Four occupations (East Asia)

Four Occupations (East Asia)

Four occupations (East Asia)

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The four divisions of society refers to the model of society in ancient China and was a meritocratic social class system in China, and other subsequently influenced Confucian societies. The four castes—gentry, farmers, artisans and merchants—are combined to form the term Shìnónggōngshāng (士農工商). The concept was first brought up in the Confucian classic Spring and Autumn Annals, and was influential in countries with Confucian influence. It has been adapted into Japanese as , in Korean as "Sa, nong, gong, sang" (사농공상), and in Vietnamese as "Sĩ, nông, công, thương (士農工商).

The ranking of the divisions was influenced by confucianist thinking: The wise ruler was at the top, followed by the farmer who produces the wealth of the society. The artisan only reuses the wealth created, while the merchant only distributes the goods. The physiocratic school of François Quesnay, a Confucianist, influenced the French Ancien Régime.

The four divisions

The four divisions are usually given in the following order: gentry, farmers, artisans, merchants; but this does not necessarily imply hierarchy. Different sources have cited the divisions in different order.


Gentry means different things in different countries.

In China, Korea, and Vietnam, this meant that the Confucian scholar gentry that would- for the most part- make up most of the bureaucracy. This caste would contain both the more-or-less hereditary aristocracy as well as...
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