Kanko ('guanhu' in Chinese) was the name of a social status that existed in premodern China and in Japan under the ritsuryo system.
A social status in premodern China. Guanhu were low ranking officials who served government offices during the Tang Dynasty. Their status was below those of Court of Sacrificial Worship (Taichang Si) Yinsheng and Zahu but above that of a servant.
Individuals of this status would be registered at a government office such as the Court of the National Granaries (Sinong Si) and work three one month shifts per year. Those guanhu who developed their skills and were promoted to Minister Steward (Shaofu) of the Court of Sacrificial Worship were called 'gonghu' or 'lehu' (gongle) and received special treatment. Regulations dictated that they were provided with state-distributed fields (koufentian) of 40-mu (approximately 26,666 m²), which was half the value of those allocated to members of the liangmin (lit. good citizen) upper class, and marriage was only recognized between individuals of the same social status. Those who served for a long period of time were discharged and appointed zahu, and there were even instances in which some were promoted to the class of liangmin in old age.
Since the Northern Song Dynasty, government officials and their immediate families came to be called guanhu and they were generally treated differently from commoners.
In the latter part of the Tang Dynasty, resident landowners and people of influence who came to undertake important roles in administrative affairs were called xingshihu (rich local families), and the role combined with guanhu to form the position of 'guanhu xinhshihu' or' xingshihu guanhu' who governed regional communities. Their duties ranged from the management of literary and military affairs to tax collection and the transport of government property as well as duties which were the responsibility of other officials and 'xuli' (petty officials), and they occupied the top two ranks of the five-tier system of household ranks (hudengzhi). Guanhu were generally exempt from mandatory labor and there were circumstances in which they gained a certain degree of special exemption from some forms of taxation.
The Zhenghe era at the end of the Northern Song Dynasty saw the enactment of a land ownership restriction which imposed mandatory labor and additional taxes on guanhu who owned in land in excess of between one 100-qing (approximately 666 ha) plot and nine 10-qing (approximately 66 ha) plots. In the Southern Song Dynasty, various measures were adopted in order to limit the privileges held by guanhu.
The class of xiangshen (country gentry) that emerged during the subsequent Ming and Qing dynasties developed from the status of guanhu xingshihu.
One of the five subcastes of the senmin lower class (which consisted of Ryoko, dedicated to the imperial family or guards of imperial tombs; Kanko, dedicated to public ministries; Kenin, servants of high-ranking families; Kunuhi, slaves of the court; and Shinuhi, slaves of families) that existed under the ritsuryo system. They were enslaved along with kunuhi by the kannushi attached to the Imperial Household Department. The register of names was created and managed by the Imperial Household Department or kannushi.
Kanko were more highly ranked than kunuhi and not all members of a kanko household were employed as slaves. Kunuhi were granted the status of kanko upon reaching the age of 66 or becoming disabled, and kanko would be freed as ryomin (upper class) upon reaching 76 years of age (80 for those related to a rebel). Those who regained their status through marriage to a partner of equal status after being stripped of their status for being the father or son of an individual who committed an act of treason as well as minters of private coinage were considered to be kanko. Like kunuhi, kanko were not only allotted state-distributed fields (called "kubunden" in Japanese) of equal value to those held by ryomin and granted time off, including leave for mourning and childbirth, but also supplied with food and clothing.
A special case occurred in the year 720 when 11 kanko were made ryonin and 10 kunuhi were made kanko but in 'Hamana-gun Yosocho' of 740, the status of ryomin is referred to as kanko, leading to the belief that the status of kanko among the senmin class ceased to exist in the first part of the 8th century.
According to an ancient Japanese medical law in the early 8th century (known as the "Ishitsuryo"), female doctors were chosen from among kanko and kunuhi women.