The Politics of Higher Education

The Imperial University in Northern Song China


Chu Ming-kin

ISBN : 978-988-8528-19-6


January 2020

280 pages, 6″ x 9″

  • HK$600.00

The Politics of Higher Education: The Imperial University in Northern Song China uses the history of the Imperial University of the Northern Song to show the limits of the Song emperors’ powers. At the time, the university played an increasingly dominant role in selecting government officials. This role somehow curtailed the authority of the Song emperors, who did not possess absolute power and, more often than not, found their actions to be constrained by the institution.

The nomination mechanism left room for political maneuvering and stakeholders—from emperors to scholar-officials—tried to influence the process. Hence, power struggles among successive emperors trying to assert their imperial authority ensued. Demands for greater autonomy by officials were, for example, unceasing. Chu Ming-kin shows that the road to autocracy was anything but linear. In fact, during the Northern Song dynasty, competition and compromises over diverse agendas constantly altered the political landscape.

Chu Ming-kin is an assistant professor of Chinese history and culture at the University of Hong Kong.

“The scholarship of this book is exceptionally sound. Chu’s command of both primary and secondary sources is breathtaking in its scope. This will be the standard treatment of Northern Song higher education for many years to come. The pages that describe how the university functioned as a cynical vehicle to facilitate upper class entry into the jinshi system are fascinating and an important contribution to the larger scholarship on Song culture.” —Charles Hartman, University at Albany, State University of New York

“This work highlights in arresting detail a heretofore neglected area of higher education under the Northern Song, the Directorate of Higher Education, with particular focus on student activism at the peak of the institution’s political clout. There is nothing comparable either in China or the Western World. The book is ambitious in the use of sources, while nuanced in interpreting them. In sum, it is a work of rare erudition, particularly for a young scholar.” —Richard L. Davis, National Taiwan University