Taiwan's Academy in Qing Dynasty | 鳳儀書院之科舉印象
吉客鏈：市定古蹟 X 文史導覽：科舉制度 X 書院教育
I have been fortunate to live in Oxfordshire, the UK and Boston, the US. I have had the opportunities to visit the best universities in the world, Oxford, Harvard and M.I.T.. I appreciated the distinguished institutions that inspire many intellectual people to become the influential scholars, entrepreneurs and politicians.
During 2020 - 2021, the years of pandemic, I stayed in Taiwan, the safest place in the world. While many places had lockdown over Christmas and New Year holidays, I commuted freely, with wearing the mask, to town to attend a local tour of Fongyi Academy in Kaohsiung. In the past, this academy educated the brightest young people who wanted to go to the Forbidden City to take the Chinese Imperial civil service examination.
Fongyi Academy (Note 1)
In Imperial China time, the civil service exam was used to select candidates for the state bureaucracy. I was interested to know more about Fongyi Academy because it was a part of Imperial Examination (科舉 Kējǔ）system.
I had also heard that Fongyi Academy is well-preserved and largest area covered in Taiwan.
Lecture and Tutorial Time
Once upon the time, the lecture and tutorial area was packed with students from 1814 and the governor visited regularly to supervise. As an ordinary people in the past, the only way to honor family and develop rise to a higher rank, was to study hard and to pass the civil service examination.
(Photo Credit | Chi Hsu)
A City's Tourist Spot
In 2014, Fongyi Academy reopened its doors for the public. Kaohsiung's Cultural Affairs Bureau assigned a specialized tour guider to the site. The tour guider, Allan Kuo, introduced this academy with very informative and interactive explanation. All visitors could join for free (after having paid the entry fee) and learned how the study and exam. system worked during Qing rule era in Taiwan (until the year of 1895).
Local & Regional Examination
Allan mentioned the imperial examination system from local, regional to national implementation. He pointed out that a graduate needed to pass the local exam., then headed to the top of academy of Taiwan in Tainan. If the result was distinguished there would be one more exam. before being selected to go Fuzhou, Fuchien Province, for regional examination in mainland China.
(Map source: Google | Info source: WIKI)
The display of the exhibition at Fongyi Academy, which demonstrated how the candidates to get through the exam.. The small room with two planks was how the candidates wrote and slept over day and night during the examination.
(Photo Credit | Chi Hsu)
While I looked around the preserved environment and listened Allan's historical storytelling, I pictured the old academy. It is the difference the way a physical and virtual experience touches you. At the beginning of 2021, I am sure every citizen of globe has the same wish to travel freely and to touch the physical world again.
Final Examination in Forbidden City
Over a thousand years, the imperial examination represented the best system of administration over various dynasties. Many young men devoted themselves into the knowledge of literature, classics and good writing skill. The fortunate they were seeking for the opportunity to enter the final examination in the Forbidden City to win the glory of being government officers.
Allan also highlighted the highest rank of Imperial Exam. took place in Bǎo Hé Diàn, the Hall of Harmony, in the Forbidden City. When he asked who had been there? I raised my hand.
I remember the episode 24 of Forbidden City 100 (Note 2) which I watched from YouTube last year. All the candidates had to sit all day long to answer the questions The Emperor prepared by brush writing. The top 3 so-called 狀元 Zhuàngyuán, 榜眼 Bǎngyǎn, 探花 Tànhuā gained the honor treat of walking out with the route of the Emperor only, which was the central path and main gate of Forbidden City.
(Image snapshots from Ep.24 of 故宮100, Youtube)
In 2019, my family had a Beijing trip and we all visited the Forbidden City to browse around. My nephew, Albert, was specially interested the dragons in cloud carvings behind the Hall of Harmony. I also took a picture of him standing in the central path and main gate of Forbidden City. He probably had no idea how many young men didn't have his luck in the past.
(Photo Credit | Chi Hsu)
The 4th Grade Examination
Although the Imperial Examination was abolished, the young people still need to go to the academy to study and prepare for exams.
National compulsory education replaced the Imperial Exam for the modern society. Young people like my nephew Albert still need to study hard at school to enhance his capability against the fast-growing global competition.
I wish him good luck to gain entry to a globally distinguished university, such as: Oxford, Harvard or M.I.T.!
【Note 1】The Profile of Fongyi Academy: The building was built in 1814 during Jiaqing Emperor rule in Qing Dynasty. It was also the venue for candidates to take the imperial examination. On 13 November 1985, the building was designated as level 3 historical monument. In 2007, the Kaohsiung City Government acquired the land title of the academy. (Source: WIKI) The Fongyi Academy reopened for the public in 2014. Website: Click here
【Note 2】The Finial Imperial Examination