The Confucian court examination system in Vietnam (Chinese: , Vietnamese : Ch?- khoa-c? Vi?t-nam ; 1075 - 1913) was a system for entry into the civil service modelled on the Imperial examination in China, based on knowledge of the classics and literary style.
The exams entered Vietnam during the long era of Chinese occupation and adopted by subsequent independent dynasties as a way of filling the civil service. They were instituted at court level by the Lý Dynasty's Emperor Lý Nhân Tông in 1075 and continued some 1000 years later toward the final years of the Nguy?n Dynasty's Emperor Kh?i nh. The examinations were suspended by the French in 1913 with the very last local exams occurring from 1915 to 1919, thus making Vietnam the last country to hold Confucian civil service examinations. The royal court exams were typically held every three years, though the award of first prizes was far less frequent.
The examination system was divided into a regional and a national examination held at the royal capital. Provincial examinations led only to the degree of tú tài ( junior bachelor) and c? nhân ( senior bachelor). From 1829 a provincial mandarin could progress to phó b?ng, the lowest level of national exam, under the scholars with the rank of ti?n s?.
The examinations themselves were composed of three or four tests, followed by a phúc h?ch or control examination to confirm identity.
Aside from accrediting rank and file scholars to the court and mandarin civil service positions gleaned from the successful regional candidates, the exams also appointed lead scholars for the court exam (Thi ?ình) in the capital, the title of tr?ng nguyên. This title was first awarded to Lê V?n Th?nh (d.1096). Subsequent exams starting in 1247 and onward were divided into three first class grades along the Chinese model with tr?ng nguyên as the first of three prizes. The first tr?ng nguyên under this system was Nguy?n Hi?n. The full list of tr?ng nguyên therefore includes 55 scholars if beginning from Lê V?n Th?nh, but only 49 if commencing from Nguy?n Hi?n (awarded 1247, in the reign of Tr?n Thái Tông).
The three titles were as follows :
The list of tr?ng nguyên includes several notable figures in Vietnam's history, such as M?c nh Chi (awarded 1304, in the reign of Tr?n Anh Tông) and Nguy?n B?nh Khiêm (awarded 1535, in the reign of M?c Thái Tông). The last tr?ng nguyên was awarded to Tr?nh Tu? in 1736 during the reign of Lê Ý Tông.