The three gentleman case study

Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss By: The gentleman was in his early fifties and he reported that last evening, after cutting his grass he went to accompany his wife on the front porch with a glass of iced tea. He reported being tired and wanting to relax a bit before calling it a day. Suddenly, he felt fullness in his left ear.

The three gentleman case study

The Confucian Classics were the basis of the examination system. Candidates for the bureaucracy began to be educated in the Classics in the Han Dynasty, but the regular examination system seems to date from the Sui and the T'ang.


Any man could begin taking the examinations we don't seem to have any stories of women doing it in disguiseas long as he himself was not in mourning and his family had not engaged in a "base occupation," like running a brothelfor three generations.

However, usually candidates were from families that could afford the expense of educating them, and of supporting them if it was necessary to try again.

If one did not pass, the examinations could be taken The three gentleman case study number of times, unless, of course, one had committed some kind of misconduct, which could bar a candidate from a certain number of reexaminations -- or permanently. Also, failure was not always the result of poor work.

There was a quota on the number of passes accepted from each exam; so one's fate could be determined by one's rank in the results. In the Ming Dynasty, quotas were also set by region, so that more candidates from the North were passed than from the South. This is an interesting case of an early use of political preferential policies.

Examinations were given in a three year cycle.

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This began at the local level, in each District, hsien or "County"where examinations, the hsien-shih,were given the first two of the three years.

In Ming times there were about Districts.

The three gentleman case study

This is the administrative level of government where we find Judge Dee. This lowest level of examinations was in principle provided for boys who had not yet come of age. Older boys and men could take the examination also, but they were supposed to have harder questions.

False ages were often given and beards shaved, strategems frequently tolerated by the authorities. The District examinations were administered by the Magistrate himself something we never find Judge Dee doing, by the wayin a hall at the District Tribunal where candidates sat at desks.

The test continued through the day until the light failed. The Magistrate himself scored the tests, which were only identified by the desk number where the candidate had sat. Success at the District level simply meant that candidates moved up to the examinations, the fu-shih,then given at the capital of the Prefecture,where an examination was administered much like the one at the District level.

But it also gave him a rank, the lowest, the 9th, in the Civil Service system, signified by distinctive dress and certain legal privileges. A licentiate might make a living clerking, sometimes permanently, for a Magistrate or other official.

Every third year specifically in the years of the Rat, Rabbit, Horse, and Chickenlicentiates, having completed their schooling and passed some qualifiying exams, could move up to examinations, the hsiang-shih,at the level of the Provinces.

The whole administrative system of Districts, Prefectures, and Provinces is discussed elsewhere. At the Provincial level the number of candidates taking the examinations was large enough that dedicated buildings in their own extensive compounds were provided for this purpose.

The examination buildings contained small individual cells, closed off with no more than a curtain, where a candidate wrote alone during the days and nights of the examinations, which were given in three sessions over a week. There were three planks provided in a cell, which could be arranged, using ledges on the walls, as a shelf, a seat, a desk, and, at need, a bed.

A candidate brought his own food and any cooking implements. Soldiers observed the cells, often with displays of bullying that the soldiers knew would not be possible with successful candidates. In the two off years of the examination cycle, the buildings stood empty.

They often came to be regarded as haunted, since some candidates, overwhelmed with their sense of failure, might commit suicide.

The three gentleman case study

This is not unknown at modern universities, although I have not heard of suicides during examinations. Also, students studying for examinations might seduce young women with the promise of marriage once they made their fortune by passing the examination. If a young woman was then abandoned, she might commit suicide.

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We then have no difficulty imagining her ghost, appearing and distracting, reproaching, or assaulting the candidate during the examination in order to have revenge by preventing him from passing.

This could result in his suicide as well. There are so many stories of this sort that collections of them were published.

Thus, over the years, the examination halls, standing empty most of the time, could have become crowded with spirits suffering from various causes of distress -- a belief encountered in the Judge Dee novel Murder in Canton. Since candidates and staff were locked into the compounds during the testing sessions, anyone who died, from natural causes or otherwise, was wrapped in a mat and actually thrown over the wall to be disposed off outside.

Other miraculous events are reported during examinations, both to reward the virtuous and to punish the vicious.

As we can imagine from modern schools, cheating was a common problem in the examinations. Arriving candidates were searched more than once, with an eagerness and thoroughness by attendants motivated by awards in silver for contraband books, notes found, and punishments for anything not found.

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