Common believe is that Chinese martial arts were developed in Buddhist monasteries by monks who researched and experiment with combat systems and later spread it among common people. The story pf Shaolin monastery became so famous that eventually was accepted by many as rue history of Chinese martial arts. Martial arts are much older than Buddhism and for the most part of China’s history had no connection to Buddhism and were not practiced by common people until the end of XIX century . The most important and for the most part of China’s history , the only factor that drove development of martial arts was the army. One of the most important segments of martial development and a system of martial standards were Imperial military examination.
Military examination mirrored “civil service examinations” or “imperial examinations” in Chinese, known as keju 科舉, keju zhidu 科舉制度, gongju 貢舉, xuanju 選舉 or zhiju 制舉, The Imperial examinations were an essential part of the Chinese government administration and official method for recruiting bureaucrats. First imperial examination started during Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E. to 220 C.E.) although the idea of imperial examination can be traced to even older , Zhou dynasty(c. 1046 BC–256 BC) .The examination system was systematized and adopted its classical form during the time of Sui Dynasty (581–618) .Imperial examination until 1905 , although the degree to which this process was utilized varied over time and i was even discontinued for periods of time . Last exam was held during Qing dynasty and was finally abandoned on 2 September 1905, when the emperor ordered that the old examination system be discontinued at all levels .
To obtain a civil service post, a candidate had to pass through several stages, starting with preliminary local exams, and progressing, if successful, through to district, provincial and palace examinations. Exams were held every three years. Tight quotas restricted the number of successful candidates at each level — for example, only three-hundred students could pass the metropolitan examinations. Students often took the examinations several times before earning a degree.
The subjects of the examinations was limited to the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism as well as mathematics, law, calligraphy, and in early dynasties , poetry , which later was excluded from tests .
The examinations lasted between 24 and 72 hours, and were conducted in spare, isolated examination rooms. In order to obtain objectivity in evaluation, candidates were identified by number rather than name, and examination answers were recopied by a third person before being evaluated to prevent the candidate's handwriting from being recognized.
Like it was said before . Military Imperial examination mirrored civil examination system . Candidates started with testing on local level and if successful they would gradually progress to the imperial palace level.
From candidates on Imperial Military exams were required the same knowledge as for the civil service , like Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism , mathematics ect. With addition of military tactics , strategy, and of course high level of martial arts proficiency . Candidates for Imperial Military exams usually came from military families and they were prepared for exams in military schools .
There is little evidence how military exams looked like before Ming dynasty , when they were finally formalized and even from that period we have little data . The best known ,with the largest amount of written documents , artifacts and other evidence were tests from Qing dynasty period .
Testing on provincial level was consisted of three parts . First part was horseback archery . Candidate had nine arrows and he had to hit at least three targets on the course , he had three laps to ride.
Second part had two sections . First section was stationary archery , basically accuracy testing. Second part was strength testing and had three parts , bow drawing, sabre waving and stone lifting . The strength of the bow was 45 , 55 and 72 kilos . The weight of the sabre was 48, 60 and 72 kilos . The weight of the stones were 120 , 150 and 180 kilos .
The third part of testing was written test . While in previous dynasties this part of the test was quite demanding and probably harder than martial test and included strategy , tactical formations , astronomy, topography , pyrotechnics in Qing dynasty this part of test was just a formality because candidates could not to meet the standards of previous times . Also in Ming dynasty , physical testing included besides what was already named testing with spear , straight sword , sabre , unarmed combat , on the horse and on the ground .
Passing the test would secure the candidate a government appointment to official post with secured income , that goes for civil and military examination .