It is recorded in the Han chronicles that when Emperor Wen visited his pleasure park he went to the area called Tiger Garden. There he questioned the official in charge of the park about the various animals. The official did not respond. The caretaker beside him, however, answered in great detail. Emperor Wen instructed Zhang Shizhi [an attendent] that the caretaker was to be given administration of the gardens because of his ability. But Zhang reminded him of Zhou Bo and Zhang Xiangru, who were virtuous with words to those above them in rank. Zhang advised that if Wen accepted the clever speech of the caretaker as a virtue and raised him in rank, the world must then bow to [the vagaries of] the winds. People will compete in clever speech and truth will become unimportant. The emperor agreed and the clever caretaker was not promoted. Gerhart “Tokugawa Authority ”Monumenta Nipponica 52.1 Story from Shi ji 102
This is sort of an odd story, since Han China is supposed to be the beginning of Chinese bureaucracy, which is supposed to be meritocratic. In fact this is a great story for illustrating Han ideas about slander and bureaucracy. Early Chinese rulers and thinkers were obsessed with slander, which is attacked over and over again in many texts. The problem with slander is that it is very effective. Particularly in times of social change you are what people say about you, and if they say bad things you are a bad person. Words create reality. The most important ability for a ruler is the ability to control how words create reality.
The message to the emperor here is that he needs to not be gulled by a clever tongue, but rather put his trust in the bureaucratic system, the established mechanism for the regulation of words. One of these guys outranks the other and there must be a reason for it. Don’t trust your ears, trust Human Resources. (Actually, don’t make any decisions at all.) Interestingly I found the story and the picture in an article on the Tokugawa Shoguns, so apparently this is one of the standard stories told to East Asian rulers, at least when they are trying to set up bureaucratic states.