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Teleport Yourself To Ancient China: Master The Eight-Legged Essay

If there is anyone who’s been stereotyped more than North Korea’s under-20 ruler, it is the ancient people. Every generation likes to think the preceding ones were dumb and up to no good. But history narrates awe-inspiring stories of advanced civilizations and their contribution to art, music, science and many other areas.

eight-legged essay writing

In this piece, we talk about an advanced and tricky way to gauge the intellect and intelligence of examinees in ancient China. The eight-legged essay was an essay writing technique, which was needed to be mastered by those aspiring to pass imperial examinations during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Do You Have What It Takes To Construct The Essay?

The eight-legged essay is eight-legged, literally and metaphorically. The essay was constructed around a specific structure. Apart from other abilities, it required mastering of certain “Four Books and Five Classics”.

Are you already wondering whether you would have been terrible at it were God to destine you to be born among ancient Chinese? Well, tell you what? You probably should! Boy, is the essay tricky!

That’s because the essay also tested the examinee’s capability of using classical allusions and idioms at the most suitable places.

What Eight Legs Do You Talk About?

The essay had eight legs, as we already mentioned. What were they? Let’s have a look!


The opening comprises of two sentences of prose, providing a brief intro to the topic of the essay.


This part provides details about the theme. It comprises of five sentences of prose.

Preliminary Exposition

This part is supposed to have prosaic writing

Initial Argument

Very, very tricky part! You are required to construct a particular number of parallel sentence pairs. These are supposed to address and express similar meanings, and here’s the tricky part, with similar structure but different words.

Central Argument

This part explains the central theme of the essay using sentences written in parallel.

Latter Argument

This part acts as an extension to the previous part. Whatever points were life in the previous section can be discussed here. It requires to be written in a serious tone, with the content rooted in pragmatism.

Final Argument

This part is used to go over the main theme of the essay again.


This is the part where you can let your creativity flow. Wrap up the essay with powerful concluding remarks.

More Rules

These aren’t the only rules you have to follow to produce the essay the way it should be. It requires to be wrapped up in a strictly defined word limit.

Also, No Slang Kids

The examinees were not permitted to use a specific set of offensive words in the essay; words which could disclose the examinee’s identity or status were also to be avoided.

Since mastering the art of eight-legged essay writing was a requirement for passing top-tier examinations, the essays started being printed in large numbers to assist examinees ace the exams. It has been reported that the government was pondering over the idea of reprinting the best papers of the previous century.

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