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The King’s Power Dominating Society—A Re-examination of Ancient Chinese Society

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AbstractIn terms of social formation, the most important characteristic of traditional Chinese society was how the king’s power dominated the society. Ever since the emergence of written records, we see that ancient China has had a most prominent interest group, that of the nobility and high officials, centered around the king (and later the emperor). Of all the kinds of power exerted on Chinese society, the king’s was the ultimate power. In the formation process of kingly power, a corresponding social structure was also formed. Not only did this central group include the king or emperor, the nobles, and the bureaucratic landlords, but the “feudal landlord ecosystem” which was formed within that group also shaped the whole society in a fundamental way. As a special form of economic redistribution, corruption among officials provided the soil for the growth of bureaucratic landlords. At the foundation of this entire bureaucratic web was always the king and his authority. In short, ancient Chinese society is a power-dependent structure centered on the king’s power. The major social conflict was therefore the conflict between the dictatorial king’s power and the rest of society.


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