Of Poetry and Ethics
38 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2013 Last revised: 8 May 2014
Date Written: January 13, 2014
Ethics is an important determinant of good governance. However, ethical value is hard to observe, and selecting employees and officials based on ethics can be a challenging task. Ancient Chinese philosophy suggests that poems reflect their authors’ “inner purpose.” During the Tang, one of the most prosperous dynasties in China, the government had a practice of selecting government officials based on the artistic quality of their poems. We thus hypothesize a positive association between the quality of poetry and its author’s ethics. Using historical archival records of civil service officials’ ethics and the artistic quality of their poems during China’s Tang Dynasty, we find a positive association between poetry and ethics and thus preliminary circumstantial evidence that ethical people can be a basis for good organizations.
Keywords: Ethics, Poetry, Jinshi, Tang Dynasty
JEL Classification: D80, D90, G30, H70, J50, K40, M12, N35, N45, Z00
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