Cotsen Faculty Fellow for 2013-2016
Professor David Leheny has been selected as a Cotsen Faculty Fellow for 2013-2016 in recognition of his outstanding teaching and scholarship. The Cotsen Faculty Fellowship focuses on undergraduate education, and it's designed to support new curricular and teaching initiatives. The fellowship provides support to graduate assistants to work on the curriculum and courses with him, and also provides a book fund to the EAS Department. Professor Leheny attributes receiving the award in part to his broad work in EAS over the past few years in reaching out to a larger number of undergraduate students. His project over the next three years will focus on curricular developments particularly in contemporary studies. In addition to building new courses on law and in cinema, he hopes to expand EAS 229, the current introductory class on Contemporary East Asia. Professor Leheny would also like to find ways to make use of the new strategic partnership with the University of Tokyo to see if there are ways to encourage collaboration between the undergraduates at both schools.
University of Tokyo Partnership
A new strategic partnership with the University of Tokyo has been established, supporting collaboration in research and boosting interdisciplinary scholarship. Learn more about the new University of Tokyo partnership.
Professors Collcutt and Naquin celebrate their retirement...
On Tuesday, December 4, the East Asian Studies Department and Program along with colleagues and students gathered to celebrate the retirement of Professor Martin Collcutt and Professor Susan Naquin. Champagne and light refreshments were served. Professor Collcutt began his career here at Princeton in September of 1975, and Professor Naquin began her career at Princeton in 1993. Both have been an inspiration to their students and will be sorely missed by all.
The following book by Professor Benjamin Elman will be out from Harvard University Press in fall 2013.
MERITOCRACY OR CULTURAL PRISONS? CIVIL EXAMINATIONS IN LATE IMPERIAL CHINA
This volume integrates the history of late imperial China with its history of classical education and civil examinations. It stresses the role education played in Chinese society and the significance of the civil service in approximating the world’s first political meritocracy in political, social, and intellectual life. The history of traditional education and imperial civil examinations before the rise of the Chinese “Republic” provide us with a prism of analysis to delineate the complex relation between classical ideals of individual merit and historical processes of education, learning, and socialization from 1400 to1900.
Scholars often contend that civil examinations were an important part of what made imperial China a political meritocracy. They point to the examination system to show that the selection process served more as a common training program for literati than as a gate-keeper to keep non-elites out. Despite the symbiotic relations between the court and its literati, the emperor played the final card in the selection process. The asymmetrical relations between the throne and its elites nevertheless empowered elites to seek upward mobility as scholar-officials through the system. But true social mobility, peasants becoming officials, was never the goal of state policy in late imperial China; a modest level of social circulation was an unexpected consequence of the meritocratic civil service. Moreover, the merit-based bureaucracy never broke free of its dependence on an authoritarian imperial system. A more modern political system, such as that of the Singapore city-state, might be more compatible with meritocracy, however.
One of the unintended consequences of the civil examinations was creation of classically literate men (and women), who used their linguistic talents for a variety of non-official purposes, from literati physicians to local pettifoggers, from fiction-writers to examination essay teachers, from Buddhist and Daoist monks to mothers and daughters. If there was much social mobility, i.e., the opportunity for members of the lower classes to rise in the social hierarchy, it was likely here. Archival sources reveal that peasants, traders, and artisans, who made up over 90% of the population, were not among those 100 annual or 50,000 total Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) palace graduates from 1400 to 1900. Nor were they a significant part of the two million or so who failed examinations at lower levels every two years. What many who follow P’ing-ti Ho mean by "social mobility" might be better described as a healthy “circulation” of lower and upper elites when compared to aristocratic Europe and Japan,.
Factoring in the healthy dimensions of the merit-based selection process for imperial China, despite its autocratic excesses, we can assume that the current debate about combining the best of democracy and meritocracy should not be ruled out a priori. Neither the Ming nor Qing dynasty every construed its politics that way, but it may be that electoral credentials and merit-based selection are compatible.