Imperial China Graphic

I found an old tattered b/w diagram of “Status and Power” hierarchy in Imperial China in my teaching folders. This diagram was produced by G. William Skinner. It was brought to my attention by Edward L. Farmer, at the University of Minnesota. I scanned it and used my Adobe Illustrator to update it. I’ve not found a better shortcut to explaining, in a simple way, how misleading the tag “peasant” can be as a social category. If you like this image, let me know and I’ll send you a file.

2 thoughts on “Imperial China Graphic

  1. If you read some textbook or general work on Imperial Chinese govt. and social structure, you will learn that “Scholar-Peasant-Artisan-Merchant” is an idealized vision of social hierarchy. But, in practice, hereditary nobles were above scholars, many merchants were wealthier and more educated than some scholars, and below these four groups were others. And there were many more markers of status, such as fixed residence and literacy. This chart is supposed to give readers a better sense of the nuances of social stratification, to show the complexities of social, economic, and political differentiation, but ideally and in terms of actual wealth and power.

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