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.