Photo Credit:

TWOC TV EP. 10: The Examined Life

Whether it’s the civil service in ancient times or college admissions today, the Chinese believe in taking tests

As Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living. Chinese people both in ancient times and today might agree.

For around 1,300 years, the civil service exam (keju) was serious business in imperial China, as passing the test gave one a career as an official and prosperity for the whole family. On the other hand, since the National College Entrance Examination (gaokao) was introduced in 1952, millions of high school seniors have competed every summer (with a few interruptions during the Cultural Revolution) for spots at the country’s best universities and the promise of a better future.

How has the China’s talent selection system changed from ancient times to today? How should parents and students prepare psychologically for one of the most stressful experiences of a student’s life? In this episode, TWOC invites Sina News education editor Lei Lei, and Wei Wei, history teacher at the Beijing Peace Street No. 1 Middle School (北京市和平街第一中学), to offer some cultural perspectives on the past and present relevance of the gaokao.

TWOC TV EP 10 The Examined Life – Part 1

TWOC TV EP 10 The Examined Life – Part 2


TWOC‘s editors are a bilingual, international team that is always on the lookout for original and human-centered stories to share with our readers. We are dedicated to accuracy, objectivity, and looking at each of China's stories through the eyes of its participants. Get in touch through our About Us page if you have a story to pitch!

Related Articles