Landed gentry (China)

Landed Gentry (China)

Landed gentry (China)

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As used for imperial China, landed gentry does not correspond to any term in Chinese. One standard work remarks that under the Ming dynasty, "called shenshi or shenjin, meaning variously degree-holders, literati, scholar-bureaucrats or officials, they are loosely known in English as the Chinese gentry." Brian Hook, ed., The Cambridge Encyclopedia of China (Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed. 1991): 200 Attempts have been made to define them as the class, mostly landowners, who had passed the examinations and so were eligible to hold office, were retired mandarins or their families and descendants.Chang Chung-li , The Chinese Gentry; Studies on Their Role in Nineteenth-Century Chinese Society (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1955). Their power and influence eclipsed that of the hereditary and largely military aristocrats after the Tang dynasty, for by the Song Dynasty the civil service exam replaced the nine-rank system which favored nobles.

Under the Confucian class system (the four occupations) the scholar-official was at the top with farmers, artisans, and merchants below them in descending order. Since the next highest class was agricultural, scholar-officials retired to landed estates. They did not work the land themselves but hired peasants as tenant farmers. In this period of Chinese history, peasants were actually of a higher class than the merchants. The sons of these mandarins aspired to pass the......
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