The Road to Literary Culture: Revisiting the Jurchen Language Examination System

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This essay contextualizes the unique institution of the Jurchen language examination system in the creation of a new literary culture in the Jin dynasty (1115-1234). Unlike the civil examinations in Chinese, which rested on a well-established classical canon, the Jurchen language examinations developed in close connection with the establishment of a Jurchen school system and the formation of a literary canon in the Jurchen language and scripts. In addition to being an official selection mechanism, the Jurchen examinations were more importantly part of a literary endeavor toward a cultural ideal. Through complementing transmitted Chinese sources with epigraphic sources in Jurchen, this essay questions the conventional view of this institution as a "Jurchenization" measure, and proposes that what the Jurchen emperors and officials envisioned was a road leading not to Jurchenization, but to a distinctively hybrid literary culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-167
Number of pages38
JournalT'oung Pao
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Aug 28 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • History
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Jin Dynasty
  • Jurchen language examination system
  • Jurchenization
  • literary culture


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