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On the Chinese Upper Class in Early Ch'ing. (from dissertation) s Without offering any general dicta relevant to the Ch'ing dynasty as a whole, it may be valid here to offer a description of the upper class in the K'ang-hsi reign as being composed of four elites. Firstly, the official elite, defined as comprising all Chinese, not bannermen, who held substantive posts in the civil and military bureaucracies of the seventh rank and above. Secondly, the Banner elite, defined as comprising all members of Manchu, Chines® and Mongol Banners with the rank of company captain (tso-ling) and above, or holding substantive posts in the civil and military bureaucracies of the seventh rank and above. Thirdly, the imperial elite, defined as comprising those imperial clansmen, bondservants or eunuchs who because of imperial favor or special appointments were placed on terms of parity with members of the official elite and the Banner elite« Fourthly, the local elite, defined as comprising those Chinese and Manehus who, not being members of the official elite, the Banner elite ©r the imperial elite, nevertheless because of family ties with those elites , or private sources of wealth, or excellence in some speciality, or 'the attainment of examination and purchased degrees, or the holding of hereditary ranks, were able to lead a life of comparative leisure, and to expect and receive favorable treatment from the members of those elites. Within each elite there were various strata, based on determinants such as rank or wealth. Using the same definitions, it follows that the ruling group was composed of the Emperor, the official elite, the Banner elite and the imperial elitfe· The word "elite" is used in the specific sense of "functional , mainly occupational, groups which have high status (fcr whatever reason) in a society" and it is intended that the word connote superiority. It is suggested also that the local elite be seen as one of the groups composing the upper class of China, for there clearly was an upper class if we may accept a definition such as that of Richard Centers; Classes are psycho-social groupings, something that is essentially subjective in character, dependent upon classconsciousness (i.e. a feeling of group membership), and class lines of cleavage may or may not conform to what seem to social scientists to be logical lines of cleavage 7 in the objective or stratification sense. " What Centers is doing here is to insist on a clear distinction between stratum and class; Social and economic groupings and categories of people distinguished on the basis of occupation, power, Income, standard of living, education, function, intelligence or other criteria are easily and properly denoted by the 3 terms stratum and strata. Thus however they be defined, the shen-ahih and the hsiapg-shen, or even those holding offices in imperial China at a given time, did not of themselves compose a class» Broad criteria for membership in the Chinese upper class, as in the upper classes of other societies, may be seen as being -14the possession of such characteristics as prestige, political pouter, personal influence, functionally important occupation, substantial economic resources, advanced education, leisure to engage in cultural pursuits. This is by nd. means to deny the crucial role of bureaucratic office in China, nor the importance of passing the civil service examinations as a generally necessary prelude to obtaining such office. It is also self« evident from the above description that the attainment of substantive office, bringing with it prestige, power, wealth and leisure, almost automatically made a man a member of the upper class, which was not necessarily true in other societies. Ts'ao Yin, though a bondservant, was a member of the upper class. This appears obvious from his style of life, his education, his friends, and his tastes, though of course he never took an examination, nor held posts in the regular bu~ reaucracy; he was a member of the upper class by virtue of his position in the imperial elite. His grandson, the novelist Ts'ao Chan, was also a member of the upp&r class, although his family had been bankrupted and dismissed from »11 official positions and he never obtained a degree, because...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3257
Print ISSN
0884-3236
Pages
pp. 12-16
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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