The people of Ancient China lived in either the cities and towns or the countryside, where there were small towns where country folk lived. This report is about the difference between the farmers and peasants working in the countryside and the rich people living in luxury houses with silk furnishings, etc.
Life in the countryside was challenging at times. Everything depended on Government edicts and the climate, because some years it could be really wet and there could be floods, and other years there could be severe droughts. Families worked together to carry out irrigation and terracing schemes so that their crops could get enough water and grow, and they worked together on ways to control the floods. There is also evidence that families worked together to mill the grain.
The Emperors started to realise that farming was important for the whole of China, and the nung, the peasant farmers, were made the second main class in China, with the minor nobles and scholars, shih, being the most respected. During the dynasties of the Shang and the Chou, peasants had to work land for large landowners under a feudal system, but during the Ch'in dynasty the rich landowners lost their power and their land. Instead, the Ch'in encouraged free farmers to own their own land.
Poor peasant farmers could only afford the basic type of tools. Richer farmers had oxen to plough the fields, while the poor had to make do with simple hand tools.
The type of food they ate was rather plain and simple. They didn't eat rice because that was in the South of China. They ate wheat and millet, the crops they grew in the North. They ate very little meat and sometimes they ate salted fish. Instead, they had stews with vegetables to compensate for the lack of meat.
Families often lived with both sets of grandparents, as it was thought to be a sign of good fortune. The house itself was made of mud and wooden lathes. The floor was just beaten earth. Pillars held up the tiled or thatched roof. Some farmer's who were richer had two storey houses.
Most country people lived in villages, that had many barns and shelters for animals, for many animals could have been found in the villages, such as geese, pigs, dogs, sheep, goats, cattle and horses.
In the Han Dynasty, all adult males except nobles and officials, had to work for a month every year for the Government. This was the public working scheme, and they did many things, such as mending bridges, working on irrigation schemes and repairing roads.
Life was hard and tiring for the nung but still they managed to grow crops and survive.
The Lifestyle of the city people was quite different. For a start, they lived in bustling cities and towns with noises everywhere. Cities were centres of trade and of Government. In the cities, craftsmen and merchants brought wares to sell to the public. Peasants from the countryside brought their crops to sell. Cities were also centres of learning.
In the cities the officials governed and oversaw every aspect of life.
Cities were usually surrounded by huge walls using the Hang-tu method, earth poured into wooden frames and then pounded together until solid. Then after that another layer was added. Town walls were carefully planned. Main walls lined with chief compass directions. In the city, there would be more walls dividing parts of the city. In the different areas lived different people.
Houses were tightly packed together. Rooms were built around a central courtyard, and a gate to the street. Rich people's houses were sometimes several storeys high. The houses were brightly painted and the tiles of the roofs were decorated with fabulous beasts. The courtyards sometimes had goldfish ponds, plants in pots, gardens and trees. The furnishings were silk hangings, painted screens, elaborate objects-usually made out of bronze and lacquer, gold silver and pottery. Rich people usually had a number of servants. They held banquets with exotic dishes and their entertainment was dancers and acrobats. They travelled in carriages.
In the city there were libraries. The libraries were built to keep books, such as official records, etc. Many people could read. Anybody who could read sent their son to school. There were poets who composed their works to friends. There were also painters who illustrated beautiful scrolls. A lot of learned people wrote about philosophy, agriculture, science, warfare and astronomy. Old objects were carefully reserved and honoured.
The shang, the merchants, were usually stopped by officials from getting too powerful. Some merchants became very rich. They were heavily taxed and they were forbidden to take up official posts. Public granaries were run by the officials, and they prevented the shang taking the profit. The officials banned the merchants from wearing silk, riding horses, travelling in carriages, and they were sometimes made to live outside city walls. Their trade was a thriving part of Ancient Chinese people's lives.
City streets were usually crowded with people. People carrying baskets, driving animals, selling and buying. Carts and carriages squeezed past each other in muddy streets. Beggars could be found on the streets, along with story-tellers, writers, craftsmen, astrologers, and public executioners. The rich people who lived in the cities lived a life of luxury, while many people had to live in bad conditions.
The Chinese had rich people and poor people, but i think the hardest place to live would have been in the countryside because you had to grow your own crops to make a living, provide as best as you could for your family and pay rent, etc. I think life was easier in the cities, because if you were poor, at least you could beg and people would give you money.