Chinese Political Culture in Translation
Here we are posting texts on political theory and practice that are not usually covered in anthologies. The policy essay is the first example of such a text. If you have suggestions or would like to contribute your own translation, get in touch with us at bijiproject [at] gmail [dot] com
1) Policy Question and Essay (1235)
In policy essays examination candidates were required to respond to a long list of questions. The Southern Song government never promulgated a list of sources on which policy questions were to be based. Policy questions drew from the classics, the dynastic histories, contemporary official documents, the philosophers, the collected writings of major Tang and Song intellectuals, and unidentified sources of opinion.
Essay questions may be subdivided into two main kinds, those on the classics and the histories (jingshi 經史) and those on contemporary affairs (shiwu 時 務). Unlike topics for the essays on the meaning of the classics and expositions, policy questions of the former kind juxtaposed passages from one or several sources and asked students to explain obscure and contradictory statements. Questions on governmental affairs also listed different approaches and invited candidates to evaluate their pros and cons. Such exercises in argumentation tested the prospective officials’ ability to formulate and defend plans in policy debates. The policy essay translated below is Wang Mai’s response to a policy question from a special examination for entry into the Imperial Academies held in 1235.
Response to a Policy Question from a Special Examination for Entry into the Imperial Academies held in 1235
Original text has been collated against 全宋文
Original text has been collated against Quan Songwen
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