Thursday, November 7, 2013
District Quota System for Higher Education: 13th Century China
One of the oldest cases I know of large scale official discrimination to even out differences in performance Ming China. In 1370, the first Emperor of the Dynasty, Chu Yüan-chang, who expelled the Mongols in 1368, reinstituted the great Civil Service Examinations, which had been suspended by the Mongols. In 1371, 75% of the degrees from the national examination had gone to candidates from the South of China. This displeased the Emperor, who believed, with many traditionalists, that Northerners were morally more worthy -- from the area where Chinese civilization had begun. The examinations were thus suspended until 1385, but then the geographical division of those who passed did not change. At a special Palace examination in 1397, all of the 52 candidates who passed were Southerners. Borrowing from the Josef Stalin school of bureaucracy, the Emperor had two of the examiners executed. In a subsequent retesting, all the successful candidates were Northerners.
between populations that otherwise do not seem very different comes from
By 1425 it was decided that places in the national examinations would be reserved by region, with 35% for the North, 55% for the South, and 10% for some places in the middle. This extraordinary provision was imposed on a nation that to us may seem to be uniform in race, language, and religion. But clearly there were cultural differences, and these were not merely of an economic character. The Chinese Civil Service Examinations did not test economic susccess or even mathematics or engineering. It was all based on the literary culture of the Classics of Confucianism. In our own time when "Asians" are generally expected to do better on IQ tests, and in mathematics and science, it is extraordinary to see that Southern Chinese of the Ming Dynasty apparently enjoyed a marked advantage in literary culture over the Northerners, to the point where "affirmative action" or "reverse discrimination" was imposed by the Government in favor of the Northerners. Of course, there was nothing "reverse" about this. Chu Yüan-chang was probably as perplexed as anyone why such a difference had emerged between North and South [cf. Timothy Brook, The Troubled Empire, Harvard, 2010, pp.36-37].
See the paragraph preceding the above to at http://www.friesian.com/discrim.htm