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A Brief History of the Examination Yuan

In government affairs, “putting wise and competent people in the right positions" is paramount. Since the imperial examination system was used to recruit public servants in the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907AD), qualified citizens have been selected for government service through fair and open examinations, which has become a special feature of the nation’s political system. The Five-Power Constitution, conceived by the nation’s founding father Dr. Sun Yat-sen, incorporates the strengths of both China’s traditional political system and Western democracies. Thus in addition to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government in the West, Dr. Sun’s system includes examination and control branches for a total of five branches.

In October of 1928 the Nationalist Government promulgated the Organic Act of the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China, which defined the duties of the five yuans (“powers” or “branches of government”) and instituted a political system featuring the separation of powers. In 1930 the Examination Yuan was formally established and made responsible for national examinations and the national civil servant personnel system. Thus over the past nine decades, the Examination Yuan has laid a solid foundation for the country's civil service system, and worked together on an equal basis with the other four branches of the government—the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, and Control Yuan—to promote national development.

On October 10, 1928 the Nationalist Government appointed Tai Chuan-hsien as president of the Examination Yuan, immediately established a preparatory office for the Examination Yuan in his residence on Yangpi Alley in Nanjing City, and chose the former Kuanyueh Temple site to construct an office complex to house the Examination Yuan and its subordinate bodies including the Examination Committee and Ministry of Civil Service. Thereafter, the Nationalist Government promulgated the Organic Act of the Examination Yuan on October 20, 1928, the Organic Act of the Ministry of Civil Service on December 7, 1928, and the Organic Act of the Examination Committee on August 1, 1929.

On January 6, 1930 the Examination Yuan and its two subordinate ministries—the Examination Committee (which became the Ministry of Examination after the implementation of the Constitution) and the Ministry of Civil Service—were formally established and began to exercise their powers and discharge their responsibilities according to law. That same day, Examination Yuan President Tai, who concurrently served as Chairman of the Examination Committee, Vice President Sun Ke, Examination Committee Vice Chairman Shao Yuan-chung, and Minister of Civil Service Chang Nan-hsien all assumed office. In December of that year President Tai was released from his concurrent position as Chairman of the Examination Committee and replaced by Vice Chairman Shao. In July of 1937 the War of Resistance Against Japan broke out, and four months later the Examination Yuan moved along with the Nationalist Government from Nanjing to Chongqing, where it stayed until the end of the war, returning to Nanjing together with other government departments in 1945.

In 1947 the Constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was promulgated and became effective on December 25 that year, and the  Organic Act of the Examination was amended in full. On July 10, 1948 Chang Po-ling assumed the post of Examination Yuan president in Nanjing, and the first-term commissioners took office. After the Nationalist Government moved to Taiwan in 1949 the Examination Yuan initially occupied the Confucius Temple in Talungtung, Taipei, moving to its current address in Mucha, Taipei in 1951.

Article 83 of the Constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan) stipulates that the Examination Yuan shall be the highest examination organ of the State, and shall be in charge of matters relating to examination, employment, registration, performance ratings, scale of salaries, promotion and transfer, protection, commendation, bereavement compensation, retirement and old age pension.

The Constitution was amended several times between 1991 and 2005. Article 6 of the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan) stipulates that the Examination Yuan shall be the highest examination body of the State, and shall be responsible for the legal matters listed below, reflecting minor changes to its duties:

1. Holding of examinations;

2. Matters relating to the qualification screening, protection, bereavement compensation, and retirement of civil servants; and

3. Legal matters relating to the employment, discharge, performance evaluation, scale of salaries, promotion, transfer, commendation and award of civil servants.

In keeping with the provisions of the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and to meet the needs of the times, the Organic Act of the Examination Yuan was amended on July 1, 1994, and the Public Service Pension Fund Supervisory Board, Public Service Pension Fund Management Board, Civil Service Protection and Training Commission, and National Civil Service Institute were established on May 1, 1995, June 1, 1996, and July 26, 1999. To enhance the effectiveness of civil service training and build a comprehensive training system, on March 26, 2010 the National Civil Service Institute was reorganized as the National Academy of Civil Service and the Central Taiwan Training Center was established.

For the 1st through 12th terms of the Examination Yuan, the organization was staffed by a president, a vice president, and 19 commissioners, all of whom served a six-year term of office. Beginning with the 13th term, the number of commissioners was reduced from 19 to between seven and nine, and the term of office for the president, vice president, and commissioners was reduced from six years to four. The positions of secretary-general and deputy secretary-general were also established to assist the president in handling day-to-day affairs. The Examination Yuan Headquarters has departments, centers, offices, and committees that carry out their respective duties.

The Examination Yuan has an Examination Yuan Council attended by the organization’s president, vice president, seven to nine commissioners, and the heads of the various subordinate ministries and organizations. The Council decides policies and major issues within its remit as provided by the Constitution.The Examination Yuan organizational structure previously included two ministries and two commissions, and since June 1, 2023 has had two ministries and one commission.

To respond to adjustments to Examination Yuan functions and harmonize with the July 1, 2023 implementation of a new individual retirement account system for newly appointed civil servants, on April 26, 2023 the Organic Act of the Examination Yuan and the Organic Act of the Ministry of Civil Service were amended and the Organic Act of the Bureau of Public Service Pension Fund was enacted. The Organic Act of the Ministry of Civil Service (except for public service pension fund supervision matters) and the Organic Act of the Bureau of Public Service Pension Fund were then implemented on April 30, 2023.

Provisions regarding pension fund supervision matters under the Organic Act of the Examination Yuan and Organic Act of the Ministry of Civil Service were implemented on June 1 that same year, transferring Pension Fund Supervisory Board matters to the Ministry of Civil Service’s Department of Pension Supervision, consolidating supervision matters for the Public Service Pension Fund, Public Servant and Teacher Insurance Program, and the individual pension savings account fund. The organizational structure of the Examination Yuan’s subordinate bodies was also adjusted to include two ministries and one commission.

The Ministry of Examination administers national examinations for civil servants and professional and technical personnel. The Ministry of Civil Service is responsible for civil servant qualification screening, bereavement compensation, and retirement matters, as well as legal matters concerning their appointment and discharge, performance appraisals, pay grades, promotions, transfers, commendations, and awards. To handle pension fund income and expenditures, management, and utilization, on April 30, 2023 the Public Service Pension Fund Management Board under the Ministry of Civil Service was reorganized as the Bureau of Public Service Pension Fund.

The Civil Service Protection and Training Commission is responsible for policies and legal matters regarding the protection of the rights and interests, and the training and continuing education, of civil servants. The Commission also handles protection matters, plans and conducts training for new civil service candidates who successfully pass the written examinations and civil servants who have been promoted, and conducts administrative neutrality training. The National Academy of Civil Service was set up under the Commission to conduct training and continuing education for civil servants. 

The Examination Yuan was founded over nine decades ago, with Tai Chuan-hsien serving as president for almost 20 years prior to the implementation of the Constitution. Since the Constitution was promulgated in 1947, the nation has seen 13 terms of Yuan presidents: Chang Po-lin (1st term, but because he did not come to Taiwan, Niu Yung-chien served the remaining two years of his term of office); Chia Ching-te (1st term); Mo Te-hui (2nd and 3rd terms); Sun Ke (4th and 5th terms); Yang Liang-kung (5th term); Liu Chi-hung (6th term); Kung Te-cheng (7th and 8th terms); Chiu Chuang-huan (8th term); Hsu Shui-te (9th term); Yao Chia-wen (10th term); Kuan Chung (11th term, but did not assume office until December of 2008. Yuan Vice President Wu Jin-lin was acting in that capacity until November of 2008) ; Wu Jin-lin (12th term); and Huang Jong-tsun (13th term), the current president who assumed office in September of 2020.

The Examination Yuan, under the leadership of presidents past and present, has transformed and institutionalized the civil service legal system by evaluating existing circumstances and emerging trends, and then instituting numerous reforms to respond to changing times, meet the peoples’ needs, and promote sustainable national development. By adapting to current conditions and developing government personnel to serve the public, the Examination Yuan has created a modern and competitive civil service organization dedicated to the spirit of promoting the people’s wellbeing.