Professional promotion tournaments
The new system employed by the Nihon Ki-in is based on winning a certain number of games at each rank, with accelerated promotion for those performing well in tournaments (low rank promotions based on prize money won, high rank promotions based on winning/qualifying for leagues in Big Titles). For more details, see Nihon Ki-in new promotion system.
Past: Japanese Oteai and Korean Seongdan Taeheui
The basic model for many years of professional promotion through the dan ranks was the Oteai of the Nihon Ki-in.
Except for a few cases, in which title-winning pros have been promoted on the basis of proven strength, it has been assumed in Japan (in the Kansai Ki-in as well as the Nihon Ki-in) that new pros start at 1 dan and work up towards 9 dan step by step, in a special ongoing tournament. The original Spring and Autumn Oteai sessions were therefore similar in spirit to what goes on in sumo.
In South Korea a similar system, the Seongdan Taeheui?, was also applied. However, both that system as well as the Japanese Oteai have been discontinued.
The Chinese professional system was established back in 1982. At that time professional players were given temporary ranks based on their past performance (the first batch of pros did not start from shodan). The standard was actually quite high in 1982: Chen Zude, Wu Songsheng and Nie Weiping, three leading figures were awarded 9-dan directly (Nie repeatedly beat top Japanese players since the late 1970s so he clearly deserved it); Ma Xiaochun was a 7-dan; Liu Xiaoguang was a 6-dan; Yu Bin was only a 3-dan. Newer promotions are awarded on the basis of a very tough promotion tournament system or outstanding performance. An example of the latter is Chen Yaoye, who was promoted to 9p in 2007 (the youngest ever) after he was runner-up to Lee Sedol in the Asian TV Cup, while he also reached the finals of the 10th LG Cup in 2006.