Zhuàngyuán, or trạng nguyên in Vietnamese, variously translated into English as principal graduate, primus, or optimus,[1] was the title given to the scholar who achieved the highest score on highest level of the Imperial examination,省試 [ja](in Tang) and 殿試 [zh](in Song)[2] in ancient China and Vietnam.

Imperial exam paper of Ming dynasty Zhuangyuan Zhao Bing-zhong in 1598 AD
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese狀元
Simplified Chinese状元
Hanyu Pinyinzhuàngyuán
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabettrạng nguyên
Chữ Hán狀元

Fu Shanxiang is known as the first (and last) female zhuangyuan (nü zhuangyuan) in Chinese history, but under the Taiping Tianguo, not the regular imperial exams. After the Taipings captured the city of Nanjing, they offered an exam for women in January 1853 in which Fu attained the highest score. [3]

In ChinaEdit

In total, there were 596 zhuangyuan in ancient China.[4]

Noteworthy zhuangyuanEdit

  • Chen Wenlong
  • Weng Tonghe
  • Hong Jun
  • Fu Shanxiang, Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the first and only woman to become a zhuangyuan
  • Mo Xuanqing, was the youngest Zhuangyuan in the imperial examinations during the Tang Dynasty, in Chinese history
  • Sun Fujia, (zh:孫伏伽 (?-658), Tang Dynasty dali qing (chamberlain of the Court of Judicial Review), highly regarded for his candid advice to Gaozu and Taizong.
  • Tang Gao, Tang Gao became the Zhuangyuan, or Number One Scholar (狀元) in the ninth year (1514) of the Zhengde Emperor's reign during the Ming Dynasty
  • Wen Tianxiang, was a scholar-general in the last years of the Southern Song Dynasty. For his resistance to Kublai Khan's invasion of the Song, and for his refusal to yield to the Yuan Dynasty despite being captured and tortured
  • Yu Minzhong, was an official of the Qing Dynasty, who served as chief grand councilor for part of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor.

In VietnamEdit

Noteworthy Trạng nguyênEdit

In modern cultureEdit

In modern Chinese, zhuangyuan is used to refer to anyone who achieves the highest mark on a test, or, more generally, to anyone who is at the forefront of his or her field.[5] In mainland China, the term is most often used to refer to the highest score at the provincial level for either the social sciences (文科) or physical sciences (理科) track of the annual gaokao college entrance exam.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ *Hucker, Charles O. (1985). Dictionary of Official Titles of Imperial China. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 187.
  2. ^ 萧源锦,《狀元史話》,重庆出版社,1992,ISBN 7-5366-1648-1
  3. ^ Mao (1998), p. 43.
  4. ^ 萧源锦,《狀元史話》,重庆出版社,1992,ISBN 7-5366-1648-1
  5. ^ 《现代汉语词典》,商务印书馆,第五版,ISBN 7-100-04385-9

Further readingEdit