Independence Restored, An Agrarian Society
merchant class, subtropical climate, imperial court, medieval Europe, peasants
Nevertheless, China and Vietnam shared a number of important similarities. In both states, the primary source of wealth was agriculture. Because of its subtropical climate and plentiful rainfall, Vietnamese food production was based almost exclusively on the cultivation of wet rice. As in China and medieval Europe, much of the land was owned by powerful noble families, who often owned thousands of serfs (indentured farm laborers) or domestic slaves. A class of peasant landholders also existed, however, and the imperial court frequently attempted to limit the power of the noble families by dividing their large manorial estates and distributing the land to the peasants.
The Vietnamese economy was not based solely on agriculture, however. Commerce and manufacturing thrived, and local craft goods appeared in regional markets throughout the area. Especially prized were Vietnamese ceramics, cheaper than those produced in China and only slightly lower in quality. But Vietnam never developed into a predominantly trading nation, nor did it become a major participant in regional commerce. Like China, Vietnam looked inward, and the imperial court viewed the merchant class with suspicion.
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