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Imperial Exam Cheat Sheet

This imperial exam cheat sheet or crib sheet was made in China in the 19th century out of silk and ink.

The Chinese imperial exams began in 605 during the Sui Dynasty and continued until near the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1905. Individuals had to pass these exams to serve as a government officials. Theoretically any male could take the exam and become an official if he passed, but the amount of education needed to pass this three-day long test was prohibitory to many men.

The difficulty of these exams led many men to use creative methods to better their chances of passing, including by hiding cheat sheets on their persons. This silk cheat sheet is just such an example. It is a silk handkerchief covered with text written with ink and brush. A similar example is in Columbia University’s collection.

Circa: 19th century

Origin: China

Material: Silk

Condition: Excellent

Dimensions: 16" x 17"

Inventory number: TX3354



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