Ancient China Lifestyle

Ancient China lifestyle was similar to other ancient societies. Farmers made up a large portion of society.

Farmer were considered necessary in ancient China and held a higher status than artisans and merchants. Nobles held great fortunes and the farmers were poorer.

Ancient China lifestyle depended on your social status and your job. There was a wide gap between the finances of farmers and nobles.

The ancient Chinese believed people should act according to their social status. Poor people were expected to act differently than rich people.
Ancient Chinese Children
Women were expected to act than men. People in cities were expected to act differently than people from villages.

Village life

Villages in ancient China consisted of around 100 families. The residents of these villages were farmers.

They lived in small thatched houses that had two rooms. The homes did not contain much furniture except for a bench or table.

Ancient China lifestyle for farmers was difficult. Most of the work was done by hand. Some farmers used dogs or oxen to pull ploughs. During planting and harvesting farmers worked every day with little rest.

People from villages were expected to work for the government around one month every year. During their service to the government, they would build canals, pagodas, city walls, and palaces for the noble.

City life

City life in ancient China was different than living in a village. Most people who lived in cities were government workers, nobles, merchants or artisans. Cities in ancient China grew rapidly. Some cities had hundreds of thousands of people.

Cities in ancient China had large walls made from dirt. The gates to the cities were closed and locked each night. No one was allowed to leave the cities after dark. Homes within the city were constructed of wood and larger than homes in a village.

Roofs were tiled and constructed with a curved shape. City homes did not contain much furniture. Gardens were an important aspect to homes in the city.


Families in the cities and villages lived in the same home. In a typical home, there were children, parents, and grandparents living in the same house. Many times both families lived in the same house with aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Children were taught to respect their elders from birth. Men ruled the home in ancient China. Females were expected to follow the direction of men.

They were expected to obey their husbands or the oldest male in the home. Females took care of children and household duties.

Boys were more valued than girls. Many times baby girls were left to die. Only boys from noble families went to school. Girls did not go to school.

Girls from wealthy or noble families were forced to have their feet bound. The practice of foot binding was cruel but the ancient Chinese believed small feet were beautiful.

Diet in ancient China

Rice and millet were the main staple foods in ancient China. Rice was grown in the southern region of the country. Millet was produced in the northern portion of the country. Everyone in ancient China consumed tea as their favorite beverage.

Poor people ate a bland diet of rice or millet. In the north people ate more dumplings, noodles, and pancakes. Some poor people in the south ate fish. Meat was very expensive in ancient China.
Rich ancient Chinese people had a more varied diet. Besides eating rice and millet, they could afford meat.

Rich ancient Chinese people consumed pigs, chickens, geese, and sometimes dog. They would also eat exotic foods like soups made of bird nests and shark fins.

Important facts about ancient China lifestyle

  • Farmers made up a large portion of society in ancient China.
  • Farmers held a higher social status than merchants and artisans.
  • Villages in ancient China were composed of around 100 houses.
  • Village families lived in small thatched-roofed huts and city dwellers in ancient China lived in larger homes with tiled roofs.
  • There was little furniture in ancient Chinese homes.
  • Ancient Chinese homes contained many generations of family including children’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
  • Ancient Chinese people ate lots of rice and millet.
  • Wealthier ancient Chinese people ate meat from pigs, chickens, ducks, and sometimes dogs.

Old City of Shanghai


1. How were ancient Chinese people expected to live their lives?


2. What houses were built in villages in ancient China?

Two room thatched roof huts

3. Farmers held a higher social status in ancient China than what other groups of people?

Merchants and artisans

4. Wealthy people in ancient China consumed what type of soups?

Shark fin and bird nest