UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Revenue as a measure for expenditure : Ming state finance before the age of silver Grass, Noa


This dissertation explores fiscal policy during the first half of the Ming dynasty. Assuming a constant state of financial crisis caused by an ideological refusal and institutional inability to increase revenue, it identifies aspects of financial administration that contributed to the durability and resilience of the state. It first analyzes the principles of early Ming financial administration as reflected in the founding administrative text, Zhu si zhi zhang. The chapter devoted to the Ministry of Revenue focuses on the management of local resources through the timely and accurate flow of funds and information throughout the realm and along the administrative hierarchy. Based on evidence of standardized annual revenue reports, this dissertation argues that those principles were applied with relative success throughout most of the fifteenth century. Next, it identifies the practice of commutation in tax collection and official payments as the main fiscal policy that enabled the Ming to abide by its principle of keeping expenditure low while avoiding financial default. Commutation served as a partial tax remission that enabled taxpayers to convert the grain they owed to a money or commodity at a favourable rate. It also alleviated the physical and financial burden of transportation. But as the state came to depend on fixed silver payments, financial administration transformed from a system that was focused on managing local resources to one that was geared to maximizing revenue in the political centre. Finally, payments to officials, soldiers, and princes were affected by commutation. Despite their different social status, these groups were all treated as servants of the state and were managed according to the fiscal principle of measuring expenditure according to revenue. Throughout the fifteenth century payments were partially commuted to scrip and as a result salaries and stipends were greatly diminished. Nevertheless, particular policies and practices maintained a minimal degree of remuneration. And strategies employed by members of these groups in order to better their material condition illuminate the relationship between the state and its servants, as well as their place in local society.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada