The Nine-Rank Zhongzheng System

The Nine-Rank Zhongzheng System, also known as the Nine-Rank Official Person Law, was an important system for selecting officials during the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties. It was Cao Pi’s adoption of the advice of Shangshu Ling Chen Qun (this system was initiated by He Kui), and all participating parties basically followed it. This unwritten rule. Cao Pi ordered Chen to formulate a legally significant system in the first year of Huangchu (220).

This system gradually became complete in the Western Jin Dynasty, and changed during the Southern and Northern Dynasties. From the beginning of the Cao Wei Dynasty to the establishment of the imperial examination in the Sui and Tang Dynasties, this period lasted for about four hundred years.

The Jiu-pin Zhongzheng system inherited the Chaju system of the Han Dynasty and initiated the imperial examination of the Sui and Tang Dynasties. It occupies a very important position in the history of ancient Chinese political systems. It is one of the three official selection systems in China’s feudal society. It is actually a continuation of the Chaju system of the Han Dynasty. And development, or it is another manifestation of the investigation system.

The nine-rank Zhongzheng system generally means that each state and county elects one Dazhongzheng, who must be an official in the central government and has a high reputation. Da Zhongzheng reproduces Xiao Zhongzheng. Zhongzheng is the official title of appraising talents. After the large and small middle schools are formed, the central government distributes a kind of talent questionnaire, in which talents are divided into nine levels, upper-upper, upper-middle, upper-lower, middle-upper, middle-middle, middle-lower, lower-upper, lower-middle, Down.

This form is registered by all localities and locals, regardless of whether they are official or not, according to their own knowledge. The form details the annual deductions, their respective ranks, and comments. Xiaozhongzheng assisted Dazhongzheng and submitted the form to the official department after review, and the official department proceeded with the promotion and dismissal of the official. This system gave an objective standard for the selection of officials at that time. In fact, this standard still adopted local public opinion and public opinions, and retained the legacy of the Han Dynasty.

On the one hand, the implementation of the Nine Grades Zhongzheng System solved the problem of non-standard selection of officials, and clarified the officials at that time. On the other hand, it eased the tension between the central government and aristocratic families, and facilitated the realization of national reunification in the Wei and Jin Dynasties and laid a solid foundation.

History Background
By the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, the chaju system of the Han Dynasty had been manipulated and used by the clans and nobles. They controlled the public opinion of the village at that time, caused the chaju system to breed all kinds of corruption, and demanded participation in politics by the small and medium landlords and their intellectuals. Sharp contradictions have arisen, and there is a fierce struggle over how to select officials. After Cao Cao’s death, after Cao Pi adopted Chen Qun’s proposal, Jiupin Zhongzheng established the main official selection system during the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties. But at that time, the investigation has not been completely abolished. The Nine-Rank Zhongzheng system came into being under this background situation.

In terms of content, there are three main points in the nine-grade Zhongzheng system.

This is the key link of the Nine-Rank Zhongzheng system. The so-called Zhongzheng refers to the person in charge of evaluating people in a certain area, that is, the Zhongzheng official. Zhongzheng officials are divided into different sizes. The state has a large Zhongzheng official who is in charge of the evaluation of the people in the middle and several counties of the state, and each county has a small Zhongzheng official. Zhongzheng officials were initially elected by the chiefs of the counties, and after the Jin Dynasty, they were selected and appointed by Situ among the three court officials. Among them, the small middle official of the county can be elected by the big middle official of the state, but still needs to be appointed by Situ.

Under normal circumstances, the central officials of the prefectures and counties are the current central officials recommended by Situ, and sometimes, Situ or the official ministers also directly serve as the central officials of the state. This is to ensure the central government’s direct control over the elections and avoid others’ interference with Zhongzheng’s affairs. There are also subordinates named “Visiting” for all officials of the Central Government.


This is the main responsibility of the Zhongzheng official. The Zhongzheng official was responsible for evaluating scholars of his fellow nationality, including scholars living in this prefecture and scattered in other counties.

The evaluation has three main contents:

  1. Family background: family origin and background. Refers to the seniority and official status of the fathers and grandfathers and the rank of titles. These materials are called Bushi or Biaoshu, which must be mastered in detail by the Zhongzheng official.
  2. Behavior: It is the general evaluation of personal character ability, which is equivalent to the character comment. The general evaluations of the Wei and Jin Dynasties are generally very brief, such as “Tiancai Yingbo, bright and not group”, “good virtue and less ability” and so on.
  3. Set product: Determine the grade. In principle, the order is based on the status, family history is for reference only. However, after the Jin Dynasty, the grade was determined entirely by family background. No matter how high the rating of a poor-born person is, they can only be ranked as a low-grade; a poor-born person can also be ranked as a top-grade. As a result, there was a situation where “the top grade has no frustration, and the lower grade has no nobles” at that time.

The result of Zhongzheng’s evaluation was submitted to Situ Mansion for review and approval, and then sent to the Ministry of Officials as the basis for selecting officials. The grades assessed by Zhongzheng are also called “township grades”, which are closely related to the official career of the critics. The official quality of the official must be adapted to the local quality. The starting point for the high-ranking official (also known as the “starting official”) is often the “upright official”, and the promotion is also fast, respected, and the low-ranking official becomes an official. The starting point is often a “turbulent official”, and promotion is slow, which is despised by others.

The reviewers of Zhongzheng are adjusted once every three years as usual, but Zhongzheng can also upgrade or drop the reviewers at any time. After a person’s hometown quality rises and falls, the official rank and the turbidity of the resident officials often change accordingly. In order to improve Zhongzheng, the government also prohibits the judges from litigating for futility. However, China’s fixed-products violated the law, and the government must investigate its responsibility.