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Ancient China: Society and Hierachy

Key Groups in Ancient China

The social hierarchy in Ancient China was paramount. Emperors, government officials, nobles, peasants, merchants and slaves all had their role to play within Chinese society. This clip collection looks at each of these key groups, examining their daily life and the role law and religion played throughout society.



The king and his family were placed on the top most level of the ancient Chinese social pyramid. These people were the most respected, owned the largest amount of land and the people in the entire kingdom.


The Shi were the gentry scholars in the time of ancient Zhou and Shang dynasties.  They were regarded as the low-level aristocratic lineage in the social structure.  They also possessed certain privileges that other people were not given like they had the right of riding in chariots and command the battles from their mobile chariots.


Agriculture played a vital role in the rise of the China’s civilisation. The food produced by the farmers or the Nongs sustained the whole society. Therefore, they were considered as the valuable members of the society.


The Gong class consisted of Artisans and craftsman. They were higher in position than that of the merchants. They also had a significant role for the country.


This class was the lowest in the Chinese social hierarchy because they didn’t produce anything and gained profit from other organisations. This particular social class comprised of shopkeepers, bankers, sellers and traders.


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