ABSTRACT

Research into the patterns of imperial Chinese governance, particularly into the relationships between ruler and ruled, reveals how much the prevailing image of Chinese statecraft overemphasizes its systemic, centralized, and despotic character. The image is of a highly centralized administrative organization structured around the imperial court, the bureaucracy, and the examination system. The relationships among these three elements―the Emperor, the bureaucracy, and the examination system―have been appropriately recognized. However, in practice, the coexistence of officialdom and the populace, of center and locality―perhaps even the predominance of locality over center–was essential to the functioning of the longevity and stability of the system as a whole.