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yuuichi

Why did ancient Chinese culture place traders at the bottom of the social heirarchy?

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I find this very surprising and interesting, especially because modern Chinese culture is very fond of business and trade. The ancient Chinese system seems to place traders at the bottom, then craftsmen above them, and peasants above them.

 

Does anyone know why it was like this? Traders have a positive economic effect and only they can provide luxuries for the Emperor which are not local. So they must have had their reasons for doing so.

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Many civilizations started out that way.  Traders had to keep moving around from place to place in order to buy and sell the products they handled.  They never got established in any single society so they were always considered outsiders.

 

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It is because the traders were considered to be people who profited from other peoples productive labor, and created nothing themselves, except profits for themselves.

 

Peasants were at the top because they were farmers who created food, the necessity for all, and then craftsmen who created useful items from tools to clothing.

 

ZYD

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What's the source for this being the ancient system?

I know there were examinations, and if people passed those they became politicians, etc...which was considered higher class. I don't think peasants were at the top of a social hierarchy, but maybe I'm misunderstanding.

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23 minutes ago, Aetherous said:

What's the source for this being the ancient system?

I know there were examinations, and if people passed those they became politicians, etc...which was considered higher class. I don't think peasants were at the top of a social hierarchy, but maybe I'm misunderstanding.

Yeah , I never heard of this class structure Anywhere. Usually isnt it farmers Peasants at the base, then humble craftsmen , then soldiers, then a jumble of wealthy merchants higher rank soldiers , priests and educators, then nobility... essentially the rarer skill ,the higher status. 

Besides, Peasants and peons were often Indentured servants ..Essentially property .To escape the manor Youd need some skill to allow yourself means by which you wouldnt just starve To death somewhere. Right?

Edited by Stosh

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Laborers use their hands.

Craftsmen use their hands and mind.

Artists use their hands, mind and heart.

 

Traders profit on what others craft.

 

Farmers feed all.  Without them everyone starves and has nothing to sell or trade.

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First of all as for a source to what I mention, I am afraid that after decades of reading and study in largely intellectual history and focusing on the esoteric and its practices, any knowledge that I have of Chinese social structure was incidental, and to come up with source at this point in time would be more work than I care to do, but I remember the order which I mentioned because I thought it interesting at the time.

 

3 hours ago, Aetherous said:

What's the source for this being the ancient system?

I know there were examinations, and if people passed those they became politicians, etc...which was considered higher class. I don't think peasants were at the top of a social hierarchy, but maybe I'm misunderstanding.

 

Occupations of tradesman and farmer are what common people do, since the question was about tradesman and farmers, I gave an answer about common people, not about the elite.  I don't want to get into a detailed discussion about social structure, it is not of much interest to me, and I could no more give specific citations for my opinions about that than about what I have for the lower classes.  I could for example speculate that one of the reasons that this classification developed was to put social climbing tradesmen who had accumulated large fortunes in their place as money grubbing exploiters with an eye on the money and a thumb on the scale, but that would be pure speculation.

 

3 hours ago, Stosh said:

Yeah , I never heard of this class structure Anywhere. Usually isnt it farmers Peasants at the base, then humble craftsmen , then soldiers, then a jumble of wealthy merchants higher rank soldiers , priests and educators, then nobility... essentially the rarer skill ,the higher status. 

Besides, Peasants and peons were often Indentured servants ..Essentially property .To escape the manor Youd need some skill to allow yourself means by which you wouldnt just starve To death somewhere. Right?

 

Wrong.  This assumes Medieval feudalism as a universal model and projects it everywhere, and while as far as I can tell it this can be done for many times and places it is not universally applicable, and there are local variables.  It is often not applicable to the earlier periods of societies and particularly those where there were small family run farms such as early Republican Rome.  Again I am not going to cite anything for this, just as Stosh has not.

 

I don't intend to put any more time into this, I hope that those who continue it have fun.

 

ZYD

 

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5 hours ago, Zhongyongdaoist said:

It is because the traders were considered to be people who profited from other peoples productive labor, and created nothing themselves, except profits for themselves.

 

This was the same in feudal Japan. I recall somewhere a quote such as "merchants were despised because they neither worked or produced" - working defined as farming and producing defined as craftsmanship. Also, merchants had wealth but no land (in the sense of nobility) so they were simultaneously powerful and threatening to the upper classes. 

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4 hours ago, Stosh said:

Yeah , I never heard of this class structure Anywhere. Usually isnt it farmers Peasants at the base, then humble craftsmen , then soldiers, then a jumble of wealthy merchants higher rank soldiers , priests and educators, then nobility... essentially the rarer skill ,the higher status. 

 

Soldiers (in feudal Japan - Samurai) were considered the top because their support was absolutely essential to maintaining the emperor's power. One of the best ways to ensure their support is to give them privileged status.

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Ok, it seems we are maintaining  our initial impressions , can we agree on say... burial accoutrements as an objective mark of status ? 

Any other idea how to fairly decide other than wealth? 

Because the idea of a peasant being at the top of society sounds more like a Maoist propaganda ploy inserted into a scientific document so as not to get onesself purged.

Edited by Stosh

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56 minutes ago, Lost in Translation said:

 

Soldiers (in feudal Japan - Samurai) were considered the top because their support was absolutely essential to maintaining the emperor's power. One of the best ways to ensure their support is to give them privileged status.

Were the samurai , landed gentry? Or rabble.

 

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1 hour ago, Zhongyongdaoist said:

First of all as for a source to what I mention, I am afraid that after decades of reading and study in largely intellectual history and focusing on the esoteric and its practices, any knowledge that I have of Chinese social structure was incidental, and to come up with source at this point in time would be more work than I care to do, but I remember the order which I mentioned because I thought it interesting at the time.

 

 

Occupations of tradesman and farmer are what common people do, since the question was about tradesman and farmers, I gave an answer about common people, not about the elite.  I don't want to get into a detailed discussion about social structure, it is not of much interest to me, and I could no more give specific citations for my opinions about that than about what I have for the lower classes.  I could for example speculate that one of the reasons that this classification developed was to put social climbing tradesmen who had accumulated large fortunes in their place as money grubbing exploiters with an eye on the money and a thumb on the scale, but that would be pure speculation.

 

 

Wrong.  This assumes Medieval feudalism as a universal model and projects it everywhere, and while as far as I can tell it this can be done for many times and places it is not universally applicable, and there are local variables.  It is often not applicable to the earlier periods of societies and particularly those where there were small family run farms such as early Republican Rome.  Again I am not going to cite anything for this, just as Stosh has not.

 

I don't intend to put any more time into this, I hope that those who continue it have fun.

 

ZYD

 

Got a little bit of a huffy attitude goin on there buddy .

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I never said that the peasant was the top of the social pyramid, only that it was above the craftsmen and trader. 

 

Including any sources would be appreciated.

Edited by yuuichi
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4 hours ago, Lost in Translation said:

 

Samurai were the warrior class. They served the landed gentry. Some were vassals, others were strictly servants. 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samurai

 

 

Seems like this caste had a lot of range in social status, going from downright nobility¬†with feudal districts under their responsibility to ‚ÄĚlowly‚ÄĚ servants who still ranked far higher than ‚ÄĚcommon folk‚ÄĚ in rights, assets and possibilities. Promotions, status, yearly income etc could be increased and become hereditary, while incompetence, politics or personal chemistry could ensure¬†beheading, execution and purging of entire bloodlines.

But in a sense they were always servants under someone.

 

Just to add a few cents i mean :)

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6 hours ago, yuuichi said:

I never said that the peasant was the top of the social pyramid, only that it was above the craftsmen and trader. 

 

Including any sources would be appreciated.

If you read all the way down to the shang description in the wiki article Tt cited , the Low position of the merchants in the eyes of the scholarly elite , was due to the fact that the shang tended to be wealthy and influential. 

So among the ordinary folk , the intelligencia looked down on merchants because they were actually More successful and influential.

Which, in english is called jealousy and slander. In practical terms the shang cannot be said to be of the lowest order socially, nor should peasanthood be associated with land owning farmers in particular.  The classes overlap same as the situation for samurai in Japan.  

  

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Our evolution is often reflected in our relationship with the nature around us.

The oldest perspective is strangely also a very futuristic point of view from our current leading edge perspective of the ground breaking individuals who are pre-paving the path for the future pre-pavers of future generations to walk upon. We are at a point of aligning the sequence of time in such a way that it can express the most ancient perspective and bring it back into remembrance in helping us align with who it is we really are, as part of the greater nature around us.

The most ancient ones believed in living soul, consciousness, of every single thing. And they had no doubt that everything is part of the same thing. Their relationship with all these things was allot less tangible and physical than it is today and logical (atleast to us), than it is today. But the farmers of today who've made room for the expanding cities still have available to them the ability to express those ancient perspectives to us in a way that can ignite us on a journey of discovery of our true original nature as human beings. For they may express a sadness in the going of a tree they grew up with, and the making room for roads and structures, in a way that is hard to explain even to themselves. And they may express the outragious excitement of a pure piece of untouched natural wilderness, and the indescribable infinite and eternal value in every single detail of it for the research of what true harmony and balance means, and the possibility of sustaining humanity in that, should the desire for it ever be ignited. And the gaining of true ever expanding knowledge that would come out of that. Of the true interconnectedness of the natural network of nature, and how to fulfill the unique purpose of each unique individual, by divine right, with zero pressure at all. Not only in the plants and trees of our planet, but even the organic intelligence that is available of the inter-stellar network of our galaxy, that we have acces to as a human species who would then enter their inter-galactic citizenship. There is nothing but life out there. Even elementals, tho 2 dimensional it is, still has consciousness. And we as human stewards, have many kind of gifted individuals with unique ways of expressing their joy, that each and every single one of them is the unique puzzle piece that forms a complete picture, only in the allowance of the all inclusive nature of love.

We enter our remembrance of our ancient non-physical perspective and eternal relationship with our physical planet through the exploration of the final frontier that is our consciousness, through the evolving electrical networking grid, that begin to expand the ideas we already have of bits and pieces of the information required to reconnect the slumbering human collective mind, the stewards of all the animals on this planet, in a way that is more acknowledgable to our wakeful state of being. So we simply make peace in the way we feel inspired to, through our technology, and discover that peace has already always been everywhere, as the forces of the universe morphing reality in such a way that we can come into the full realization of all that we desire for in this life, waiting for us to remember it. Step by step. Awakening more, and more, every step along the way. And enjoying the natural evolution and expression of that, with greate ease and confidence, knowing the abbounding well-being that secures our motion forward in the most pleasant way possible on the path of least resistance, accelerating us at super high speeds, through pathways that ignite the coming into alignment of all the individual gears to work together holistically and coherently as one whole unit. And cleaning them and simplifying them to their absolute most core essential shape, so as to allow for the highest of finely tuned frequencies of alignment to set forth into motion the undoubted evolution of the human species into their true divine nature as joyful and capable stewards of their own planet, and response able collective, in full service to themselves, and thereby thus also to everything around them.

Edited by Everything

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And traders have to be rooted in the earth, as nodal points of a neural network, to allow for the stabilized and highly valuable connection and conductive networking of the humans on your planet. In the same way that trees are sharers of higher knowledge of the interstellar nature to our planet as the alignment of the evolution of our entire interstellar connection truely unfolds in perfect ways in ever evolving harmonies of new forms of physical expressions of life, for the continuation of the eternal story of our eternal nature, for the purpose of the fulfillment of every desire we as a species and consciousness are capable of conjuring for ourselves, in the connection with the story that truely matters for us, through these traders and sharers and connectors, rooted in the earth or the story of the people around them. It matters not how you view it, but everyone has value.

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15 hours ago, Taoist Texts said:

 

Thank you! 

 

For those who don't want to read the whole page.

 

Quote

The categorisation was sorted according to the principle of economic usefulness to state and society, that those who used mind rather than muscle (scholars) were placed first, with farmers, seen as the primary creators of wealth, placed next, followed by artisans, and finally merchants who were seen as a social disturbance for excessive accumulation of wealth or erratic fluctuation of prices.[12]¬†Beneath the four occupations were the "mean people" (Chinese:¬†Ť≥§śįĎ), outcasts from "humilitating" occupations such as entertainers and prostitutes.[13]

 

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This is from the wiki article quoted and was presented as summarized so as not to need a full reading....

 

The Han-era text Guliang Zhuan described the four groups in a different order, with merchants second after scholars,[4] and the Warring States-eraXunzi placed farmers before scholars.[5] The Shuo Yuan mentioned a quotation which stressed the ideal of equality for the four occupations

 

This article may be getting adjusted  by wikip as we go and so it may not remain the same for all readers. I was expecting to go back and directly quote the part where it said that these divisions were not socioeconomic classes, that they were the disparagement by a groups opinion. It dismays me to see you ignore the point of the full text and present a skewed excerpt.

You dont seem to get the point that the relative position of the four groups is undefined . Its not even a socioeconomic grouping,and its not a complete umbrella for the classes. 

The people one figures would tally all the historical data and present a conclusion that had practical relevance .... didnt. 

 

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