The term juren 舉人 first denoted provincial recommendees or candidates for the state examinations. Later on it was a grade bestowed to graduates of the provincial examinations.
The word juren was first used during the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) for recommendees (xianggong 鄉貢) selected by the provincial authorities. During the Sui 隋 (581-618) and Tang 唐 (618-907) periods it was used for candidates sent in by the prefectures, districts, various schools (xueguan 學館) and the Directorate of Education (guozijian 國子監), and who participated in the centrally organized jinshi 進士 examination in the imperial capital.
The Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) allowed graduates (dengke 登科, dengdi 登第) to obtain a state office, while juren not having passed the examination were allowed to take a second examination. The title of juren (prefectural graduate as candidate for the state examination) allowed exemption from taxes and labour service (see yaoyi 徭役), and convicts among them were allowed to buy themselves free (see shuzui 贖罪) for most offences.
During the Ming 明 (1368-1644) and Qing 清 (1644-1911) periods, the title of juren was awarded to graduates of the provincial examination (xiangshi 鄉試). The title was further divided into the six grades xinzhongshi 新中式, xiadi 下第, zuojian 坐監, shujiao 署教, zhengbang 正榜, and fubang 副榜.
Juren were thus candidates for the metropolitan examination (huishi 會試), which took place a year later than the provincial examinations, or were directly appointed to minor posts in the local administration. From 1905 on, after abolishing the traditional system of the state examinations, the title was used for students returning from abroad and who had passed an examination in any field.