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Kisaeng Farmer Pobusang
Know your place! Identify your character's social position with this interactive, visual representation of the Dynasty's class structure, along with more information on the specific classes.

This chart shows one perspective on the structure of the Choson Dynasty's social class system. It's best to keep in mind that the Choson dynasty social class system was not a one dimensional ranking system with yangban at the top and the Ch'onmin, the humble people, at the bottom; rather, the system was very multi-dimensional. There were yangban scholars with social prestige who were rather economically deprived and rich merchants with considerable power, especially toward the end of Choson dynasty, who were members of the commoners' class. One's social class was determined by a composite of interacting characteristics: lineage, civil service examination grades, official rank, wealth (largely according to possession of land), and the place of residence. For example, a yangban who lived outside the capital city were called hyangban and were less respected than their cousins living in the capital city. Each social class had its own privileges and duties.

A multi-dimensional version of the Choson dynastic social class structure is available in Hesung Chun Koh's work (1959 & 1982) in the KOCIS Research Website. Also available in KOCIS is The tales of Yangban or Yangbanjon, a social satire by Pak Chi-won that tells the late Choson dyanasty story of a rich merchant who bought a yangban title from a poor yangban scholar who could not meet his daily expenses.

To which class does your character belong? Click on the pyramid section you think best fits your character to reveal more information about your position in society, as well as who else could belong to this class. After picking your class correctly, learn more about the other classes by simply clicking on their titles.


Copyright © 2002 East Rock Institute. All rights reserved. Project Director Hesung Chun Koh. Funding from the Korea Foundation. Distribution in cooperation with ICU of Ewha Womans University.