This may be used to describe either social status or precedence in seniority. In a specific system, or order, it is used to refer to the natural attributes and limitations that differentiate one thing from another. It projects the distinct quality of one thing and at the same time draws the line that marks its difference from others, such as the attributes that differentiate heaven from man, between private and public, and between life and death. It can derive from either natural law or designated titles or standards. As far as the innate character of objects or people is concerned, the term xingfen (性分) is used, meaning “different characters between different objects or people.” In human relations, the responsibility for different people of social status is called zhifen (职分), meaning the special quality that distinguishes one person’s responsibility from that of another.
Many names and titles do not accord with the things they are supposed to represent, and the tasks they carry out do not match what they are supposed to attain. A sovereign ruler must therefore check to ensure all names and titles accord with their attributes. (Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals)
People and objects each have their own natural attributes and limitations, which they cannot ignore or alter. (Guo Xiang: Annotations on Zhuangzi)