Scholar-Officials of Imperial China Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teach students about the Scholar-Official class in China with this lesson plan. Students will watch a video lesson to gain a better understanding of the topic, explore its influence and impact through an activity, and take a quiz.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the Scholar-Official class and its role
  • Explain the impact of the Scholar-Official class and the merit system on China
  • Examine advantages and disadvantages of the Scholar-Official class/merit system in China


1 - 1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3

Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.


Key Vocabulary

  • Scholar-Official/Scholar-Official class
  • Merit system
  • Imperial Exam


  • For the activity, set up three sections in your classroom as follows:
  1. Art analysis - Share an image of Ancient Chinese art and ask students to write a paragraph-long analysis.
  2. Handwriting - Students will copy a sample of Chinese writing
  3. Recitation - Students will be given five minutes to memorize a sample of Chinese law, then try to recite to a partner.

Warm-Up and Connect

  • Start the lesson video The Imperial State & Scholar-Official Class in Middle Imperial China and pause at 1:13.
  • Brainstorm with students the jobs listed in the video for Scholar-Officials, such as teachers, supervisors of projects, police, tax collectors and welfare workers.
  • Ask students to share what they know of these jobs in American society. Do people who do these jobs make a lot of money? Are they considered a high social class? Are they honored? Why or why not?
  • Discuss:
    • What education do people who do these jobs have?
    • Is it higher than people in other professions?

Direct Instruction

  • Label the board ''Scholar-Official Class'' and make a t-chart labeled ''Tang'' and ''Sung.''
  • Instruct students to replicate in their notebooks and resume the video lesson.
  • Pause at 3:16 and 4:51 to ask students to share their notes with the class, adding information to the class t-chart. Ask:
    • How was the Scholar-Official Class the same between the two different dynasties?
    • How was it different?
    • What is the merit system? Do you think it's fair? Why or why not?
    • How did Scholar-Officials change over the years?

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