Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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(2,578 words)

Elites are the groups in a society who for a prolonged period of time play a leading role in the bureaucracy, economy, and cultural life. They are aware of this role and interact through internal networks. "Elites" is a modern Western term without a traditional Chinese equivalent.

During the development phase of the Chinese state the elite functions lay with the clan of the ruler of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, who gave self-administered feudal tenures to male relatives. As these tenures became more independent and autonomous and increasing…

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Wagner, Rudolf G., “Elites”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese. Consulted online on 27 February 2024 <>
First published online: 2008
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004168633, 20121018

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