Ancient China People - Women, Families, Slaves, School answers questions
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Chinese People

Chinese people
Chinese followers of Buddha, about 600 AD (Musee Guimet, Paris)

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).

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.

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

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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