From Magnates to Bureaucrats: Affinal and Intellectual Networks of the Meizhou Elite, 1020-1235

Song Chen
Harvard University
Department of (Ph.D. Program in) East Asian Languages and Civili

As a consequence of government policies which encouraged political participation, a large number of magnate families entered government service between the 11th and the 13th century. They formed a bureaucratic elite, different from local magnates not only in its official status, but also in its social behavior. Using the Prefecture of Meizhou as a case, this presentation shows on the difference between magnate and bureaucratic families in the spatial pattern of their social relations. I argue that magnate families engaged themselves in highly localized marriage networks. Usually contained with the boundary of a prefecture, these networks united prominent clans in nearby counties. By contrast, my data shows that once these families attained official status, their social world expanded significantly. Through marriages with other official families cross prefectural boundaries, the Meizhou elite embedded themselves in an intricately connected web of affinal connections over a large geographical area. Their intellectual relations reached even further to those hailing from faraway places, making them part of a national cultural elite.

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