The Censorate was a high-level supervisory agency in ancient China, first established during the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC).
The Censorate was a highly effective agency during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). During the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), the Censorate was a branch of the centralized bureaucracy, paralleling the Six Ministries and the five Chief Military Commissions, and was directly responsible to the emperor. The investigating censors were "the eyes and ears" of the emperor and checked administrators at each level to prevent corruption and malfeasance, a common feature of that period. Popular stories told of righteous censors revealing corruption as well as censors who accepted bribes. Generally speaking, they were feared and disliked, and had to move around constantly to perform their duties.
The Censorate was divided into three branches (院).
The Palace Branch (殿院) was responsible for monitoring the behavior of officials during audiences; it was staffed by in-palace enquiry censors (殿中侍御史).
The Admonishment Branch (台院) was responsible for monitoring the behavior of the emperor, to ensure that he did not make mistakes and remind him of his duties; it was staffed by enquiry censors (侍御史).
The Detection Branch (察院) was responsible for monitoring the behavior of local officials; monitor censors (監察御史) would tour the country in circuits to ensure the proper discharge of the functions of government and good performance of local officials.
Hucker, Charles O. (December 1958). "Governmental Organization of The Ming Dynasty". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Harvard-Yenching Institute. 21: 1–66. doi:10.2307/2718619. JSTOR2718619.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Li, Konghuai (2007). History of Administrative Systems in Ancient China (in Chinese). Joint Publishing (H.K.) Co., Ltd. ISBN978-962-04-2654-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)