By Th. Metzger

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Shang-yü” 9. “P’in-tsao” 20. “Shu-chieh” 21. ” Similarly, the chapter “Ch’iao-i” begins with Ts’ao P’i’s skill in playing pellet chess, a kind of intellectual game. Because the late Han turmoil had driven gentlemen to migrate randomly from place to place, the tracing and investigation of candidates became extremely difficult. To deal with this problem, the Wei regime initiated a new system of selection, the so-called chiu-p’in chung-cheng chih (nine-rank classification [of candidates for office] by the impartial and just, hereafter the “nine-rank system”).

The Yellow Turban Rebels (184–188) tore the entire empire asunder, and contending warlords kept it divided. This chaotic time desperately needed capable officials to help restore order. For this reason, character appraisal, still concerned with the selection of officials, emphasized political ability. ”47 According to the Shih-shuo, Ts’ao Ts’ao was a man for his time: “When Ts’ao Ts’ao was young he had an interview with Ch’iao Hsüan (fl. ). Hsüan told him, ‘The whole realm is now in disorder, and all the warriors are struggling like tigers.

How do they join together to form a discourse? Consider for example a relatively “original” historical account of character appraisal that is not yet codified into a character-writing episode. It is quoted by Liu Chün from Sun Sheng’s (ca. ”22 This episode presents a character appraisal in two parts: its text and context. The text consists of Hsü Shao’s characterization of Ts’ao Ts’ao, evaluating his ability and moral qualities in two opposite political contexts, an age of order and an age of disorder.

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