In the new dynasty’s first imperial examination, the examination room was different from before. Before, in order to prevent cheating, a small room was partitioned off per person. For the few days the examination lasted, food and drink were all taken care of in this small cubicle, and they had to report to the examiner before someone could take them to the thatched hut where the lavatory was. If someone’s exam room was near that thatched hut, then the smell could not even be mentioned.
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If it rained, some disrepaired places would leak.
Some candidates were of advanced ages, and might even lose the remaining years of their lives by the time they could leave the exam room.
In the past, there were people who died directly in the examination room.
At this time, the weather had cooled down, and it was winter, but it had not snowed yet.
Lin Yuan had people light a brazier in the examination room, and servants would clean it every day. The thatched hut was not built in the examination room, and a wooden door was installed to keep out the smell.
Every time at noon, there were servants who brought meals in, all of which were uniformly prepared food, two steamed buns, and a plate of stewed vegetables, which contained both meat and vegetables.
But because of this, Song Shizhao and the others have done a stricter job of preventing any cheating.
In the past, all exam essays were given three days to write, and the candidates were not let out in order to prevent them from cheating and sharing their answers.
Now there was no such worry.
Because there was only one exam a day, and only one essay was written a day.
Although candidates could not go out at night, the exam room would provide quilts and supper, and supper was also simple, only steamed bread and fermented bean curd.
Candidates raise their hands to signal if they were hungry, and they did not have to eat if they were not hungry. It was up to them to choose.
But this year, they were not tested on mathematics, only on the people’s livelihood, all of which were essay compositions based on select topics.
The first exam essay topic was “merchant”.
With only this word, how to answer depended on the candidate’s own perspective.
Everyone saw things from different angles and answered differently. Maybe there were suggestions among these exam answers that could even be implemented.
Lin Yuan even selected some to look at.
Because the candidates’ names were kept anonymous, and the font was required to be uniform, unless one was particularly familiar with the person’s writing, one would never be able to deduce who was who.
Lin Yuan flipped through some essays and was a little disappointed.
Most of them were the same old banal comments, some that praised him as the emperor, and some that said merchants seek profit, which was not beneficial to the country, and harmful to the people.
Few were truly knowledgeable.
Lin Yuan flipped to the middle of the stack, swept a few lines, and then paused to take a closer look.
The perspective of this candidate was different from that of others. He saw the “economy” from the “merchant”, and from the local “economy” to the national “economy”.
He didn’t express much, but he was very clear and very organized.
First, the benefits that caused merchants to be valued were listed.
And then the candidate listed the detriments.
Finally, it was stated that for these reasons, which aspects should be restricted for merchants without hindering economic growth.
Lin Yuan could see what this candidate meant.
Although it was still very immature and had no systematic theory, what he mentioned was indeed the basic national macro-control.
Lin Yuan called over Song Shizhao and Song Lian.
“Look at this one.” Lin Yuan handed the exam paper to Er Liang, and Er Liang handed it to Song Shizhao and Song Lian.
After Song Shizhao and Song Lian took turns reading it, the expressions on their faces were different.
“This candidate must be from an aristocratic family.” Song Lian said firmly.
Lin Yuan asked him, “Why do you say so?”
Song Lian: “His handwriting is strong and neat, and looking at the handwriting is like looking at a person. It is a school of its own. It is debonair and unrestrained without losing its edge. He must have practiced it since childhood.”
Children of commoner families would not spend as much time practicing calligraphy as children of aristocratic families.
After all, a teacher in a private school teaches more than one child, and it was even more impossible to teach a single child hands-on.
At this time, people thought that one’s handwriting reflected one’s character, and a person with good handwriting couldn’t be bad.
For the same reason, one’s physical appearance reflected one’s heart, such as Chu Lin, because he was good-looking, everyone thought that he could not be a bad person.
Lin Yuan sometimes felt that these people were good at scheming.
Sometimes he also thought that they were quite naive.
At least most people were.
“Let him be the third place.” Lin Yuan said.
The emperor personally appointed him, Song Shizhao and Song Lian certainly couldn’t refuse.
And they also knew that in this imperial examination, the first place would definitely not come out of the aristocratic families.
It was not even likely to be from a poor family either.
It was very likely that first place would go to one from an ordinary commoner family or from a farming and scholarly family.
Only in this way would ordinary common people feel that fame and success was very close to them.
It would inspire more people from non-aristocratic families to study.
Most of the common people were like this. They could see the benefits, and as long as there were benefits, they were willing to do it.
Lin Yuan thought such common people were very cute.
If the common people were really content with the status quo and have no desires, then he would really have a headache.
He just wondered, would this son of an aristocratic family who had taken third place feel honored or humiliated?
It was likely he would feel bitter but be unable to voice it, right?
The second round of the imperial exam was on the topic of “household registration”.
The candidates’ essays all focused on female households.
Some people thought that women’s households should not be established, because this would breed women’s ambitions, they would not be able to play the roles of wives and mothers well, and they would try their best to seize more power and more wealth, which would make it more difficult for men because before they just have to compete with men, and now they have to compete with women as well.
And in the end, many of them believed that female households would cause social unrest and make the common people’s lives miserable.
To put it bluntly, it was fear.
They feared this system, feared this change.
And they also had to maintain their power.
Lin Yuan picked up the exam papers again.
This time, the exam paper that gave him a refreshing feeling was very interesting.
This candidate believed that female households were only a small part of the household registration.
Household registration should not be based on a family, but a person as a unit. Everyone should have a household registration, so that the country could better understand how many people and how many men and women were in a country. Large households in various cities could not have hidden households, and hidden households only brought money to large households and did not pay taxes to the state.
At the same time, the candidate also proposed that a person should have an identity certificate. Only with the certificate could they move to buy a house and buy land, and could get married and work.
This was also beneficial to taxation, and it could also prevent the existence of hidden households.
His essay arrangement was not very clear, but Lin Yuan still understood it.
After three days of the imperial exam, and after Song Shizhao and the others had gone through the exam papers, the selected ones were finally presented to Lin Yuan.
There were many exam papers for each topic, and Lin Yuan had to select 100 candidates to enter the palace for the top grade imperial exam.
The candidates’ names were no longer kept anonymous, and Lin Yuan could see their names.
Because many candidates have the same name and surname, their home location would be added before their name. In addition to the city name, there was also the street name.
Some people were afraid that the street name would also be similar, and so they also wrote their own order number among their siblings at home.
It had been a month by the time Lin Yuan finished selecting the candidates.
Because each one had to be seen by himself, Song Shizhao and the others have chosen those who have real talents and practical learning.
The number of people was similar to what Lin Yuan imagined.
Han Ling lived in the inn. The inn was full of candidates. It seemed like all the scholars in the empire had gathered here. After the exam, the inn was very lively. They talked about His Majesty’s exam questions every day and their own experiences, and some people were still arguing about it.
There were also people who broke out into song when they drank themselves drunk, but the owner of the inn was not angry, and looked at them with a smile every day.
Although there was not much money to be earned, there were very few people who did business and were short of money in the capital. So what was the point of earning this quick money?
Now the owner only wanted to be famous. As long as one of these candidates could become a successful candidate in the imperial examination, the business at his inn would never be bad in the future.
Everyone would want to rub off on some of that cheerful atmosphere.
If more people succeeded, that was even better!
When the eunuch came to announce the successful candidates, all the candidates looked at the eunuch eagerly, as if the eunuch was not a person, but a golden meat bun.
The eunuch announced: “Han Ling, a scholar from Yizhou, Daning Road, Liaoyang, are you here?”
Han Ling’s eyes widened.
His fellow villagers around him all looked at him.
Han Ling’s hands and feet felt soft and weak and his face flushed, he shouted: “Here! This student is here!”
Then he stumbled over to the eunuch and saluted.
The eunuch smiled and said, “His Majesty has called you to enter the palace in three days. You can wait at the gate of the palace, and someone will lead you in.”
Han Ling’s legs weakened, and he knelt on the ground as he shouted, “Long live my emperor! Long live!”
The eunuch didn’t look at him, and just as he was about to leave, a scholar called out from behind, “My lord! Have you forgotten someone?”
The eunuch smiled and shook his head: “No, only Han Gongzi was selected from this inn, you all can wait for the ranking list and see.”
So long as one passed the top grade imperial exam, one must be a candidate of the 1st rank, which consisted of only the top three candidates who passed the imperial examination.
Although the first, second, and third ranks were all palace graduates, the gap between palace graduates and palace graduates was huge.
Especially the third rank, though also palace graduates, their status was the lowest.
Many people even preferred not to pass and come back again after three years, rather than becoming a third rank palace graduate.
Among the third rank palace graduates, there were very few who could become high-ranking officials.
Even just one who managed it was already considered very lucky and rare, a blessing from the ancestors.
Han Ling was still kneeling on the ground, and his fellow villagers helped him up. Han Ling’s cheeks were flushed, but his eyes were bright.
His fellow villagers sighed: “When we see you in the future, we will have to call you Lord Han.”
Only then did Han Ling realize that he was acting a little carried away, and quickly said: “No matter what happens in the future, we are all brothers.”
Although his fellow villagers were sad, they still had spirit in them. After all, although they couldn’t become a first rank palace graduate, there was still hope for the second rank.
As for the third rank…..
They were also a little at a loss.
It was a blessing to be able to pass the imperial exam, as for the rank, it didn’t matter.
Weren’t there still a lot of gray-haired candidates who only passed the imperial county exam? They had taken the exam all their lives and still could not pass the imperial provincial exam.
Those who could be picky about the third rank must be the sons of aristocratic families.
People like them had no choice to be picky about.
Of all the scholars in the inn, only Han Ling was selected, and Han Ling suddenly became a rare figure, and scholars who had never talked to him before came over to chat with him.
They asked him how he answered the exam questions.
Han Ling described his answers briefly.
The scholar started beating his chest and stomping his feet: “Regret! Oh, how I regret it!”
It was only after Han Ling asked some more did he realize that this person had gone off the mark.
In addition to this person, there were other scholars who came to speak with him.
Either they kept praising His Majesty, or they felt that preferential treatment should not be given to merchants.
The owner of the inn was very ecstatic and honored. He paid for the scholars to drink wine for three days in the inn, and Han Ling’s expenses were all put on the house by the owner.
Han Ling refused again and again but the owner said, “Gongzi doesn’t know, but the fact that my inn had a palace graduate come out of it there is no need to worry about making no money, there will definitely be crowds of customers flowing in! You don’t have to worry about it, Gongzi and I benefit from each other, and don’t owe each other.”
Han Ling had no choice but to take his money back, making up his mind to slip the money to the owner when he checked out.
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He didn’t know what ranking he would get, but since he had entered the top grade imperial exam, he had to show all that he had learned, so as not to waste his hard work over the years.
The scholars in Beijing were drunk for three days, and there was even a scent of wine lingering in every street of the capital.
There were also painters who have captured this scene into their paintings, to be handed down for thousands of years.
TN: 😥 I usually update a chapter each for BtM and VCF each updating date unless there are bonus chapters but there are not enough days in February, urgh 😑. Well anyway, that’s all of the February chapters, see you all again in the second week of March!
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