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Nicolas Tackett
University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA 94704-5940)
The Rise of the Chinese Meritocracy: The Transformation of Elite Culture in Tenth-Century China

Research, data analysis, and writing leading to publication of a book on the development of meritocracy in 10th-century China and development of associated open-access online databases.

This project explores the sudden appearance in the tenth century of a meritocratic culture that dramatically transformed Chinese elite society and constituted the ideological foundation of China's famous civil service exams. My first book used GIS, social network analysis, and a huge biographical database to explain the physical demise of China’s aristocracy. I now complement this sociopolitical study with a study that explains the accompanying cultural shift—from an “aristocratic” ethos to a “meritocratic” ethos—which I treat in large measure as a product of the rampant migration of the era. Using new digital tools, I will map out the primary routes of elite migration during the 10th c., and assess how migration correlated with a package of cultural changes (including burial culture, language dialect, as well as articulations in literary texts of new “meritocratic” ideals). By the end of the fellowship period, I plan to have completed a full draft of a new book manuscript.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
East Asian History


Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2019 – 12/31/2019