From the peasantry to the royalty, the people of Jiao Qin are connected by the cultural belief that success is born of merit. It does not matter what it is you do, so long as you strive to be the best at it. Oddly enough, most Jiao Qinese do not consider this ideology to be at odds with their monarchy–the successor to the throne is determined by the current Emperor, which makes for fierce competitiveness within the courts. Working class members of society advance through their achievements in their chosen Path of Mastery, living by the favour of their communities’ Masters.
The Nine Paths of Mastery are one of the most important features of Jiao Qinese culture; they include Conquest, Discernment, Health, Aesthetic, Arts, Philosophy, Advancement, Fertility, and Spirit. These paths were determined by the ancient philosopher Tseir Jing Zhadh to be the nine seeds of a thriving culture–later, this was reinterpreted as the nine paths to advancing an empire, which remains the popular reading today. Each Path is meant to be treated as equally important, though it is not uncommon to hear spirited debates implying otherwise.
From simple farmhands to legendary courtesans, all jobs within Jiao Qin are connected back to these Paths. As such, a child determines their Path from a young age and, through set rituals and tasks, prove themselves to the Masters in the hopes of achieving higher ranking. The importance of the Paths is reflected in the Jiao Qinese naming system–along with given and family names, each citizen has one or more Path names, which includes their current ranking (between one and nine).
Generally, changing paths before you have achieved at least a lesser ranking of mastery is frowned upon and seen as weak-spirited. No one would be looked down upon for spending their entire life on the Path they began. While all people theoretically have a choice when it comes to their path, it is common for people in lower classes to stick to what their family does, as they are surrounded by Masters more likely to take them on. On the other hand, nobility and royalty are expected to have dabbled in multiple Paths, and make it to at least the Sixth ranking in one before their death. The folk hero Shengdhru Allateinn is said to be the only person who ever achieved mastery in all nine, and is the subject of many popular stories.