Chapter 5: Social Structure
5. Social structure Chinese traditional society was strictly hierarchically ordered, with the population basically divided into two different classes, the rulers and the ruled. The rights, obligations and privileges of each class were clearly delineated and left little room for individual freedom or initiative. Box 5.1 depicts the social structure which developed in the Ming–Qing period and remained stable up to the modern period. At the apex of the Chinese social pyramid stood the Emperor, the Son of Heaven, whose function was to guarantee the harmony between heaven and earth. Closest to him was the hereditary imperial nobility, made up of the Emperor’s clansmen. The next level, the non-Imperial nobility, was created as status reward for exceptional, mostly military, services and these positions were not hereditary. The next level was made up by the scholar-officials or the gentry. The gentry, the scholar-elite, were given the power to govern the country because of their scholastic achievements which comprised both academic achievements and character-forming Confucian ethics. According to the monumental studies of Chang (1955) and Ho (1964) the Chinese gentry can be further subdivided into two main groups. The first of these consisted of degree holders with official appointments. Government officials were further divided into nine ranks. The first three ranks were made up of senior government bureaucrats at the central and provincial government levels, such as the Prime Minister, the Governor General and other provincial government officials. The second tier, which included the 4th to 7th rank, was constituted by...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.