Property Ownership in Xian

In Xian, the difference between a common peasant or laborer and a person of substance generally comes down to the ownership of real estate. Ordinary workers live in rented rooms and most peasants crop land owned by a distant scholar, serving as tenants on his farms. Artisans may grow very wealthy, and even peasants might be able to store away a few gold coins against trouble, but true acceptance into the better classes requires the ownership of land- and the more of it, the better. Even an adventurer with a backpack full of dwarven gold is no more than a transient gambler until he can point at some estate and call it his own. Those who own no property of their own are considered "landless", while those who do- along with their spouses, offspring, and household family members- are considered "landed".

This distinction between the landed and the landless is an important one to Xianese society. To be without property of one's own is not particularly shameful, but it signals that the landless one is by nature a servant or a retainer of someone else. As a society fundamentally based on agriculture, those who own the greatest expanses of farmland are perforce the wealthiest and most powerful individuals.

This drive to own land is one of the major forces which keeps the population of Xian in flux. Artisans and commoners who are able to put aside some gold often choose to trade the security and wealth of Xian for a hardscrabble existence in some western border village, all so that they can claim some field as their own. The prestige of such ownership is such that even a Xianese magistrate will naturally presume that a landed peasant from south of Highgate is the social superior of a rich city trader who lacks any plot of his own.

There are few formal legal benefits for land ownership but a host of implicit social ones. Entry into the scholarly class of Xianese society is never offered to the landless, nor is any consequential post in city government. The landed automatically receive a certain degree of deference from Xianese officials, and they can expect to take precedence over the landless in official business. The landless are almost never treated as more than tradesmen in their dealings with officials, as hirelings to be bought and dispatched with little consideration for their own desires. Landed sorts, on the other hand, are more often treated as allies to be handled with courtesy and care.

Most scholarly families hold estates or farming villages outside Xian's walls, with ownership passing down through the eldest male offspring. Most also possess their own townhouses or towers within the city. The wealthier members of the princely class often draw a substantial income from large real estate holdings inside the city itself, along with vast swaths of land and farming hamlets elsewhere. The Mandarin himself owns the choicest real estate in Xian and most other major cities, and his personal purse is greatly fattened by the rents.

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