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On The Subject Of Administration

The Governing Principles of Ancient China - Qunshu Zhiyao 360

Good Judge of Character

In judging the character of a person, use the following Eight Observations:

1. When he is prosperous, observe to whom he pays courtesy.
2. When he is prominent and in power, observe whom he recommends or promotes.
3. When he is wealthy, observe whom he employs.
4. When he is trusted by the superior, observe whether his deeds fulfill his words.
5. When in recess, observe whether his recreational activities are in accordance with righteousness.
6. When he is serving under a superior, observe if his conversations correspond with Dao (the righteous path).
7. When he is in poverty and distress, observe whether he will accept ill-gotten gains.
8. When he is in a lowly position, observe whether he will insist on keeping his moral convictions.

And Six Tests:
1. Bring him pleasures to test whether he can maintain his discipline.
2. Make him happy to test whether he will become evil.
3. Make him angry to test whether he is capable of controlling his anger.
4. Bring him fear to test whether he can maintain his disposition and integrity.
5. Make him feel sorrow to test his compassion and kind-heartedness.
6. Put him in distress to test whether he can maintain a strong will.

The Eight Observations and Six Tests listed above are the methods used by the sage-kings to assess the character of people. In addition, we can observe the way a person interacts with his Six Close Relatives and Four Relations to further our assessment. The term “Six Close Relatives” refers to the father, mother, elder brother, younger brother, wife and children. The term “Four Relations” refers to friends, acquaintances, neighbors and trusted aides. Observe a person’s interactions with his six close relatives and the four relations from within, and assess a person’s interactions with the outside world using the Eight Observations and the Six Tests. Whether he is truthful or fake, greedy or lowly, kind or evil, all will be revealed. This was the way the sage-king used to identify capable people.

Scroll 39: Lu Shi Chun Qiu

Duke Jing asked Yanzi about the proper way to acquire virtuous and able people to serve under his lordship. Yanzi said: “If that person is prominent and prosperous, look at the people he employs or recommends. If that person is a non-achiever who is in despair, look at the things that he is unwilling to do. If that person is rich, check whether he would donate his wealth. If that person is destitute, check whether he would refuse to accept ill-gotten gains. The most virtuous and able one may be reluctant to take up a post, but once he does, he is willing to step down when necessary. Next is the one willing to take up a post but is equally willing to step down when necessary. The worst type is the one who is willing to take up a post but refuses to quit regardless of circumstances. These considerations should be enough to identify virtuous and able people.”

Scroll 33: Yan Zi

From the following five observations we can determine whether a person is the right candidate for the post of prime minister. 1. Observe whom he likes to be with when he is not in office. 2. Observe whom he befriends, or to whom he grants offerings, when he is rich. 3. Observe whom he nominates when he is prominent. 4. Observe the things that he refuses to do when he is destitute. 5. Observe the things that he refuses to accept when he is poor.

Scroll 11: Shi Ji, Vol. 1

The military strategic book of Liu Tao sets out eight ways to investigate a good general, as it deemed the selection of the generals to be very important.

1. Ask him questions and observe whether his answers are clear and precise.
2. Then press him further to observe his response to different situations.
3. Commission somebody to conspire secretly with him to test his loyalty.
4. Ask him in no uncertain terms to find out about his virtuous standing.
5. Put him in charge of money and properties to test his honesty.
6. Lure him with lust to test his ability to restrain himself.
7. Expose him to danger to test his bravery.
8. Make him drunk and observe his behavior.

The difference between an exemplary man and an unworthy man will not be hard to tell once all the eight methods have been deployed and the results are found.

Scroll 31: Liu Tao

Rather than listening to hearsay, it is better to observe the events. Rather than observing the events, it is better to observe the actors. When listening to hearsay, one must investigate the sources of the hearsay and identify their motives. When observing events, one must verify their authenticity. When observing the actors, one must investigate their stories thoroughly. A careful analysis of the information gathered from these three aspects can help to minimize the occurrence of mistakes.

Scroll 49: Fu Zi

The ancients knew that for a leader residing in high position to recruit ideal candidates was not an easy task, so the leader would humbly seek the recommendations of his subordinates to look for the right candidates. Being in lower positions, the subordinates are able to mingle with people easily, so it is ideal to use them to recommend the right candidates for government positions.

Scroll 49: Fu Zi

Our personal biases may impede us from recognizing the abilities of another. Hearsay or rumor may influence how people see each other. For those close to us, we may have judged them unfairly because of our personal feelings of love or hatred for them. For those who are strangers to us, personal relations may influence our judgment and may destroy standard procedures for recruiting the best minds to the government.

Scroll 30: Jin Shu, Vol. 2

Confucius said: “It is easy to serve a superior person but difficult to please him. If you do not accord with the principles of virtue in attempting to please him, he will not be pleased. But when it comes to employing the services of others, a superior person only assigns people tasks they are fit to manage. On the other hand, it is easy to please a petty person but difficult to serve him. Even if you do not accord with the principles of virtue in pleasing him, he will still be pleased. But when it comes to employing the service of others, a petty person demands others be able to handle everything.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu

Confucius said: “Can we allow an offensive person to serve a leader? Before he gets a promotion and the remuneration that goes with it, he worries about not getting it. Once he has it, he worries about losing it. When he worries about losing it, there is nothing which he will not do.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu