"Never Taking a Shortcut: Examination Poetry of the Tang Dynasty”

The jinshi examination in the Tang dynasty required poetry composition from the late seventh century onward. This examination poetry was a distinct genre, and extant poems illuminate what skills were in fact being tested in the civil service examinations. Due to the official context of the examinations, this poetry can also shed light on Tang conceptions of poetic standards. This study analyzes a number of poems from the Tang exams, as well as other Tang poems explicitly written in the examination style. I argue that the primary goal of these poems was a display of competence and familiarity with the literary tradition, rather than a demonstration of poetic brilliance. In addition, the apparent acceptability of prosodic freedom on the exams suggests that regulation in Tang verse was conceived even less strictly than commonly imagined.

The abstract above is courtesy of Taylor & Francis.