Right from the inception of ancient China social structure, it was based on Confucianism. This was the way the ancient China social structure was being built. The main idea was creating a homogenous balance between all groups or levels in the society making a reciprocating social relationship. This structure eliminated the inferiority complex among the lower groups that would have led to oppression and depression based on their lower status or rank in society.
For instance, a daughter who adheres to her mother’s instruction, in the same vein the mother should also act significantly towards her daughter. Therefore, it created a two-way-thing between the higher status and the lower status placing importance on each other. When things like this occur in society there will be no form of conflicts such as oppression, hatred, emotional depression, and any other thing to cause chaos. In China, social interaction among people was built to foster bonds between people of different classes.
The Ancient China Social Structure comprises different social classes used in forming the structure. These structures were created in a way to strike a balance among them. In China at that time, there was nothing like social mobility, and this implies if someone’s father happens to be a farmer, his children will be trained to become a farmer. This was the type of scenario that happened in China, and lots of children took after the profession of their father even when they had no interest in them. Let’s get a proper idea of Confucianism.
What’s Confucianism in Ancient China Social Structure?
During the period of 551-479 BCE, a philosopher known as Kong Fuzi and his disciples whose names are Meniscus, and Xunzi respectively came out with a philosophy on how humans should live in the society at large. The main idea of this Confucianism teaching was not based on imparting ideas or knowledge relating to spiritual matters, or even some rigid compilations of “dos” and “don’ts”. The teaching was to make people live a practical lifestyle in any society they have to find themselves in every day of their lives.
The rules surrounding the teaching of ancient China’s social structure weren’t harsh in any way in terms of demands. During this period, there was nothing like right or wrong action. This implies the morality of one’s actions depending on the circumstances in which they have been performed. For instance, killing someone might not be considered as a scandalous crime, but in some situations, they can be seen as something dreadful.
For instance, if a son kills his father, it was seen as something very terrible, but taking the life of an unjust king was not seen that way. The teaching on the basis of morality regarded as the “Golden Rule” appeared in many of the Confucius’ teaching, and this has been seen on great teachings of the world: “Do unto others only that which one would have others do to you”. From this, it shows some forms of behavior were encouraged, such as propriety, loyalty, and others. These behaviors were deciphered as using courtesy in treating people, and also upholding family values.
Origin of Ancient China
The Xia Dynasty who reigned from 2070 BCE – 1600 BCE was the first dynasty the ancient historical chronicles used for its description. History has it that the creator of the Xia dynasty in the person of Yu the Great was the grandson of Zhuanxu. During this time, there was no way Zhuanxu’s name won’t be mentioned when it has to do with emperors because he was one of the first rulers in China before the creation of the ancient China social structure.
Yu the Great was a man who led his people with good intentions by looking for a means in stopping devastating floods that destroyed agricultural produce. As a result of this flood being stopped, it led to a geometrical increase of farm produce, and this added more influence to the Xia’s tribe. This made his people crowned him as the ruler of the surrounding tribe and after this, he was sent with soldiers to suppress a neighboring tribe causing tension on their Kingdom’s borders. Yu the Great emerged victoriously, and this gave him more confidence, and later on, he became the king.
Important Facts on Ancient China Social Structure
- It is made up of four social classes namely; noble, farmers, artisans, and merchants.
- The four different social classes live in peace and harmony.
- Farmers were the majority of the social class in terms of population.
- The four social classes adhere to Confucius’ teaching.
- The colour of clothing for farmers (peasant) was either black or blue and they were made of cotton.
Ancient China Social Structure
There are four different classes under this structure, and here they are:
- Noble (wealthy people)
- Farmers (peasants)
- Artisans (craftsmen)
1. Noble (Wealthy people):
This class was being ranked as the highest social status in ancient China. The position of government post was occupied by noble families. This social class was fully involved in setting laws for taxes, construction of major projects, and was also part of the China military system. Even in the military system, they had higher rank compared to ordinary soldiers. Those from the noble backgrounds wore expensive clothes obtained from silk materials.
2. Farmers (Peasants):
The highest population of ancient China was farmers or peasants, and they dominated the ancient china social structure. They are involved in the production of foods for the people in China. They play a significant role in making sure the country has a steady supply of food, and also creating a stable economy. Some of these farmers owned a piece of land where they planted crops to fend for themselves and their families. It is said they have to work for the noble class one month in a year in constructing canals, government buildings, city walls, and many other infrastructures.
3. Artisans (Craftsmen):
There were lots of craftsmen in ancient China involved in the creation of metals, ceramics, ornamental jewelry, ships, and clothes. The urban area was where they carried out their works exception of weavers who worked close to the silk farms. In ancient China, silk was being invented from silkworm cocoons, and the industry was initially dominated by the female gender. Some examples of these craftsmen under this social class are metalsmiths, weavers, jewelry makers, potters, shipbuilders, etc.
Initially, this social class was seen as being superior in ancient China. They were seen as an essential part of society contributing to the economical growth of the country. As time went on, they became the lowest social class in the ancient China social structure. They got their daily bread by preying on the two social classes above them (farmers and artisans). The merchants were not allowed to ride on chariots, and also wear any apparel made from silk.