Ancient China social structure was based on Confucisism. Confucius believed that society needed to find balance and harmony with each group.
The four social classes under Confucius were noble or wealthy people, farmers or peasants, artisans or craftsmen and merchants. Merchants were viewed as the lowest form of social status in ancient China.
Social mobility in ancient China did not exist. If your father was a farmer you would train to be a farmer.
Noble and wealthy people
Noble and wealthy people held the highest social status in ancient China. Noble families held positions within the government and ruled the country.
They set laws for taxes, construction projects and were also in the military. While in the military, noble families or wealthy people held higher rank than ordinary soldiers.
Noble and wealthy families were allowed to wear clothes made of silk. The emperor wore yellow silk robes.
The population of ancient China was dominated by farmers and peasants. They worked the fields to produce as much food as their land would allow.
Farmers and peasants in ancient China were seen as a necessary group of people for the country to grow and be stable. Farmers and peasants could own land but not many did own land.
They were forced to pay tribute to land owners and work for the government for one month a year. During this period of working for the government, farmers and peasants built canals, city walls or government buildings.
Artisans and craftsmen
There were a number of specific artisans and craftsmen in ancient China. This group of people in ancient China performed jobs such as potters, metal smiths, jewelry makers, clothes, weavers, and ship builders.
Artisans and craftsmen worked primarily in urban areas such as cities but weavers worked next to the silk farms. Ancient China invented silk from silk worm cocoons and the industry was first dominated by female workers.
At first merchants in ancient China held a higher social status. They were seen as a necessary part of society to help grow the country. Over time, merchants became the lowest social class in ancient China.
Merchants were seen as people that preyed on the farmers, artisans and craftsmen. Merchants tried to undercut prices paid for finished and un-finished goods to make more profit.
Do’s and don’ts in ancient China
According to Confucius ancient Chinese social structure was based on harmony and balance. The ancient Chinese believed people should act like other people in their social class.
Specific rules were made and enforced in ancient China in order for people to act like their specific social class. Merchants and farmers had the most rules levied against them.
Merchants could not wear silk or ride in chariots. Farmers and peasants wore black and blue clothing made of hemp or cotton.
Important facts about ancient China social structure
- There were four social classes in ancient China including noble, farmers or peasants, artisans or craftsmen, and merchants.
- The four social classes were based on the teachings of Confucius.
- The four social classes were to allow people to live in harmony and balance.
- Farmers were the largest social class in ancient China.
- Merchants were considered the lowest social class of people in ancient China.
- The silk worm industry was first dominated by female workers.
- Farmers and peasants were only allowed to wear black or blue clothing made of hemp or cotton.
- Merchants could not wear silk or ride in chariots.
1. How many social classed were in ancient China social structure?
2. Which social class was considered to be the lowest?
3. Ancient China social structure was based on what type of teaching?
4. Which social class was not allowed to ride in chariots?
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