The realignment of the Chinese social order that took place over the course of the Sung dynasty set the pattern for Chinese society throughout most of the later imperial era. This study examines that realignment from the perspective of specific Sung families, using data on two groups of Sung elites--the grand councilors who led the bureaucracy and locally prominent gentlemen in Wu-chou (in modern Chekiang).
By analyzing kinship relationships, Beverly Bossler demonstrates the importance of family relations to the establishment and perpetuation of social status locally and in the capital. She shows how social position was measured and acted upon, how status shaped personal relationships (and vice versa), and how both status and personal relationships conditioned—and were conditioned by—political success. Finally, in a contribution to the ongoing discussion of localism in the Sung, Bossler details the varied networks that connected the local elite to the capital and elsewhere.