Samurai, Yangban, and Gentry: Dealing with the Problem of the Uprising of the Lower Classes

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The samurai of Tokugawa Japan, the yangban of Choson Korea, and the gentry of Ming China were three very powerful and elite groups of East Asia. These groups consisted of high ranking government officials with judicial power and influence. Although the groups were located in the same region they had their similarities and differences in how they obtained power and how they used their power. Japanese samurai were military nobility who had almost as much power as the emperor, but were not the highest ranking officials whereas the yangban officials of Korea were the highest ranking rulers. The gentry of the Ming period of China were once high ranking rulers; however, the gentry were defined as retired Chinese bureaucrats. Socially, all of these groups, at one point or another, were high ranking officials with power in office. The elite groups ruled in different areas of Asia, but they had similarities as well as differences in sources of power, functions as officials, and the problems they faced as elite groups in Asia. These elite groups were high ranked officials who had similar tasks as government officials, and the source of their power was relatively similar in every aspect. The yangban of Korea used an examination system to elect and appoint officials, so scholarly merit awarded a spot in office instead of heredity. Although the yangban used the civil service examinations wealth still defined yangban from the commoners. Yangban owned both land and slaves. Ancestry was a factor as well because yangban families wanted to produce a lineage of yangban officials. It solidified the family’s name if their subsequent generations contained successful yangban. The source of power that gave the gentry their official positi... ... middle of paper ... ... those who were born into wealth and this secured the well being of the future generations of rulers. The main source of power for all of the groups was strong ancestral lineage. Education also played a major role in each group because those who could read and write well passed the civil service exams. This secured the gentry’s local status, and the samurai had to be well educated in order to act as political administrators and military warriors. Lower class rebellions plagued the rule of each elite group and were controlled and diminished. The main difference between these groups was the military status of the samurai. The gentry and yangban acted purely as government officials while the samurai possessed duties to the military as well. Overall, the main criteria met by all of the elite groups were prominent ancestral lineage and exorbitant amounts of money.

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