a1 University of California
As had been the case throughout much of Chinese history, government during the Ch'ing dynasty (1644–1911) was largely in the hands of a civil bureaucracy staffed by the Confucian literati. Prevailing political thought held that moral suasion and commonly held ideals were in a large way responsible for keeping both the society and the body politic running smoothly. For this and other reasons, the court assigned a rather small number of bureaucrats to manage a truly vast population. In addition, it was commonly assumed by rulers and the ruled that China's was and should be primarily an agrarian society of self-sufficient peasants. The only orthodox avenue of social, even spatial, mobility was the Confucian examination system which led successful candidates into the bureaucracy. This view denigrated the importance of commerce, of technological advancement, of learning outside the Confucian classics; and it acted as a brake on social, political, and economic development.