Chinese Daily Life
In ancient times, a large population of China was that of farmers. The kings, nobles and merchants formed a small percentage of the total population. There was a wide gap between the economic condition of farmers and that of the kings
Life of Farmers:
Farmers had tough and difficult life. They lived in small villages. They worked day and night, yet they did not even own the land that they worked on. The property was usually owned by the noble or king. In addition to working on the noble’s land, the farmer had to give gifts to the noble.
Although they used ploughs and animals like dog and oxen, most of the farm work was still done by hands.
Farmers also celebrated the Spring festival. This festival was celebrated every year in order to assure a good harvest. This was equivalent to the Chinese New Year.
Farmers had to work for the government for around one month every year. They either had to serve in military or had to do construction projects like building palaces, canals and city walls. Farmers were also required to give some percentage of crops to the government as tax.
Most farmers were very poor. They owned chickens and pigs and sometimes an ox or mule. In the North people grew crops of wheat or millet while in the South they grew rice. In the 16th century new crops such as sweet potatoes, maize and peanuts were introduced. Other crops included tea, sugar and cotton.
The rich people of China ate very well. They ate grains like rice, wheat and millet. They also ate plenty of meat including pork, chicken, duck, goose and dog. Vegetables included yams, soya beans, broad beans and turnip as well as spring onions and garlic.
They also ate plenty of fish. Soup was made with shark’s fin, bird’s nest, bears paws and sea slugs. People drank wine made from rice or millet. They also drank tea.
Poor people of China had a boring diet. In north, people ate wheat in the form of dumplings, pancakes or noodles. While in south, staple food of people was rice. People who lived close to the river ate fish as well.
Rich people lived in large wooden houses. Roofs were made of tiles and were built in a curved shape. However even in a rich house there was little furniture but rich people were very fond of their gardens.
Poor people lived in huts of perhaps 2 rooms. Roofs were often thatched and furniture was very basic such as wooden benches.
Life in City:
On the other hand, life in cities was very different. People in the city had jobs like merchants, craftsmen, scholar or government official. The merchants in ancient China were neglected. They were not given much importance in the social life.
During the time of wars, they were not allowed to enter the boundaries of the city till the war ended. The merchants were expected to defend themselves without any kind of help from the authorities.
China was a male dominating society. In the Chinese family, the father ruled over his wife and children. The male had much more power over the household than the females.
The eldest male (usually the father) was in charge and dominated the affairs of all the family members.
The daily life of a women at this time was filled with taking care of the home and the children. The structure and difference between genders was greatly emphasized. The woman had to respect and obey her husband at all times. Women almost never were married to the men of their choice. If she did something wrong, her family would be in disgrace.
Lot of importance was given to male heir as he carried on the family. Girls were valued much less than boys and baby girls were often killed. In any case infant mortality rate was high.
Only boys went to school. There they learned the teachings of Confucius and calligraphy. Of course, only a minority of boys went to school. Most did not. Instead they worked in the fields from an early age.
Young girls had their feet painfully bound to prevent their feet from growing because small feet were considered attractive. This often caused their feet to become deformed and made it difficult to walk. This practice of binding the feet was called foot binding(Lotus feet).
Before 600 BC, chariots dominated Chinese warfare. After 600 BC, cavalry began to replace chariots. Furthermore rulers began to raise large armies of infantry. About 500 BC a general called Sun Tzu wrote a book called the Art of War, which was the world’s first military manual. About 400 BC the crossbow was invented in China.
Gunpowder was probably invented around the year 900 AD. It was used for rockets, grenades and bombs.