The Government of China (1644-1911)

By Pao Chao Hsieh | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE NOBLES AND THE PRIVILEGED CLASSES

In the five elements of blessing enumerated in the Canon of History1 ( Shu Cheng) political power and noble titles are not included. Except in the feudal period when the vassal lords resembled European barons, and, after the centralization when an empty title with a small pecuniary compensation was awarded to serviceable officials, nobility, as an institution, was hardly a factor in China, socially or politically. The Manchu government, following the tradition of the country, provided special privileges and financial aids for three classes of peoples, Imperial clansmen, Bannermen, and the titular nobles.

Two kinds of kinship to the emperor, the clansmen and the alternates ( Tsung Shih and Chio Lo) were recognized, privileged, and supported. By clansmen was meant direct male descendants from Emperor Hsien Tso, grandfather of Emperor Shun Chi,2 the term alternate signified direct male descendants from the grandfather of Emperor Hsien Tso. Chronologically, all the spouses of the House of Nurachi from the middle of the 16th century3 and all those born after the Manchus learned to keep a family record, were made clansmen and alternates respectively. More than three hundred and fifty years of propagation well protected from the acute attack of economic insufficiency to which common people were subjected gave the House of Nurachi thousands of rice eaters with most of them making rice consumption

____________________
1
These elements are longevity, wealth, health, love of virtue, and natural death.
2
Shun Chi was the first Manchu emperor in China.
3
Emperor Hsien Tso acceded to the throne in 1583.

-45-

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