Thursday, November 03, 2005

Lessons from my history class

I'm taking History of Traditional China this semester, completely against my will might I add (that's a long story though). Usually I dread going to class because I have no interest whatsoever in Traditional China. Nothing aganist Chinese history, it's just not something that I enjoy at 9am. I'm not a history major, or an international studies major for that matter, for a reason.

Yesterday's class was crawling along as usual and I was trying my best not to look at the clock every 90 seconds. The prof was lecturing about the Song Dynasty and he gets to the "Four Classes" of the dynasty. They were:
1. Literati (those who studied Confucian classics and took exams to become scholar officials).
2. Peasants
3. Craftsmen/Artisans
4. Merchants

This was very interesting because the merchants, or the business people were at the bottom of the class system beneath everyone else. About 80% of the people were peasants and they were near the top because agriculture was so important to their society. They were valued highly. Merchants, on the other hand, were looked down upon because they were only concerned with making money.

I can't help but wonder what our society would look like if this was true. In a sense, people who are overly concerned with making money are somewhat looked down upon by some people, but I don't think it's to the extent that it was in the Song Dynasty in China. We may think that people who are farmers or who work with the poor or others are wonderful and we may respect them, but the wealthy still have the majority of the power. The business people in this country are by no means at the bottom of the class system.

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