Social Classes in Medieval Imperial China

Su Xun (1009-1066), a renowned writer of that period, presents a direct testimony on social classes and feudal system in Medieval Imperial China:

“The fields are not the property of the men who till them, and those who own the fields do not work on them. The fields of the tillers belong to the rich. These rich men have extensive lands and vast properties; their estates join up one to the next, and they bring emigrants among whom they divide the work of cultivation. The lash and the rod used to urge on the levies of forced labor; their master treats them no better than slaves… He takes half of the produce: there is only one landowner to every ten cultivators, so that day by day the landowner accumulates his half and grows rich and powerful, while the cultivator lives from day to day on his half and grows poor and hungry, and there is no remedy.”

From: Grousset, René. 1953. The Rise and Splendour of the Chinese Empire. University of California Press. (p.182)

ancient Chinese agriculture

“Gardening” by Shen Zhou (1427 -1509)

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