An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Tang deng keji kao 唐登科記考

Jan 19, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Tang deng keji kao 唐登科記考 "Research on Examination Graduates of the Tang Period" is a book on the nascent state examination system of the Tang period 唐 (618-907) that was written during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) by Xu Song 徐松 (1781-1848), courtesy name Xingbo 星伯. He hailed from Daxing 大興 in the vicinity of Beijing and obtained his jinshi degree during the Jiaqing reign-period 嘉慶 (1796-1820). He was one of the chief compilers of the Quantangwen 全唐文, the complete prose writings from the Tang period.

After serving as junior compiler (bianxiu 編修) of the Hanlin Academy 翰林院 he was promoted to the post of provincial education commissioner (xuezheng 學政) of Huan, then military circuit intendant (bingbei dao 兵備道) of Tong-Shang 潼商, but was exiled to Ili because of problems in his administration. After amnesty he returned to Beijing to become secretary of the Grand Secretariat (neige zhongshu 內閣中書) and later prefect (zhifu 知府) of Yulin 榆林, Shaanxi.

Xu Song was an excellent geographer and wrote two books about the Western Regions, Xiyu shuidao ji 西域水道記 and Xinjiang shilüe 新疆識略, one book about the capitals of the Tang dynasty, Tang liangjing chengfang kao 唐兩京城坊考, and the 30-juan long Tang deng keji kao. He also belonged to the team of historians that reconstructed the statecraft canon of the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) from fragments quoted in the Ming-period encyclopaedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典 which resulted in the book Song huiyao jigao 宋會要輯稿.

The term deng keji 登科記 is used for lists of successful candidates of the state examinations that were created during the Tang period and regularized during the Song period. At first these lists were private compilations, but Emperor Xuanzong 唐宣宗 (r. 846-859) decided to publish a first official list. In 856 Zheng Yishi 鄭顥始 submitted to the throne the 13-juan long Zhujia kemu ji 諸家科目記, and the emperor ordered to publish such descriptive lists annually. In the bibliographic chapter of the official dynastic history Xintangshu 新唐書 nearly ten of such lists are mentioned, compiled by three persons.

A certain Master Cui 崔氏 wrote the Tang Xianqing dengke ji 唐顯慶登科記 that lists all successful candidates of the whole Tang and Five Dynasties 五代 (907-960) periods. Yao Kang's 姚康 Kedilu 科第錄 covers the Wude 武德 (618-626) to the Changqing 長慶 (821-824) reign-periods, and there is a supplement adding reports about candidates until 906. Of Li Yi's 李奕 Tang denke ji 唐登科記 only one chapter has survived. During the Southern Song period Hong Kuo 洪适 (1117-1184) published a revised version of these early texts, the 15-juan long Tang deng keji 唐登科記. All other books about that topic are lost, and only a few are mentioned in the respective chapter of the statecraft encyclopaedia Wenxian tongkao 文獻通考.

Xu Song used these sources but added information of a lot of other sources to compile a book providing all surviving information about the examination candidates of the Tang. His book was finished in 1838. The first 26 juan cover the time from the foundation of the Tang until the end of the Later Zhou Dynasty 後周 (951-960). It includes a general description and a list of all gongju 貢舉 "selectee" candidates, the themes of their tests and the original text of their answers to the examination questions (duice 對策). For all information, Xu Song mentioned his sources. Juan 27 includes information about those candidates of which the year is not exactly known.

The whole book describes the promotion and career of 693 jinshi 進士 candidates, 256 mingjing 明經 "classicist" candidates, and 76 zhike 制科 candidates, which makes for a total of 1,025 persons. The last three juan include sources about the examination system itself. Xu Song made use of histories, local gazetteers, encyclopaedias, collected writings, biji 筆記 "brush notes"-style texts and inscriptions and so had at hand a wide range of different historiographic material.

His book is therefore a very important research tool for the study of the early history of the examination system in China. It was included in the series Nanqing shuyuan congshu 南菁書院叢書 that was published in 1888.

In 1941 Cen Zhongmian 岑仲勉 (1886-1961) published a supplement and revision, the Deng keji kao dingbu 登科記考訂補 that is included in the series Lishi yuyan yanjiu suo jikan 歷史語言研究所集刊, no. 11. Both were republished in 1984 by the Zhonghua shuju 中華書局.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 1425.