During the Ming and Ching Dynasties, a person became a government official either through the proper route or through a backdoor. The proper route required passing of a a civil service examination. Whereas one of the backdoor routes was by â€˜buying' an official post, like how Tse Wong Sheong got his. During the Ming Dynasty, the court permitted the granting of sinecures in exchange for â€˜donations' as a means of filling its coffers.
Yamen(衙門); a magistrate's or other officials' offices were originally written as ( 牙門) (teeth door) until the Song dynasty.
The official's warrant holder holds 10 warrant sticks. When he gives an order, he will toss out a warrant stick from the holder. This warrant stick is comparable to a military general's order given with an arrow (令箭-an arrow-shaped token of authority used in the army in ancient China.). It represents the authority of the presiding official to carry out an official business. During a trial, when ordering punishment, he will also toss out a warrant stick; it's called: casting the stick. â€œ洒签â€.
Often in a period series, the presiding official likes to bang loudly on his table with his â€˜intimidating block' 惊堂木(like a judge's gavel?) This is to intimidate the accused, and to show off his authority. Usually the block was made of mahogany or sandalwood.
The drum is placed at the entrance of the yamen. Some yamen used copper gongs instead of drums. Either way, they are used for transmitting news. Some yamen do not have either one, so the plaintive will have to yell out his/her grievances or petition; 喊禀 . If a person beats on the drum for no sufficient reason, he/she will be beaten by the yamen as a penalty.