Biographies from the Later Han usually consist of several elements that are arranged in chronological order, but lack a strong narrative bond. One category of these are short anecdotes describing the behaviour or character of the biography’s subject. The content of these anecdotes often seems stereotypical and detailed analysis confirms this suspicion. Some of the motives appear in up to a dozen different biographies. Details like places and names change, but the story told remains almost unchanged. Because of their limited interest for historians, these “characterizing anecdotes” are often ignored. However, they make up a big part of the historiographical materials and thus seem to be an integral part of the biographies. This paper therefore tries to shine some light on their appearance, content and function.