|Officer of Merit (功曹)|
? – ?
|Monarch||Emperor Ling of Han|
Pingyu County, Henan
|Died||195 (aged 45)|
|Relatives||Xu Jing (cousin)|
|Occupation||Official, commentator, character evaluator|
|Courtesy name||Zijiang (子將)|
Early life and career
Xu Shao was from Pingyu County (平輿縣), Runan Commandery (汝南郡), which is present-day Pingyu County, Henan. As a youth, he maintained a good reputation and had a keen interest in the study of human relations. He was known for appraising people. His fame put him on par with others such as Fan Zizhao (樊子昭) and He Yangshi (和陽士). Xu Shao and Guo Tai (郭泰) were famous character evaluators at the time and their appraisals were highly valued among scholar-officials.
Xu Shao started his civil career as an Officer of Merit (功曹) in his home commandery. Xu Qiu (徐璆), the commandery administrator, treated him very respectfully. The other officials in the commandery office became more cautious and conservative in their manners when they heard that Xu Shao was going to be their colleague. When Yuan Shao was on his way home to Runan County after resigning from his post of Prefect (令) of Puyang County, he rode in a carriage and was surrounded by many guards and attendants. Before entering Runan, he ordered his men to leave, saying, "How can I let Xu Zijiang see me like this?" He then travelled home in a single carriage.
Appraisals of Chen Shi and Chen Fan
When Xu Shao went to Yingchuan Commandery (潁川郡; covering present-day southern and central Henan), he visited and mingled with many reputable men in the region, except for Chen Shi. Later, when Chen Fan's wife died, many people attended her funeral but Xu Shao did not show up. When asked, Xu Shao replied, "Taiqiu (Chen Shi) is too well-acquainted, it's difficult for him to be thorough; Zhongju (Chen Fan) is a serious person who hardly makes compromises. These are the reasons why I didn't visit them."
Appraisal of Cao Cao
When Cao Cao was still relatively unknown, he prepared expensive gifts and behaved humbly when he visited Xu Shao in the hope of receiving an appraisal. Xu Shao viewed Cao Cao with contempt and refused to evaluate him, but Cao later found an opportunity to threaten and coerce Xu into giving comments about him. Xu Shao said, "You're a treacherous villain in times of peace and a hero in times of chaos." Cao Cao was very pleased and he left.
However, Sun Sheng's Yitong Zayu (異同雜語) recorded a different quote from Xu Shao. It mentioned that when Cao Cao asked Xu Shao to give him an appraisal, Xu initially refused but eventually relented and said, "You'll be a capable minister in times of peace, and a jianxiong[a] in times of chaos." Cao Cao laughed when he heard that.
Relationships with others
Xu Shao's granduncle was Xu Jing (許敬). Xu Jing's son was Xu Xun (許訓). Xu Xun's son, Xu Xiang (許相), became one of the Three Ducal Ministers by flattering the court eunuchs. Xu Xiang invited Xu Shao to meet him numerous times, but Xu Shao despised him for being a sycophant and refused to see him.
Xu Shao was initially on good terms with Li Kui (李逵), who was from the same hometown as him and was known for his good moral conduct, but relations between them soured later. Xu Shao also could not get along with his cousin Xu Jing (許靖). These two incidents caused some damage to Xu Shao's reputation. Before falling out with each other, Xu Shao and his cousin Xu Jing were famous commentators and they would give comments on certain persons or topics on the first day of every month.
Later life and death
Yang Biao (楊彪), the Excellency of Works (司空; one of the Three Ducal Ministers), once attempted to recruit Xu Shao to serve in his office but the latter refused. Later, when the Han imperial court wanted to recruit Xu Shao again, he declined, "Villains are rampant. The political scene is about to become chaotic. I intend to seek refuge in Huaihai (淮海) and keep my family safe." He then moved south to Guangling (廣陵; around present-day Yangzhou, Jiangsu). Tao Qian, the Inspector (刺史) of Xu Province, treated Xu Shao generously, but Xu felt uneasy and he told others, "Tao Gongzu (Tao Qian) appears to enjoy a good reputation but he is actually not sincere and faithful on the inside. He may treat me very well but his attitude towards me will worsen later. I'd better leave." He then headed further south to Qu'e County (曲阿縣; present-day Danyang, Jiangsu), where he joined Liu Yao, the Inspector of Yang Province. Later, as Xu Shao predicted, Tao Qian arrested all his reputable guests.
When Sun Ce was on a series of conquests in the Wu region, Xu Shao and Liu Yao fled south to Yuzhang Commandery (豫章郡; around present-day Nanchang, Jiangxi). Xu Shao died there at the age of 46 (by East Asian age reckoning).
- The archaic term jianxiong (奸雄) is composed of two Chinese characters – jian (奸; "crafty", "villainous") and xiong (雄; "majestic", "heroic"). It was used to describe a person who is very ambitious (typically power hungry) and who resorts to cunning means to achieve aims. See the dictionary definition of jianxiong.
- (許劭字子將，汝南平輿人也。少峻名節，好人倫，多所賞識。若樊子昭、和陽士者，並顯名於世。故天下言拔士者，咸稱許、郭。) Houhanshu vol. 68.
- (初為郡功曹，太守徐璆甚敬之。府中聞子將為吏，莫不改操飾行。同郡袁紹，公族豪俠，去濮陽令歸，車徒甚盛，將入郡界，乃謝遣賔客，曰：「吾輿服豈可使許子將見。」遂以單車歸家。) Houhanshu vol. 68.
- (劭甞到潁川，多長者之遊，唯不候陳寔。又陳蕃喪妻還葬，郷人畢至，而劭獨不往。或問其故，劭曰：「太丘道廣，廣則難周；仲舉性峻，峻則少通。故不造也。」其多所裁量若此。) Houhanshu vol. 68.
- (曹操微時，常卑辭厚禮，求為己目。劭鄙其人而不肯對，操乃伺隙脅劭，劭不得已，曰：「君清平之姦賊，亂世之英雄。」操大恱而去。) Houhanshu vol. 68.
- (甞問許子將：「我何如人？」子將不荅。固問之，子將曰：「子治世之能臣，亂世之姦雄。」太祖大笑。) Yitong Zayu annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 1.
- (劭從祖敬，敬子訓，訓子相，並為三公，相以能諂事宦官，故自致台司封侯，數遣請劭。劭惡其薄行，終不候之。) Houhanshu vol. 68.
- (劭邑人李逵，壯直有高氣，劭初善之，而後為隙，又與從兄靖不睦，時議以此少之。初，劭與靖俱有高名，好共覈論郷黨人物，每月輒更其品題，故汝南俗有「月旦評」焉。) Houhanshu vol. 68.
- (司空楊彪辟，舉方正、敦樸，徵，皆不就。或勸劭仕，對曰：「方今小人道長，王室將亂，吾欲避地淮海，以全老幼。」乃南到廣陵。 ... 徐州刺史陶謙禮之甚厚。劭不自安，告其徒曰：「陶恭祖外慕聲名，內非真正。待吾雖厚，其埶必薄。不如去之。」遂復投揚州刺史劉繇於曲阿。其後陶謙果捕諸寓士。) Houhanshu vol. 68.
- (及孫策平吳，劭與繇南奔豫章而卒，時年四十六。) Houhanshu vol. 68.