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A Study of the increase in number of examinees who applied for the national examination in the 17th century

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2009, (93), pp.89-145
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

PARK HYUN SOON 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

It has been a general knowledge, that the number of people who were trying for the civill examination actually increased in the latter half period of Joseon. But there has been no comprehensive examination of this phenomenon. In this article, actually how many examinees there were, and what were the reasons behind such increase, are examined. The phenomenon of increase that appeared in the 17th century was actually present in examinee groups applying for particular types of examination. In case of Saengweon-shi(生員試) & Jinsa-shi(進士試) examinations and Jeong-shi(庭試) & Alseong-shi(謁聖試) examinations, the number of examinees tripled compared to earlier periods. On the other hand, increase in the number of examinees for the Shiknyeon-shi(式年試) & Jeungkwang-shi(增廣試) literal exams(文科) was negligible. We can see, that what was actually increasing was the number of examinees who were participating in examinations that the procedures were being 'simplified'. Reasons behind such increase were various. The future paths that could be considered by the Confucian scholars as paths for career enhancements were in fact decreasing, and to make matters worse, the government was intending to mobilize Confucian students and enlist them in the army. So quite naturally they wanted to take the exam and enter the government instead of being dragged into military duties. And the fact that not only the general procedures but also the curriculum and things to be done in preparation of the examination were becoming more simplified, led the students to have higher hopes for passing the examinations. The former reason contributed to the increase in the number of examinees trying the Saengweon-shiㆍJinsa-shi exams, and the latter reason contributed to the increase in number of examinees for the Jeong-shi(庭試)ㆍAlseong-shi(謁聖試) exams. The 17th century's general characteristic displayed from both the national exam operations and the attitude of examinees gearing up for the examinations, was a preference for ‘efficiency’ and ‘convenience’. The government wanted to cut expenditure usually spent in arranging a national examination, and the Confucian students wanted to have an examination for which they could more 'easily' prepare. As a result, the national examinations came to feature more 'specialized' aspects, and the Confucian students got bound down by the national exam.

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