Tang Dynasty Social Structure

During the Tang Dynasty there were basically eight social classes. The emperor and his family were usually the most powerful in the Tang Dynasty’s social hierarchy. If, however the emperor had worked his way up to power rather than coming from an eminent family it was possible for the aristocracy to become more powerful in certain instances. The aristocracy was the next in the social hierarchy, followed by the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy was divided into two separate levels of honor the scholars and the functionaries.

The eunuchs came next in the social hierarchy as they functioned as servants in the emperor’s palace. The clergy were above the peasants who in turn were higher in the hierarchy than the artisans and traders. Slaves were the lowest in the Tang Dynasty’s social structure.

Laws were enacted to ensure that each of these social classes behaved in a manner befitting their station. These laws encompassed what each group was allowed to wear and own.

The Tang Dynasty’s attitude towards women was more liberal than was previously found. Women were accorded with more respect and power. Women were even allowed to take religious orders and become priestesses. This social standing, however, was mostly afforded to women in and close to the large cities with the majority of rural women continuing as before. High-class courtesans were also provided with a great deal of respect and were often allowed to join in discussions and debates with men of high social rank.

The social structure during the Tang Dynasty was a little more fluid than in many of the other times in China’s history. This is due to the institution of the imperial examinations which allowed men of low social standing to improve their lot through hard work, perseverance and ability. It was this fluidity that prevented the stagnation that had become apparent in many of the previous dynasties.