An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Lidai quanxuan zhi 歷代銓選志

Jun 23, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

Lidai quanxuan zhi 歷代銓選志, with a length of 1 juan, is a short history of the official-appointment system. It was compiled by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Yuan Dingyuan 袁定遠 (jinshi degree 1670), of whose life not much is known.

He hailed from Jiaxing 嘉興, Jiangsu, and was first district magistrate (zhixian 知縣) of Xinye 新野, then prefect (zhizhou 知州) of Pingdu 平度, and afterwards Director in the Ministry of Justice in Guizhou (xingbu Guizhou si langzhong 刑部貴州司郎中). On the recommendation of Wang Shizhen 王士禎 (1634-1711), he was appointed Director of the Bureau of Appointments in the Ministry of Personnel (libu wenxuansi langzhong 吏部文選司郎中). His career was ended with the office of prefect of Shunqing 順慶.

This book was written when he served in the Ministry of Personnel and had access to archival information on the official selection methods (quanzheng xuanju 銓政選舉) through the ages. The book is concise, and does not cover some important aspects in the history of the appointment system, for instance, the development during the Wei 曹魏 (220-265), Jin 晉 (265-420) and Southern Dynasties 南朝 (420~589) periods, and is wrong in his description of the early Ming period 明 (1368-1644) system.

Yuan says that there were three successive (?) steps of access for appointees, namely the jinshi degree 進士, as student in the National University (jiansheng 監生), and as member of the Ministry of Personnel (liyuan 吏員), yet in fact, the jinshi degree was the used side by side with recommendation (jianju 薦舉) and the status as official in the Ministry. The method of recommendation was used for all levels in the bureaucracy, and was by no means limited to the access into the officialdom. The book is not described in the book catalogue Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 1423.