January 31, 2024 – Book Launch “Betting on the Civil Service Examinations”

noon – 1:30 pm via Zoom | Register Here | flyer PDF

Weixing, or “surname guessing,” was a highly organized lottery practice in China wherein money was bet on the surnames of which candidates would pass the civil and military examinations. Opening with a weixing-related examination scandal in 1885, En Li reconstructs the inner mechanisms of weixing and other lottery games in the southern province of Guangdong and traces a series of institutional revenue innovations surrounding lottery regulation from the 1850s to the early 1900s, and depicts an expansive community created by the lottery with cultural and informational channels stretching among Guangdong, Southeast Asia, and North America. This book sheds light on a new reality that emerged during the final decades of China’s last imperial dynasty, with a nuanced understanding of competitions, strategic thinking by lottery players and public officials.

Speaker: Dr. En LI, University of Texas at Dallas

Professor En Li is a historian of late imperial and modern China, with an emphasis on socio-cultural history of China and its overseas communities. She obtained her Ph.D. in Chinese History from Washington University in St. Louis in 2015. Her first book, Betting on the Civil Service Examinations: The Lottery in Late Qing China, was published by the Harvard University Asia Center in 2023. Prior to working at the University of Texas at Dallas, she was a tenured professor at Drake University and was honored with Drake’s Arts and Sciences “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” Award in 2021 and nominated for the University’s Madelyn M. Levitt Mentor of the Year Award in 2022.


Cameron Campbell, Chair Professor, Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; project leader of the China Government Employee Database-Qing (CGED-Q).
Annelise Heinz, Associate Professor of History, University of Oregon, author of Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture (Oxford University Press, 2021).
Zachary Howlett, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Yale-NUS College, National University of Singapore (NUS); author of Meritocracy and Its Discontents: Anxiety and the National College Entrance Exam in China (Cornell University Press, 2021).

Moderator: Baoyan Cheng, UHM-Educational Foundation Department

Co-sponsors: UHM Educational Foundation Dept.