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The Merchant Class In Traditional China The Song dynasty is notable for the development of cities not only for administrative purposes but also as centers of trade industry and maritime commerce The landed scholar-officials also referred to as the gentry lived in the provincial centers alongside the shopkeepers artisans and merchants A new group of wealthy commoners-the mercantile class-arose as printing and education spread private trade grew and a market economy began to link the coastal provinces and the interior Many merchants were rich enough to visit and bribe princes and dukes Landholding and government employment were no longer the only means of gaining wealth and prestige Once the canals were built some merchants and craftsmen became rich A really successful merchant might ride in a cart with a coachman buy a title from an emperor and built a mansion surrounded by pools and gardens This absolutely infuriated officials and peasants The merchants didnt till the soil They werent nobles There ought to be a law to stop them from doing this and for a while there was a law forbidding them from riding in carts and chariots and also from wearing silk Huo Kuang sponsored a conference to inquire into the grievances of his emperors subjects Invited to the conference were government officials of the Legalist school and worthy representatives of Confucianism The Legalists argued for maintaining the status quo They argued that their economic policies helped maintain Chinas defenses against the continued hostility of the Hsiung-nu and that they were protecting the people from the exploitation of traders They argued in favor of the governments policy of western expansion on the grounds that it brought the empire horses camels fruits and various imported luxuries such as furs rugs and precious stones The Confucianists on the other hand made a moral issue of peasant grievances Also they argued that the Chinese had no business in Central Asia and that China should stay within
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