang provinces, and H. E. Tuan Fang, governor of Hunan province. This is the strongest list available throughout the whole empire, and it was but natural that the empress dowager should have been so impressed that even if she were at heart opposed to the epoch-making step, she could but tell the emperor to sanction it, in spite of the opposition which Wang Wên-shao, Lu Ch'uan-lin and others are reported to have made against the 'revolutionary' memorial. Though signed by this group of influential viceroys, the plea was really the work of H. E. Yuan Shih-kai, assisted by H. E. Chang Chih-tung. With their unfailing astuteness, they point out that what they propose is not after all a new scheme, but a return to a former usage. The literary examinations may seem to us of venerable antiquity, but these viceroys point out that they are really modern innovations on an older and much better system which they desire to recall. Theirs is not the destructive hand of the reformer, but the conservative hand of the restorer. The decree says:
The decree then states that the ministers of education have suggested the gradual abolition of the examinations, but Yuan Shih-kai, whose experience and knowledge are admitted, 'asserts that unless these old-style examinations are abolished once for all, the people of this empire will continue to show apathy and hesitate to join the modern schools of learning.' Yet it would seem that the demand for the change had really come from the people.
So that literati who already hold Chinese degrees are not entirely neglected, but will have to buy text-books and attain a smattering at least of western knowledge if they wish to keep up. The rest of the decree urges all officials from viceroys to district magistrates to see that schools of all the necessary grades are established, and the ministers of education to distribute text-books at once to all the provinces, 'so that we may have a uniform system of teaching in all our schools.' A word of encouragement is added to soothe the country and induce it to meet freely the expense of these radical changes: 'The government being thus enabled to obtain men of talents and abilities, it follows that the cities and towns producing such bright lights of learning will also enjoy a reflected honor therefrom.'
Subsequent decrees (September 4 and 7) give the literary chancellors of the various provinces the duty of holding examinations and inspecting the schools of modern learning in the province to which each had been appointed in the old regime, and command each to act in conjunction with the viceroy or governor of his province, the control of the whole being removed from the Board of Rites into the hands of the ministers of education. The establishment of a special board for educational affairs will soon be confirmed under the title Wen Pu or Board of Literature.
It was rather the abuse and not the fault of this literary civil service system that it compelled the mind of China to grind for ages in the mill of blind imitation. A competition which excited the deep interest of a whole nation must have exercised a correspondingly profound influence upon the education of the people and the stability of the government. The old system has cherished whatever national education there has been, and when the influence of western science predominates, as it is beginning to do, we shall see thousands, yea hundreds of thousands, of patient students pursuing scientific studies with an ardor equal to that formerly bestowed on literary competition. The problem of transition is a vast one, and not till men of modern training, necessarily young men, are appointed to the literary chancellorships of the empire, can this new and practical system be adequately established. But the struggle against custom and conservatism is on—probably an intense and prolonged effort, for these do not vanish in a day even in the presence of a goodly band of reformers—and from the struggle the rising race of modern students will come forth victorious to lead their country into the splendid destiny that awaits her.
It remains to be seen just what measures will be taken to establish adequate and efficient modern schools throughout the empire, but already the prime movers in the recent memorial have announced some very ambitious schemes. The viceroy of Chihli has decided to establish a monster normal school at Tientsin in order to prepare men to teach according to modern methods. It will be modeled after the one at Nanking, and will matriculate from Fêngtien, Shangtung, Honan and other provinces, as well as from Chihli. The president will be a returned student from Japan, Chin Pang-ping, who was recently awarded the Hanlin degree after passing a special examination. At Peking it is planned to erect new buildings on a site of more than 2,800 English acres, and to supersede the present Peking University with this new Imperial Chinese University. Dormitory accommodations for some 20,000 students are to be provided, while a portion of the grounds will be set apart for agricultural experiments. The site of the present university is to be utilized for the erection of a school for the daughters of princes, nobles and high ministers of state, which has been sanctioned by the empress dowager in response to the recommendations of H. E. Chang Pei-hsi, minister of education and president of the Board of Revenue, and H. E. Tuan Fang, substantive governor of Hunan province and one of the five imperial commissioners appointed to visit abroad.
At Canton the abolition of the biennial and triennial examinations causes a loss to the provincial treasury of nearly $350,000 silver annually, as this sum was paid by a clique of wealthy gentry for the monopoly of conducting the Weising Lottery in connection with the examinations. It is reported that this serious deficit is to be met by arranging a domestic loan of three million taels at seven per cent. repayable in instalments within ten years, and that Viceroy Tsên has already received the imperial sanction to float this loan, which will be secured by other gambling monopolies, and has promised that the money thus obtained will be used only for local public works and for schools. The provincial government over a year ago opened a modern normal school in the ancient Examination Halls of Canton, under Japanese direction, and there are some 120 men over twenty years of age studying there, and also some 60 boys enrolled in a practise school.
To what extent existing government, privately endowed, and christian mission schools are prepared to meet the increased demand for modern education which these recent decrees will undoubtedly create might well form the subject of another paper. Suffice it here to point out the tremendous opportunity and responsibility thus presented to christian educational missions. The extent and geographical character of China and its division into provinces under viceroys makes China resemble America more closely than any other country, and we believe that the kind of informal, yet none the less real, national system of educational work in the United States is what China needs. America's merchants are invading the east with marked success, and her diplomacy is affecting the right course of political events. American educators should aid in the educational conquest just as fully. There could be no better way of showing our true friendship, in spite of recent events in connection with our enforcement of the Exclusion Treaty and China's boycott of American products, than thus to aid in the true enlightenment of China's millions. Aside from the motive of christian missions, our prestige in the east demands such altruistic effort.