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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Zhou Dynasty and Division of Classes

Division of Classes
The family was the basic unit of Zhou society. During Zhou times, society was divided into three classes of families the king and his family, noble families, and peasant families. Families of each class were expected to show virtues by performing services for other classes.

The king showed that he had virtues by giving land to the noble families. Land given to a noble by the king is called a fief. Fiefs remained the property of the noble families and were passed down from generation to generation. In return for this land, the noble families showed loyalty to the king by paying him tribute. Tribute was paid in the form of valuable gifts or by supplying an army to help the king fight battles.

Peasants lived on the fiefs owned by the nobles. Nobles allowed the peasants to farm part of their fiefs. In return, the peasants had to serve in the nobles' armies and pay taxes by sending the nobles some of their crops.

The lives of peasants were filled with hardships. Some landlords were greedy and demanded that the peasants pay more taxes than they could afford. However, the peasant farmers were not slaves and could leave. A peasant complains about his landlord in one of the earliest books of Chinese poetry, the Book of Songs:

Big rat! Big rat!
Don't eat our millet!
For three years we've spoiled you, you haven't paid us back.
It's got to the point where we'll leave you and go to that happy land. Happy land! Happy land!
There we'll find a place.

What were the three classes of Zhou society?


Unknown said...

Very Good...

Unknown said...

Very Good...

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