Classical China Social Hierarchy

In the ancient days, China or the Classical China witnessed a hierarchical social structure in which the Chinese society was divided into different classes on the basis of the wealth, responsibilities as well as the social standing. There were a total of 4 different social classes and each was distinct as far as there jobs, roles and duties were concerned.  This social system was based on the Fengjian structure of circa and the ones placed at the top were richer and more powerful than the ones placed at the bottom. To know more about the Classical China social

The following are the main classes of classical China social hierarchy:

  • King & his family
  • Shi Class
  • Nong Class
  • Gong  Class
  • Shang Class


At the topmost level of the Ancient Chinese social pyramid was the king and his family. These were those individuals who were not just the most powerful and rich but also the most respected. They owned a lot of land and made laws that others followed. The King and his Chinese family enjoyed all the luxuries, wealth and other things in life and had to engage in no jobs to lead a comfortable lifestyle, unlike others. This higher class was also shared by the soldiers who were considered the second most respected citizens of the society.


Next in line was the class that was known as the Shi. The Shi were the gentry scholars in the time of ancient Zhou and Shang dynasties. These individualspossessed certain privileges and had certain say in important matters of those times. The Shi were also appointed in civil services of the classical china society and possessed excellent warrior skills as well.They possessed knowledge, skills and were thus highly respected.


This was the third level class during the classical China society days and was mainly comprised of peasant farmers.  The farmers were considered same in standard and importance as the traders and craftsmen as cultivating food for the society earned them respect and value. Ofcourse, the Nong class didn’t enjoy many privileges as the Shi but they were still higher in respect than the other lower classes. They owned their own lands and produced food for all including themselves.


The Artisans and the craftsmen made the Gong class during the classical China society days and these individuals were mainly considered as the laborers. They didn’t own any land of their own but possessed or developed skills which helped them work on day wage jobs. This class wasn’t given too many privileges and rights but often made enough money to be wealth.


The Shang was the lowermost class in the social hierarchy of the classical.  This was that class which composed of the merchants and the traders.  The individuals who belonged to this class didn’t have any rights, responsibilities or respect and could never achieve a good status in the society. Theyoften acquired enough wealth for themselves by working hard and even moved up the ladder of the hierarchical structure of the classical Chinese society.