November 10, 2005 2 Comments
TS pointed me to a Gary North article I had somehow missed:
For a thousand years, China was administered by Mandarins. These bureaucrats swore loyalty to the emperor. Then they were granted enormous control over the entire society. From the days of the Pharaohs until the twentieth century, the Mandarin class was the world’s most powerful bureaucracy.
To enter the ranks of the Mandarin class, a young man had to pass a rigorous written examination. The examination covered Chinese classical poetry. What did a knowledge of Chinese poetry have to do with ruling a vast empire? Directly, very little. Indirectly, a great deal.
A student needed five things to pass the exam:
- advanced literacy;
- enough leisure to study for the exam;
- a very high IQ;
- a teacher;
- the ability to endure intense boredom for many years under a nearly absolute master.
The teacher was a man who had failed to pass the exam.
Had he passed, he would not have become a teacher.