The lifestyles of these classes shared some similarities and differences between the n. ;vow societies. Each levels role was affected by their civilization’s religion, government, and economy. The variations of jobs and wealth in this hierarchy also resulted in a varying levels of respect and prestige.
Peasants are perhaps the most important members of a society; hey perform many of the jobs that are vital to supporting a large population. But, they are the poorest and usually own little to no land and thus, have no power. Therefore they have usually been the lowest ranking in a society throughout history, and classical China and India are no exception. However, of the two societies, Indian’s peasants had a much better lifestyle than China’s. In India, social Structure was based on the caste system.
The caste System was a very strict system of separating classes, allowing very little room to improve and prohibiting most interaction between separate classes. This may seem like a negative for the peasants, but their separation from the higher caste levels actually reduced conflict and promoted tolerance. China’s society was heavily influenced by the philosophy of Confucianism, which required Chinese peasants to show a great amount of restraint and focus on detailed etiquette around their superiors.
They also had to deal with land lords who had partial control of their land because the levels of Chinese society were not as separate. Peasants in both cultures had very little hope of improving their class (because it was hereditary’), but it was possible through extraordinary talent or gaining wealth. They also lived very hard lives full of intense labor in both cultures. As agricultural societies, China and India had a heavy reliance on their peasant class, which made up most of their populations.
Despite their low rank in society, peasants were not the lowest in China or India. In China the lowest were the “mean” people, while India had a similar group called the “untouchables”. The lifestyle of merchants was more efferent between the two civilizations then the lifestyles of any other group. In India, merchants were regarded as high ranking members of society, sometimes almost as high as elites, while in China there was a disdain for merchants and those devoted to lives of money making. This can be explained by looking at the belief systems present in the two societies.
In India, Hinduism was the predominant religion, and Hinduism did not advise against a life of obtaining material wealth. In fact, Hinduism promotes economic goals (earth) and earthly pleasures (karma). It also makes sense that merchants were more important in India, because India was involved in much more trading than China. On the other hand, Confucian in China were strongly against greed and the pursuit of gaining material wealth because they believed in political virtue and a desire for knowledge.
Combine this scorn for merchants with a civilization that is not very involved in trade and you get a very non-prestigious lifestyle for merchants. Despite their unpopularity in China, merchants were actually very important to the economy in both civilizations. As one would expect, elites lived much easier lives than the other classes in China and India. They were powerful, wealthy, and had plenty of time to explore art, spirituality, and the pursuit of knowledge.
The top group in China was known as the “Mandarins” and it consisted of land owning aristocrats and educated bureaucrats. These people controlled lots of land, including some of the peasants’ land and also had a large influence in government by assisting the Emperor. These people were treated with a very high respect from lower classes due to the beliefs of Confucianism. Elites in India included priests (Brahmins), warriors, regional leaders (princes), and wealthy aristocrats.
These people were at the top of the caste system and were wealthy and influential. The primary difference between the elites of China and India is that in China they are more involved with politics and government while in India they deal more with social structure and religion. This is reflected in what each society is known for; China being very political and restrained, and India being more social, religious, and vibrant. In conclusion, the lifestyles of the different levels Of society are primarily dependent on the social structure of that civilization.
Hinduism/ the caste system and Confucianism shape India and China respectively. The variations in lifestyle of peasants, merchants, and elites between the two classical civilizations are dependent on each society’s differences in belief and structure, while the similarities within the classes of these two civilizations are the result of common beliefs or similar structure. Because the two have some similarities and some differences in the structure of their society, they also have similarities and differences between their classes.