Jobs were given to educated people, as well as
nobles. People were paid for their work.
Life in the
Cities: Only about 10% of the population (1
out of 10 people) lived in the cities. Cities were neatly laid out
with main streets and alleyways. Each city was surrounded by a
strong wall, made of earth and stone. As cities are today, the
ancient Han cities were centers of government, education, and trade.
Most marketplaces, throughout the city, had free entertainment.
Musicians played bells, drums, and string instruments, and jugglers
and acrobats performed.
Poor: The poor lived in houses packed
together. They had very little food, and little to no sanitation.
Many of the young males joined street gangs. Gangs wore distinctive
clothes and armor, that identified their gang. Teen gangs roamed
the cities, terrorizing people.
Rich: The rich rushed to imitate the
imperial palace. They built elaborate homes, decorated with drapery,
and cashmere carpets. They furnished family tombs with stone lions.
On the lions, and on other sculpture, they added inscriptions
mentioning how much each item had cost!
The rich lived in comfortable, large houses
with many rooms and fireplaces. Each home was built around a central
courtyard. They had elaborately carved furniture that showed Greek
and Roman influence, and painted stuccoed walls with floral designs.
Other walls were left bare to display paintings or bronze mirrors.
Dinner was elaborate. Kids were tutored in science, math,
literature, art, religion, and music. Some studied in their homes,
and some at the home of their tutor. The rich did not use the public
schools. They wore belted robes with long sleeves lined with silk.
When it was cold, they wore warm fur coats, made of squirrel and fox
skins and leather slippers.
Craftsmen: As in Shang times, merchants were
hardly recognized as men. 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 didn't till the soil. They
weren't 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.)
Life in the
Country: Country folk were farmers. They
lived in one or two story mud houses with tiled or thatched roofs.
They had curtains on the windows. Barns and other buildings
surrounded the house. Several families lived in one house to allow
them to work their fields together.
They still did not own their farms, but farms
were larger in size, because families had learned to team up.
This solved a major problem. Together, they were able to produce
more food, some years, than they needed, which allowed them to trade
food for other items.
They still worked very hard. They went to bed
at dark and got up at dawn. They dressed in simple clothes. Both men
and women wore shirts and pants made of scratchy cloth, and sandals
made of straw. They stuffed their clothes with paper and cloth, to
stay warm in the winter. They steamed much of their food over
boiling water on stoves. In the south, they ate rice, steamed
dumplings, and fish, flavored with garlic and onions. In the north,
they ate much the same, only they ate wheat instead of rice.