Revisiting the enduring debate on meritocracy in late imperial Chinese history, Lawrence Zhang examines the system of office purchase (juanna 捐納) and its effects on the composition and nature of Qingdynasty officialdom. Through extensive quantitative analysis of the number of officials who purchased their way into the bureaucracy, and by weighing the costs and benefits of the juanna institution, Zhang argues that this institution was no less important than the civil service examinations in the recruitment of bureaucrats by the imperial center. Wealth was the key to unlocking this path of advancement and continued to play a role in the competition for success even among those who had already been certified as eligible for office. Those who purchased offices were given guarantees for appointments, an advantage that was afforded to no other group and opened up the possibility of hereditary office-holding among nationally prominent families.


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pp. 259-297
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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