The civil service examinations of Imperial China allowed the state to find the best candidates to staff the vast bureaucracy that governed China from the Han Dynastyonwards (206 BCE – 220 CE). The exams were a means for a young male of any class to enter that bureaucracy and so become a part of the gentry class of scholar-officials. The exams had multiple levels and were extremely difficult to pass, requiring extensive knowledge of Confucian classics, law, government, and oratory amongst other subjects. For the state, the system supplied not only able candidates who were selected on merit but also ensured an entire class developed which had sympathy with the ruling status quo. The exams were in place for over a thousand years and are the principal reason why education is still particularly revered in Chinese culture today.