China during the Tang Dynasty period (618-907) was a society rigidly divided by class and by status

. While emperors and the imperial family may have wished to create a pyramidal structure at which emperor was at the top – completely unchallenged by any rival – powerful aristocratic families vied for prestige and, occasionally at last, outweighed and outshone the imperial Li family. Four powerful northeastern aristocratic clans, for example, had developed their power over centuries, in part through constant intermarriage and hence retention of power and goods – men were of course permitted to take more than one wife and would supplement this with concubines and this helped to keep the gene pool refreshed and reduced risks of succession crises from lack of suitable sons (although too many sons was a more regularly occurring problem). At least one emperor was honest enough to admit that marriage to two of those families was superior in social standing to marrying into the imperial family. Sumptuary laws covered the ways in which people were able to dress, the jewels and ornaments they were permitted to wear and many other aspects of life. Peasants, at the bottom of the heap, were permitted to wear very little in the way of ornamentation but could scarcely have afforded much anyway. More important uses of these laws were to prevent nouveau riche nobles or merchants from claiming a higher status in society than that to which they were entitled. The laws acted, therefore, to prevent social mobility. Chinese leaders had for centuries realised the importance of social mobility in preventing sclerosis in the bureaucracy in particular. To encourage it, the imperial examinations system had been instituted which offered the chance for boys (alas, not girls), if they were sufficiently talented and diligent, the opportunity to obtain rank, income and status but did not guarantee that it would be passed on to their descendants unless they were similarly hard-working and clever. There was a constant need for

which covered an enormous area and an enormous number of people.g. building vast personal theme parks including mountains and rivers). When aristocratic families provided generals for the military and support for imperial armies.talented individuals to manage the administration of the Tang Empire. their excesses were excused. . Since the aristocracy favoured the conservation of status and power and the emperor was motivated to promote talent rather than breeding. it is clear that there were many opportunities for conflict between them. then it proved an opportunity to try to bring them down a peg or two. when nobles sought to challenge the sumptuary laws by finding new expressions of wealth (e.

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