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Jinshi (Chinese: ; pinyin: jìnshì) was the highest and final degree in the imperial examination in Imperial China.[1][2] The examination was usually taken in the imperial capital in the palace, and was also called the Metropolitan Exam. Recipients are sometimes referred to in English-language sources as Imperial Scholars.

The Jinshi degree was first created after the institutionalization of the civil service exam. Initially it had been "for six categories" but was later consolidated into a single degree. This system first appeared during the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD).[2] Throughout the Tang Dynasty, every year around 1-2 percent of test takers would obtain a jinshi title out of a total of 1-2 thousand test takers.[3]

The numbers of Jinshi degrees given out were increased in the Song Dynasty, and the examinations were given every three years. Most senior officials of the Song Dynasty were jinshi holders.[4]

The Ming dynasty resumed the civil-service exam after its occurrence became more irregular in the Yuan dynasty. After the reign of the Emperor Yingzong of Ming, it became the rule that only jinshi holders could enter the Hanlin Academy. On average around 89 jinshi per year were conferred.[5]

During the Qing dynasty around 102 jinshi degrees were given a year.

The highest scoring jinshi in the country was known as the zhuangyuan, a term that survives today as a high scoring gaokao test taker or just someone who is very good as a skill.

Subtypes of jinshi recipients

  • Jinshi Jidi (?, lit. "distinguished jinshi"), graduates ranked first class in the court exam, usually only the top three individuals were qualified for this title.
    • Zhuangyuan (, lit. "top thesis author"), the jinshi who ranked first overall nationwide.
    • Bangyan (, lit. "eyes positioned alongside"), the jinshi who ranked second overall just below zhuangyuan.
    • Tanhua (, lit. "flower snatcher"), the jinshi ranked third overall.
  • Jinshi Chushen (?, lit. "jinshi background"), the graduates who ranked second class in court exam, ranking immediately after the tanhua.
  • Tong Jinshi Chushen (, lit. "along with jinshi background"), graduates ranked third class in the court exam.

Notable jinshi recipients by year

The Confucius Temple in Dongcheng District, firstly built in 1302 under Temür Khan (Emperor Chengzong) is the second largest in China. The temple houses 198 stone tabulets engraved with the names of 51,624 jinshi scholars of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

Tang Dynasty

Song Dynasty

Yuan dynasty

Ming dynasty

Qing dynasty

People who failed jinshi exams

See also


  1. ^ Li Bu (in Chinese), a ministry (Bu) for selecting civil servants (Li) in feudal China; Shi Lang (in Chinese) is an equivalent of Vice Minister.
  2. ^ Xingbu Shangshu (in Chinese), equivalent to today's Justice Minister.


  1. ^ The Chinese Imperial Examination System: An Annotated Bibliography.
  2. ^ a b Hagras, Hamada (2019-12-20). "The Ming Court as Patron of the Chinese Islamic Architecture: The Case Study of the Daxuexi Mosque in Xi'an". SHEDET (6): 134-158. doi:10.36816/shedet.006.08.
  3. ^ Fu, Zhengyuan. Autocratic Tradition and Chinese Politics. p. 98.
  4. ^ History of Song
  5. ^ Ho 1962
  6. ^ Wang Xijun (; 1534-1611). Taipusi sicheng Guigong muzhiming () [Gui Youguang's Epitaph]
  7. ^ * Owen, Stephen, "Tang Xian-zu, Peony Pavilion: Selected Acts," in Stephen Owen, ed. An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997. p. 880-906 (Archive).
  8. ^ Histories: Sun Jiagan dies (in Chinese). Retrieved 9 Nov 2013.
  9. ^ Gedalecia, David. The Philosophy of Wu Ch'eng: A Neo-Confucian of the Yüan Dynasty. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1999.

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