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Social structure of China

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Metropolitan Civil Examination Records from the Sixth Year of the Hongzhi Reign (1493)
Metropolitan Civil Examination Records from the Sixth Year of the Hongzhi Reign (1493)

The social structure of China has an extensive history which begins from the feudal society of Imperial China to the contemporary era.[1] There was a Chinese nobility, beginning with the Zhou dynasty. However, after the Song dynasty, the powerful government offices were not hereditary. Instead they were selected through the imperial examination system, of written examinations based on Confucian thought, thereby undermining the power of the hereditary aristocracy.[2]

Imperial China divided the country into Four occupations or classes, with the emperor ruling over them. Throughout this time period, there were attempts to eradicate this system. Social mobility was difficult, or sometimes nearly impossible, to achieve as social class was primarily defined by an individual's identity. To rise required passing a very difficult written exam. The great majority failed, but for those who passed their entire family rose in status.[3]

During the Song dynasty, there was a clear division in social structure which was enforced by law. However, commoners could move up in society through acquirement of wealth. Through passing the imperial exam or donating resources, people could enter the gentry. By the Yuan dynasty, there was a decrease in protection by the law for commoners. Gentry, however, were given more privileges. The Yuan dynasty also saw an increase in slavery, as the slave status became hereditary. The new policy for commoners at this time also made the various categories within the commoner status hereditary. The Ming dynasty saw a decrease in the number of categories for commoners, in comparison to the policy implemented during the Yuan dynasty. The three categories that remained were hereditary, making it nearly impossible to move between them. Gentry were also divided into two types. By the Qing dynasty, the peasants were seen as the most respected class. Merchants were far lower in status, unless they purchased gentry status.

During China's economic reform of 1978, social structure in the country underwent many changes as the working class began to increase significantly. In 21st century China, social structure is more reliant on employment and education, which allows citizens to have more social mobility and freedoms.


The teaching of Confucius (551 BCE – 479 BCE) taught of five basic relationships in life:

  • Father to son
  • Older sibling to younger sibling
  • Husband to wife
  • Friend to friend
  • Ruler to structure

For dynasties that used Confucianism (not Legalism), the first noted person(s) in the relationship was always superior and had to act as a guide and leader/ role model to the second noted person(s), as the second person was to follow. For example: Father, 1st noted; Son, 2nd noted.

In the Confucian view of the economy, agricultural work was morally superior. The point was work was the embodiment of a social contract. The emperor and his officials worked to ensure the welfare of the people (or "min") envisaged as peasant families. The male min worked in the fields to produce grain for their own food and for taxes; their wives made clothing for everyone. Agriculture was thus fundamental. Crafts and trade were secondary, and typically pernicious by diverting productive labor and promoting extravagance.[4]

Early Imperial Period

From the Qin Dynasty to the late Qing Dynasty (221 B.C.- A.D. 1840), the Chinese government divided Chinese people into four classes: landlord, peasant, craftsmen, and merchant. Landlords and peasants constituted the two major classes, while merchants and craftsmen were collected into the two minor. Theoretically, except for the position of the Emperor, nothing was hereditary.[5]

During the 361 years of civil war after the Han Dynasty (202 B.C. - 220 A.D.), there was a partial restoration of feudalism when wealthy and powerful families emerged with large amounts of land and huge numbers of semi-serfs. They dominated important civilian and military positions of the government, making the positions available to members of their own families and clans.[6][7] The Tang dynasty extended the Imperial examination system as an attempt to eradicate this feudalism.[8]

Song dynasty

A Song dynasty gentry and his servant depicted by Ma Yuan circa 1225
A Song dynasty gentry and his servant depicted by Ma Yuan circa 1225

During the Song dynasty social strata were clearly divided and enforced by the law. At the bottom of the pyramid were the commoners who were categorized into two groups: Fangguo Hu (city dwellers) and Xiangcun Hu (rural population). Fangguo Hu and Xiangcun Hu had ranks. The first rank, commoners (both Fangguo and Xiangcun), were the wealthiest. The ranks of commoners could change over time, as one who acquired more wealth could be promoted to a higher rank.

On the other hand, gentry and government officials were not commoners. They and their families belong to Guan Hu (Gentry). Guan Hu was not an exclusive social stratum like European nobility; by participating and passing the imperial exam, one can be qualified as a member of Guan Hu. In addition, relatives of a government official can become a Guan Hu through the system of En Yin. In some rarer cases, a commoner can become Guan Hu by donating a large amount of money, grain, or industrial materials to the imperial court. In 1006, Guan Hu accounted for 1.3% of the entire population. The percentage of Guan Hu increased to 2.8% by the year 1190. The growing population of Guan Hu was partly due to the system of En Yin which allows a relatively easy entry into the stratum of Guan Hu.[9]

At the top of the social pyramid was the royal house of the Song dynasty. The royal house consists of the Emperor, Empress, concubines, princes, and princesses. The royal house enjoys the highest quality of life with everything provided by other social strata. With imperial fields (fields that were owned by the emperor), the basic food supplies of the royal house were satisfied. Luxury items in the imperial court also had their sources. Tea, for example, was provided by the imperial tea plantation. Annually, local products of various regions of China were paid as tributes to the royal house.

During the Song Dynasty, slave trading was forbidden and punished by law. However, slavery was not entirely absent from the history of the Song dynasty. To some extent, there were slave traders who illegally kidnapped commoners and sold them as slaves. Criminals were sometimes converted to slaves by the government. However, traditional slavery was not a common practice during the Song dynasty. Servants of wealthy gentry usually kept a contract-like relationship with the lords served.[10]

In reality, the Song society's structure had evolved and changed over time. After the Jingkang incident, the phenomenon of land annexation became increasingly obvious. By land annexation, the wealthy commoners and government officials privatized lands that were public or owned by poorer people. In the late Song dynasty, the society's two ends polarized. Wealthy landowners devoured most of the cultivable lands, leaving others in extreme poverty. Even the imperial court's profit was curbed. Taxation was illegally avoided by wealthy landowners and the court eventually found itself collecting much less amount of taxes than ever before.[11] Xie Fangshu, an investigating censor famously described the situation as "The flesh of the poor ones becomes the food of the strong ones" (弱肉强食).[12]

Jurchen Empire

The Jurchen Jin dynasty coexisted with the Song dynasty after Jingkang incident. The Jurchen empire ruled the northern part of China. Under the Jurchen rule, the conventional code Begile was introduced. Under this code, an emperor and his courtiers were equal. Emperor Xizong of Jin reformed the empire's legal system and abolished the Begile during the reform of Tianjuan. The reform eliminated the aboriginal Jurchen conventions and substituted them with the conventions of the Song and Liao dynasties. During the Jin dynasty, Minggan Moumuke, groups of Jurchen soldiers who settled down in Northern China, changed their nomadic lifestyle to the agricultural lifestyle of Chinese commoners.[13]

Yuan dynasty

Kublai Khan hunts while accompanied by others
Kublai Khan hunts while accompanied by others

Kublai, the founder of the Yuan dynasty, notably gave many financial privileges to the gentries of Jiangnan region. After the defeat of the Song dynasty by Yuan, making friends with the local elites of Song became important. As a consequence, the most wealthy ones in the Song social strata remained wealthy in the Yuan dynasty.

Contrary to the situation of the gentries, commoners of the Yuan dynasty found themselves less protected by the law. Mongol rulers did not seem to take the interests of commoners a priority. A great number of ordinary farmers were converted to plantation workers working for the gentries. The wealthy entered upon the properties of commoners while making them essentially slave-peasants.[14]

The Mongols in the Yuan dynasty belong to numerous clans. Tao Zongyi first provided a list of all the Mongol clans which was later falsified by Japanese historian Yanai Watari. However, Tao's account was one of the few contemporary accounts of Mongols during the Yuan dynasty. The records and documents of the Yuan dynasty provide extremely limited information about the social strata of Mongols. Despite the lack of historical records, it is safe to say that Mongols enjoyed privileges that other ethnic groups did not. During their reign, the Mongols converted a large number of rice fields into pastures because agriculture was foreign to them. Both the government and Mongol nobles opened up pastures in China by taking the rice fields away from ordinary farmers.[15]

Other social castes including Semu, Hanren, and Nanren existed under the rule of Mongols. Hanren refers to dwellers of Northern China, Korea, and Sichuan. Nanren refers to citizens of the Song dynasty (excluding people from Sichuan, although the region was a part of Song).[16]

Yuan dynasty introduced the policy of Colored population statistics (Chinese: 諸色戶計). The policy divided commoners according to their occupation. Farmers, soldiers, craftsmen, hunters, physicians, messengers, and Confucian scholars are some of the categories under this policy. The farmers had the largest population among all the commoners in the Yuan dynasty. These categories are hereditary. One soldier will give birth to a son who will later become a soldier. In comparison with other commoners, craftsmen were treated more fairly since the Mongols deemed the skills of making weapons necessary for their conquest of the world. The Mongols routinely massacred Chinese civilians with the exception of Craftsmen.[17]

Slavery was common during the Yuan dynasty. The main sources of slaves include captives,[18] criminals, kidnapped commoners, buying and selling of human lives. Slave status was also hereditary. A slave will give birth to slave children.[19][20]

Ming dynasty

Palace gate of Prince Jingjiang in Guilin. The palace-city of Ming princes is the symbol of privilege they enjoyed during the Ming dynasty
Palace gate of Prince Jingjiang in Guilin. The palace-city of Ming princes is the symbol of privilege they enjoyed during the Ming dynasty

The Ming dynasty was the second to the last imperial dynasty of China established in 1368 following the fall of Yuan dynasty. The imperial court of Ming kept a nationwide register of every subject---Ji (籍).[21] This practice of registering population was inherited from the previous Yuan dynasty. Venetian traveler Marco Polo noticed a similar policy during his visit to Hangzhou.[21] Ming government formalized the registration with the yellow booklet which records every member of a given family. In addition, there was the white booklet which records the taxation of a family.[22]

The policy of Colored population statistics of the Yuan dynasty was inherited by Ming and reformed. The numerous categories of commoners were reduced into only 3 categories. Soldier, Commoners, and Craftsmen. These castes were hereditary and fixed. Moving from one category to another was virtually impossible. Subcategories of the three main categories were more specific and profession-based. According to Taiwanese historian Cai Shishan, there were also salt refiners which were independent from other 3 categories.[23]

Gentries during the Ming dynasty belong to the caste of commoners. There were two types of gentries. Those who passed the entry-level exam of the imperial exam were called Shengyuan (生員). All Shengyuan receive a fixed amount of allowance from the imperial court. The average amount of allowance ranges from 18 tael to 12 taels. The rest of the gentries mainly earned their living by teaching in private schools as mentors.[24][25]

Farmers during the Ming dynasty had two groups. Self-sustained farmers accounted for 10% of all farmers while tenants farmers of wealthy landlords made up as much as 90%. They had more burdens and gained less harvest than self-sustained farmers.[24]

Craftsmen were severely exploited by the government. They had to provide free services upon the demand of the imperial court without any reward.[23] The two groups of Craftsmen are: Official craftsmen who directly worked for the court and Common craftsmen who provide paid services for others.[24]

In the Ming dynasty, the Royal house was a large and special social stratum. The royal house of Ming includes any descendants of Emperor Taizu of Ming and his nephew Prince Jingjiang Zhu Shouqian. Emperor Taizu had 26 sons and 19 of them had offspring. With the line of Prince Jingjiang, the royal house consists of 20 different cadet branches. Members of the royal house were not allowed to have an ordinary life by laboring. All the expenditures of the royal house were paid by the money taken from the annual tax revenue collected from commoners. Additional perks such as legal privileges and luxury items were given as gifts by the imperial court.[26] In the middle of the 17th century, the population of the royal house was so large that their living expenditures had taken up to 225.79% of the annual tax revenue causing a virtual bankruptcy of the government.[27]

Qing dynasty

Diagram of the social structure during the Qing dynasty
Diagram of the social structure during the Qing dynasty

In the Qing dynasty, the population could be divided into five classes. The top class was the emperor and his immediate family. After that came the gentry (officials all the government). Next came the agriculturalists, landlords, farmers and peasants. Then the artisans and merchants. In last place came the lower classes of vagabonds and criminals. For centuries China had developed its system of social stratification based on the theoretical principles of Confucian philosophy.

By the late 18th century, the system was largely fixed, giving political power at the national, provincial and local levels as well as status to a small number of men who after spending years in elaborate, expensive study, were able to pass extremely difficult written tests in Confucian philosophy. The highest level was known as the “gentry” or the literati. Their numbers grew from 1.1 million in 1850 to 1.5 million in 1900.[28][29] The exams were the route whereby Han Chinese had access to high government office, which was otherwise largely monopolized by the small Manchu governing minority. The exams became more difficult, and more arbitrary as shown by the notorious “Eight-legged essay”. The vast majority of candidates wasted their years of expensive years as they failed again and again. Only wealthy families could afford the investment, and for the great majority it did not pay off. Increasingly the richest families instead purchased their certificates of high status. The elite was closed for practical purposes, and those who failed became often very frustrated and even led rebellions. For example, Hong Xiuquan (1813-1864) repeatedly failed, despite innate talents that enabled him to study Christianity in serious fashion and go on to form and lead the greatest rebellion in the 19th century world. Some of his top officials had also failed the exams such as Feng Yunshan and Hong Rengan. Yuan Shikai came from a literary elite but he failed his exams; his family purchased a military command for him and he rose to the top of the military and in 1912 became president of China. The civil service exams were almost ended in the Hundred Days' Reform of 1898 but the reactionaries won out. The system was finally abolished in 1905.[30][31]


Gentry or Mandarins were government officials. Most Gentry owned land, which was where most of their income came from. For other gentry the main source of income was from their government service.[32] There was a large increase in the gentry class following the victory of the Hunan Army over Taiping in 1864, as many people were given quasi-official titles. Many took official local administrative positions. Others used their military rewards to purchase land and also join the gentry class.[33]

Social-bureaucrats were the officialdom of Qing China. They had the responsibilities of organizing public works projects and had a crucial role in the management of society. Social-bureaucrats wore distinctive clothing, including black gowns with blue borders and a multitude of rank insignia. Commoners addressed them with honorific titles and they received a high status along with favorable legal treatment.[34]


Far below the Mandarins/literati came the 90% of the population who lived by agriculture, from poor tenant farmers to rich landlords.[35] Many were very poor tenants or day laborers, others especially in the southern provinces were better off and more secure by owning their land. Confucians praised agriculturalists as honest men who provided the nation's food. Famines and floods were serious risks. To forestall local rebellions the Qing government established an elaborate system to protect against famines and other disasters such as epidemics. It was built around a granary system, distributing free or subsidized grain during distress. This system was largely destroyed during the Taiping rebellion of the 1850s, leaving the population vulnerable. The introduction of sweet potatoes reduced excess hunger and reduced the propensity to revolt.[36][37][38]

After suppressing the Taiping rebellion by the mid 1860s, the national government worked to relieve distress, stabilize society and improve farming. It reduced taxes and required corvée labor, reclaimed land, and promoting irrigation. After 1900 the government set up rural associations that published newspapers and instructional pamphlets for farmers set, up agricultural schools, held local training sessions, as well as agricultural exhibitions,. Programs to continue water conservation and forest station projects continued. The reforms in agriculture were one dimension of a vigorous last-minute effort by the Qing government to rapidly reform education, the military, and local administration.[39]

Artisans, merchants and workers

Despite the workers' lower status, they often earned more than peasants. Artisans and workers often worked directly for the state or gentry. Merchants were ranked lower because they were seen as unproductive leeches by the Confucians. Merchants could include anyone from street peddlers to entrepreneurs with high influence and wealth. They were assumed to thrive by unethical business practices. They would bribe government officials or use profit-sharing to gain funding. Merchant families could use this wealth to pay for their sons' training for the civil service exams and thus jump to the high levels.

Lower classes

The lower classes of ordinary people were divided into two categories: one of them the good "commoner" people, the other the "mean" people. Slaves, Servants, Prostitutes, Entertainers, Low Level Government Employees and Military Forces were part of the mean class. The soldiers were called a necessary evil, and civilians were placed in command to keep the military from dominating society. Those who worked in entertainment were given a special status that allowed for them to be punished severely without consequence.[40] The mean people were heavily discriminated against, forbidden to take the Imperial Examination, and mean and good people could not marry each other.[41][42][43][44][45]

During the early Qing dynasty, hereditary slavery was a common practice that declined quickly. Slave girls(婢女), were largely sold and bought through contractual agreements where they would serve for a certain number of years.[40]

Social structure in modern China

1911 to 1949

After 1911, China entered the Warlord Era. During this time, industrialization was slow to non-existent; between the years 1920 and 1949, the industrial sector had only increased by less than three million members, mainly women, and children working in cotton mills. The main changes in the social structure were the military.[40]

Many laborers were hired to work on the various construction projects at this time. A small portion of the working class were apprentices. They were trained to work in the trades by masters, but were treated similarly to slave girls. Upon reaching the end of the apprenticeship, they were allowed to leave their masters and find work by themselves.[40]

In 1924, the Soviet Union helped Sun Yat-sen rebuild the Nationalist Kuomintang, GMT, and KMT military force, most notably through the Military Academy, an island on Pearl River near Guangzhou. Many military leaders of the following decades were Huangpu graduates, including Lin Biao, as well as nationalist Chinese generals.

After the allied forces of the Kuomintang and the Communists reunified China, Chiang Kai-shek, with the help of underworld forces such as the Green Gang, attacked the Communists. This had the effect of suppressing labor unions.[citation needed]

1949 to 1978

In 1949, in the wake of the communist victory in the Chinese civil war, Chinese society experienced massive upheaval. The communist revolutionaries who had eschewed capitalism and elitism now became the rich ruling class they had sought to overthrow. The Communist Party cadres became the new upper class.[46] Those who were included in this social class made up approximately 20% of the urban working class. Not only were they given benefits, but also provided with special training for their careers.[47] The misuse and manipulation of the ration system by members of the cadre class threatened to change them into a new class of privileged bureaucrats and technicians, mere descendants of the pre-revolutionary ruling class of cadre technocrats and elected representatives of the old proletariat. Whereas in the past, their position had been accessed primarily through acceptance to the best schools, now cadre status came to give them access to materials and options not fairly distributed amongst all. Housing had always been in demand in China, particularly in the larger cities, and cadres were protected from the intense competition for living space.

In the countryside, the landlord class was eliminated during the land reform. In 1959, there were ten million state cadres, thirty-five million state workers, and two hundred million peasants.[48] Chinese society was typical of agrarian societies because the peasant class composed the majority of the population.

Following the implementation of land reforms, Mao instituted a process of collectivization in response to the selling of land by peasants to the new generation of rich landowners. Afraid of creating a new landlord class, Mao instituted a system of communes where land was supposed to be worked equally by peasants. His idea was to capitalize on the sheer number of peasants and effectively produce a surplus harvest that would help industrialization. This was known as the Great Leap Forward, which was a failure and resulted in the deaths of twenty to thirty million peasants.[49]

Just as farmers were put into communes, state workers were placed in large work units called danweis. Since urban education reform was growing at a much faster rate than in rural areas, more and more workers were high school graduates. The slowing down of state industries and the increasing number of qualified middle-class candidates contributed to the fact it became more and more difficult to obtain a position as a state worker.[citation needed]

At this time, the hukou system was implemented, which divided the population into urban and rural residents.[50] This was done to make the distribution of state services through danweis and communes easier[citation needed] and to better organize the population in preparation for a possible invasion from the Soviet Union.[citation needed] The system made all migration from the countryside to the city require approval.[50]

Flag of China, with each of the small stars representing one of the four occupations (士農工商) and the large star in the middle representing the Communist Party
Flag of China, with each of the small stars representing one of the four occupations (士農工商) and the large star in the middle representing the Communist Party

During the Cultural Revolution, the composition of society changed again. Schools were closed and many youths were sent down to the countryside putatively to learn from the peasants. Concern for peasants was reflected in the rural medical and educational services known as barefoot doctors and barefoot teachers. The life expectancy of peasants increased from less than forty years before 1949 to more than sixty years in the 1970s. At the same time, peasants were still the most illiterate, most powerless, and poorest social class.[51]

In a speech made shortly after the communist's victory in 1949, Mao Zedong claimed that Chinese society had four distinct social classes; this is often cited as the reason why the Chinese flag has four small stars on it. The large fifth star, which is surrounded by the four smaller stars, is meant to represent the Communist Party.[52] In his On the People's Democratic Dictatorship speech he defined the Chinese people as consisting of four social classes, also referred to in Asian cultures as the four occupations (士農工商) shi, nong, gong, shang ("the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie".[53] Mao made the claim that these classes had been unified by the revolution, but severe class stratification still existed in post 1949 China, especially when comparing the rights ordinary citizen to the extreme privileges afforded to the elites of the Communist party.

Before the economic reform of 1978, the time period between the mid 1950s to 1977 saw a shift in China's focus as they began to remove outdated labels and thousands were granted working class status. The concept of "two classes and one stratum", a Soviet theory, was soon introduced and was composed of the peasant class, working class, and the intellectual stratum.[52][54] During this time, the number of individuals who were part of the working class increased greatly. Media also began to spread propaganda about the urban working class that painted them as superior, naming them the "leading class". Soon after, people in society began to mirror this sentiment as the respect for the proletariat increased.[47][54] In terms of the peasant class, the number of farmers increased year by year, despite the industrialization going on in China. The intellectual stratum consisted of those with high school or university education, making up a small portion of the population. Due to the vague definition of "intellectual", it's difficult to know exactly how many people were in this stratum. However, it's estimated that there were around 5 million people.[54]

1978 to 2000

After the Chinese economic reform (Gaige Kaifang) policy was implemented in the late 1970s, the Communist system Mao had instituted disintegrated in the face of economic development. In the countryside, communes had disappeared by 1984. State-run enterprises known as danweis began to lay off workers, "smashing the iron rice bowl" because of their expense and inefficiency.[55] The previous "two classes and one stratum" theory underwent many changes during this time as both the working and peasant class were divided further. However, the peasant class decreased in size while the working class saw significant growth.[54]

The years leading up to the 21st century brought great economic growth and industrialization for China, but this growth did not translate to the rate of social development as the income gap between urban and rural areas of China continued to widen. By 1993, approximately 22.4% of the working class population accounted for 51.8% of China's GDP.[54] By this point, the social structure was no longer as hierarchical in comparison to the early years of the reform.[47]

In 1992, social inequality became a large topic of debate, as wealth continued to accumulate within a small minority population of the country. This was a result of the corruption of bureaucratic capitalism which, in turn, lead to the middle working class having access to very few resources. The imbalance of social structure at this time became evident as both the working and peasant class were marginalized.[56]

The working class at this time was still divided, but a new stratum soon came into existence. This consisted of those who had lost their jobs, those who had retired, as well as migrant workers. Migrant workers were generally underpaid and had poor living conditions, but there were some that were able to start small businesses. Due to the difference in financial and career circumstances of different migrant workers, migrant workers spanned across multiple classes.[47]

21st century

The current social structure of China relies on strata, which are defined by an individual's economic and social status. There are a total of ten strata which, in a general sense, include government officials, private and small business owners, industrial workers, agricultural laborers, and the unemployed.[54] By 2016, agricultural laborers made up only approximately 40% of China's working class. Service workers made up the largest portion of China's working class, surpassing the industrial workers.[52]

The working middle class at this time was seen to be the leading class as they gained more economic resources and production power. With the increase of people in the working class, they were seen to be representative of China's productive forces as well as the people who would improve the overall economy of the country.[52] There was also a positive viewpoint in China surrounding the middle class as they were seen to earn a decent amount of money and were well qualified for their positions.[57]

The 21st century also saw a decrease in the percentage of peasants in proportion to the overall working class as the economic reform gave them more freedom in their professional lives. Many young people living in rural communities also began to find it more appealing to attend university or find jobs in the city. There has been a major shift in the thinking of the youth, seen through the older ages of those working in farming. Finding individuals under the age of 40 still working in agriculture is now much more difficult than it was before.[52] Prior to the 21st century, social class was primarily determined by identity rather than employment and education. This reform presented citizens, especially rural workers, with more social mobility and choice.[54]

See also


  1. ^ Li Yi, The Structure and Evolution of Chinese Social Stratification (University Press of America. 2005) pp 1–55. excerpt
  2. ^ Nicolas Tackett, "Violence and the 1 Percent: The Fall of the Medieval Chinese Aristocracy in Comparison to the Fall of the French Nobility." American Historical Review 124.3 (2019): 933-937
  3. ^ Benjamin A. Elman, "Political, social, and cultural reproduction via civil service examinations in late imperial China." Journal of Asian Studies (1991): 7-28. online
  4. ^ R. Bin Wong, "The political economy of agrarian empire and its modern legacy," in China and Historical Capitalism: Genealogies Of Sinological Knowledge ed. by Timothy Brook and Gregory Blue, (Cambridge UP, 2002) pp 191–192.
  5. ^ Dr. Yi Li, "The Structure and Evolution of Chinese Social Stratification", (2005)
  6. ^ Robert Mortimer Marsh, Mandarins: The Circulation of Elites in China, 1600-1900, Ayer (June, 1980), hardcover, ISBN 0-405-12981-5
  7. ^ The Cambridge History of China, Vol. 13, 30
  8. ^ Rui Wang, The Chinese Imperial Examination System (2013) p. 3.
  9. ^ Wang, Zenyu (2010). Social Strata of Song Dynasty. Renmin University of China. pp. 247–256. ISBN 9787300115207.
  10. ^ Wang p.501
  11. ^ Lü, Yuezhong (2014). "贾似道的公田法研究". 宁波大学 – via 知网.
  12. ^ Fan, Wenlan (2009). General History of China. 人民出版社. ISBN 9787010020297.
  13. ^ Li, Yujun (Summer 2016). "金代法制变革与民族文化认同". 学习与探索.
  14. ^ Zheng, Kesheng (1989). "Jiangnan Gentries and the Society of late Yuan dynasty". 南开史学: 1–2.
  15. ^ Meng p.155
  16. ^ Meng, Siming (2006). Social castes of Yuan dynasty. Shanghai: 上海人民出版社. ISBN 9787208063914.
  17. ^ Meng p.172
  18. ^ History of Yuan vol.119,120
  19. ^ Meng 179-182
  20. ^ Tao, Zongyi (2006). 南村辍耕录. Zhonghua Book company. ISBN 9787101017274.
  21. ^ a b Gao, Shouxian (Summer 2013). "关于明朝的籍贯与户籍问题". 北京联合大学学报:人文社会科学版.
  22. ^ History of Ming vol.77
  23. ^ a b Cai, Shishan (2011). Women in Ming dynasty. Zhonghua Book Company. ISBN 9787101080711.
  24. ^ a b c Chen, Baoliang (Winter 2016). "明代社会各阶层的收入及其构成 ——兼论明代人的生活质量". 中国社会科学网.
  25. ^ Harry Miller, State versus Gentry in Late Ming Dynasty China, 1572–1644 (Springer, 2008).
  26. ^ Robinson, David (Summer 2012). "PRINCELY COURTS OF THE MING DYNASTY" (PDF). Ming Studies. 65.
  27. ^ Jin, Guantao (2011). 兴盛与危机. 法律出版社. p. 104. ISBN 9787511812346.
  28. ^ John King Fairbank, Edwin O. Reischauer, and Albert M. Craig, East Asia: Tradition & Transformation (1989) p 570
  29. ^ Richard Smith, China's cultural heritage. The Qing dynasty, 1644-1912 (1983) pp 1-2, 73-75.
  30. ^ E. A. Kracke, "Family vs Merit in Chinese Civil Service Examinations Under the Empire." Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 10 (1947): 102-121
  31. ^ Elman, "Political, social, and cultural reproduction via civil service examinations in late imperial China."
  32. ^ Harry Miller, State versus Gentry in Early Qing Dynasty China, 1644-1699 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
  33. ^ Chen, Hon Fai. Civilizing the Chinese, competing with the West: study societies in late Qing China. Hong Kong. ISBN 978-988-237-716-5. OCLC 1011626438.
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  1. China Cadre Statistics Fifty Years, 1949–1998, 1.
  2. China Labor Statistical Yearbook 1998, 9., 17.
  3. China Statistical Yearbook 2002, 120–121.
  4. China Statistical Yearbook 2004, 126-127 and 150.
  5. People's Daily Overseas Edition, 10/11/2002, 1.
  • The figures of cadre from 1966–1970, as well as 2002–2003 are estimated.
  • From 1958 to 1977, the figure of peasant workers was around 20 million. However, China's official statistics had begun to count them only from 1978.
  • From 1979 to 1993, the number of cadres increased from eighteen million to thirty-seven million.

Further reading


  • Bastid-Bruguiere, Marianne. "Currents of social change." The Cambridge History of China: 1800-1911 vol 11 part 2 (1980): pp 535–602.
  • Chan, Wellington K. K. "Government, merchants and industry to 1911." The Cambridge History of China: 1800-1911 vol 11. Part 2 (1980) pp: 416–462.
  • Chan, K. Y. (2001). "A Turning Point in China's Comprador System: KMA's Changing Marketing Structure in the Lower Yangzi Region, 1912-25". Business History. 43 (2): 51–72. doi:10.1080/713999222. S2CID 154838376.
  • Chang, Chung-li. The Chinese gentry: studies on their role in nineteenth-century Chinese society (1955) online
  • Ch'u T'ung-tsu. Han Social Structure (Washington U. Press, 1972)
  • Ch'u T'ung-tsu. "Chinese Class Structure and its Ideology" in Chinese Thought and Institutions, ed. J. K. Fairbank, 1957, online pp 235–250.
  • Duara, Prasenjit, State Involution: A Study of Local Finances in North China, 1911-1935, in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 29#1 (1987), pp. 132–161, JSTOR 178784
  • Elman, Benjamin A. "Political, social, and cultural reproduction via civil service examinations in late imperial China." Journal of Asian Studies (1991): 7-28. online
  • Faure, David. China and Capitalism: A History of Business Enterprise in Modern China (Hong Kong UP, 2006), covers 1500 to 1999; 136pp
  • Faure, David. The rural economy of pre-liberation China: trade expansion and peasant livelihood in Jiangsu and Guangdong, 1870 to 1937 (Oxford UP, 1989).
  • Guo, Yongqin, et al. "A View of the Occupational Structure in Imperial and Republican China (1640–1952)." Australian Economic History Review 59.2 (2019): 134-158 online.
  • Hao, Yen-p'ing. The comprador in nineteenth century China: bridge between East and West (Harvard UP. 1970) online.
  • Heijdra, Martin J. "The socioeconomic development of rural China during the Ming," in The Cambridge History of China Volume 8 The Ming Dynasty, 1368 - 1644, Part 2 edited by Denis Twitchett and Frederick W. Mote (1998) pp 417–578.
  • Hung, Ho-fung. "Agricultural Revolution and Elite Reproduction in Qing China: The Transition to Capitalism Debate Revisited" American Sociological Review (2008) 73#4 pp. 569–588 online
  • Mann, Susan. Local merchants and the Chinese bureaucracy, 1750-1950 (Stanford UP, 1987).
  • Marsh, Robert Mortimer. Mandarins: The Circulation of Elites in China, 1600-1900 (Ayer, 1980).
  • Naquim, Susan and Evelyn Sakakida Rawski, eds. Chinese Society in the Eighteenth Century (Yale UP, 1989).
  • Rowe, William T. "Social Stability and Social Change" in The Cambridge History of China Volume 9 Part One: The Ch’ing Empire to 1800, edited by Willard J. Peterson (2002) pp 473–562.
  • Tackett, Nicolas. "Violence and the 1 Percent: The Fall of the Medieval Chinese Aristocracy in Comparison to the Fall of the French Nobility." American Historical Review 124.3 (2019): 933–937.
  • Tackett, Nicolas Olivier, "The Transformation Of Medieval Chinese Elites (850–1000 C.E.)" (PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 2006) online
  • Wang, Di. "Study on family rules in the Ming and Qing dynasties." Open Journal of Social Sciences 2.11 (2014): 132+ online
  • Zhang, Qing. "The discursive construction of the social stratification order in reforming China." Journal of Language and Politics 9.4 (2010): 508–527.

Since 1949

  • Bian, Yanjie. "Chinese social stratification and social mobility." Annual Review of Sociology 28.1 (2002): 91-116 online.
  • Fang, Yiping, Zhilin Liu, and Yulin Chen. "Housing Inequality in Urban China: Theoretical Debates, Empirical Evidences, and Future Directions." Journal of Planning Literature 35.1 (2020): 41-53 online.
  • Goodman, David S. G. "Locating China’s Middle Classes: social intermediaries and the Party-state." Journal of Contemporary China 25.97 (2016): 1-13 online.
  • Li Yi. The Structure and Evolution of Chinese Social Stratification (University Press of America. 2005. ISBN 0-7618-3331-5 excerpt
  • Monkkonen, Paavo, Andre Comandon, and Jiren Zhu. "Economic segregation in transition China: evidence from the 20 largest cities." Urban Geography 38.7 (2017): 1039-1061 online.
  • Watson, James L., ed. Class and social stratification in post-revolution China (Cambridge UP, 1984).
  • Wu, Xiaogang. "Higher education, elite formation and social stratification in contemporary China: Preliminary findings from the Beijing College Students Panel Survey." Chinese Journal of Sociology 3.1 (2017): 3-31 online.
  • Yeung, Wei-Jun Jean. "Higher education expansion and social stratification in China." Chinese Sociological Review 45.4 (2013): 54–80. online

External links

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