Ancient China People - Women, Families, Slaves, School
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Chinese People

stone carving of some men hunting while others work in the fields
Rich men hunt, but other people
work in the fields (Han Dynasty, about 100 AD)

May 2016 - People in China have always put a lot of emphasis on everybody acting the right way for their position in life. They thought poor people should act different from rich people, and women should act different from men, and city people should act different from country people (compare this to the Indian caste system, or European feudalism).

In China, people thought your most important relationship was with your family. Kids often lived in the same house not just with their parents, but also with their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, and their cousins. People thought that family was much more important than friends.

chinese painting of women making silk
Women working in a silk factory

Most boys and girls in China did not go to school, but worked on their parents' farms, pulling weeds and planting seeds. Even rich girls did not go to school, but boys from rich families did. The boys worked very hard at school, because doing well on the state examinations was the only way to get political power.

When girls grew up, they got married and left the house they had grown up in to go live in their husband's house, with his family. This was often hard, because girls got married young, and when they went to live in their husband's house they had to do whatever his mother told them to do.

But the lives of slaves were the hardest of all. Many Chinese people were slaves. Most people who were slaves worked in the fields, the same as free people. Some slaves worked as servants in rich people's houses. The Emperor owned hundreds of slaves, and some of them worked for the government, collecting taxes or building roads. Some people were born slaves, because their mothers were slaves, and other people were sold into slavery to pay debts. Often, as in India and West Asia, children were sold into slavery to pay off their parents' debts.

Learn by doing: Chinese foot-binding project

Bibliography and further reading about Chinese people:

Eyewitness: Ancient China, by Arthur Cotterell, Alan Hills, and Geoff Brightling (2000). , with lots of excellent pictures.

Daily Life in China, on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion, 1250-1276, by Jacques Gernet (1962).

The Inner Quarters: Marriage and the Lives of Chinese Women in the SungPeriod, by Patricia Buckley Ebrey (1993).

Women of the Tang Dynasty, by May Holdsworth (1999). A short introduction, with many pictures of T'ang period figurines.

Chinese women
Chinese schools
Chinese houses
Ancient China


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 23 June, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT