I. Tibetan Buddhism played an important role in Yuan politics. Emperors of the Ming, especially emperor Yongle (the second Ming emperor) have tried to use the influence of Tibetan Buddhist institutions in a similar way. But it was only under the last dynasty, the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, that Tibetan Buddhism again gained major importance.

The Mongols had extended their postal station network to the Tibetan borderlands and well into Tibet. The system was mostly used by Tibetan monks who traveled between Tibet and China, after the border region between Tibet and China had been conquered by Ögödei. Tibetan monks were reported to harass the Chinese population and the personnel of the postal stations. Tibetan monks, whose travels were financed by govenment subsidies, were often conceived of as arrogant and insolent by the Chinese population. (The monks themselves were probably convinced that they acted selfless when traveling all the way from Tibet to China, in order to bring the teaching of Buddha to the subjects of the Mongols.) The monks enjoyed privileges on their trips (free transportation, free meals, free board and lodging, which the Chinese considered to be excessive favors which were oftern abused, while the monks regarded them as innate rights that the Buddhist clergy had received directly from the secular Mongol ruler.

Under the Yuan, the Buddhist clergy was exempted from taxes. Other reasons for an uneasy relation between the Tibetan clergy and the Chinese population were:

1. The monks pardoned prisoners on the occasion of Buddhist and Chinese festivals and declared this to be meritorious.

2. Whoever attacked Tibetan monks was punished cruelly by the clergy.

3. Tantric sexual practices were uncommon in Chinese Buddhism.

4. Human sacrifices were uncommon in Chinese Buddhism.

5. A member of the lamaist clergy destroyed the imperial tombs of the Song emperors because they had partly been built on the former sites of Buddhist temples.

Outside of activities related to religious practices Tibetans did not hold positions of importance in the Yuan administration or in the intellectual life of the time. During this period China in return also had little control over Tibet, a country that had little to offer to China: the tea was mediocre, and the amounts of gold and silver that Tibet exported were of minimal amounts.

Late Imperial China:
The Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911)

--Population growth,

--increased commercialization, and

--making use of the power of firearms

are the three main most remarkable characteristics for the period labeled “Late Imperial


The Ming Dynasty (Chinese; 1368-1644)


The end of the Yuan saw a rapid inflation, corruption of the Tibetan clergy who controlled the Chinese clergy and interfered in political affairs, and rebellions of the exploited Chinese population against Mongol and other foreign officials.

One of the rebellions attracted the poor monk Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398) who later became the head of a rebel army and successfully fought against the Mongols as well as other contenders for power. He founded the Ming dynasty and became known as Emperor Hongwu.

Zhu Yuanzhang, reigned as Emperor Hongwu (r. 1368-1398)

During the Ming the population more than doubled. When the dynasty was founded the registered population was 60 Mio. Until the Manchu conquest it increased to 125 Mio. people. While in former dynasties the population of the north suffered great losses during invasions and caused the migration to the south that helped to develop agriculture and commerce in the Jiangnan area [=the area south of the Yangzi River], a reverse movement began in the Ming.

The new migration was not started on a voluntary basis. The Ming government forced large numbers of families to resettle in the north and in the southwest of the country in order to cultivate the land, build irrigation sytems, and integrate it into the sphere of Chinese government.


!!The growth of the population was due to an increased production of food on formerly used arable land as well as land that was newly cultivated. The production of wheat was expanded in the north and new crops were brought to China: the most important were maize, sweet potatoes, and peanuts. Cotton cultivation reached its peak.!!

The territory of the Ming dynasty

!!The Ming dynasty may be divided into four larger periods:

1. 1368- 1450: The age of economic reconstruction and installation of new institutions. Diplomatic and military expansion were pursued in Central Asia, Mongolia, South East Asia, and the Indian Ocean (reigns of the Hongwu and Yongle emperors, sea expeditions conducted by Admiral Zheng He).

Comparison between Admiral Zheng He's 'Treasure Ship' and Columbus' 'Santa Maria'

2. 1450-1520: A period of withdrawal and defense after the great expeditions. This period in the eyes of orthodox Confucians was a time in which commerce disrupted the cycle of agriculture and began to corrupt society. The polarization of the wealthy and the poor began.

3. 1520-ca.1580: A 2nd Chinese ‘renaissance’ among Chinese intellectuals during the rules of emperors Zhengtong and Zhengde could not avert the growing imbalance of agriculture and commerce. Agriculture, so the orthodox Confucians, was neglected, commerce dominated the economy. The purity of working the land gave way to the excesses related to the influence of capital.
Consumption, not necessity, began to drive production.

4. 1580-1644: a period of crises in commerce, politics, and revolts among urban workers

Society in the initial century of the Ming was characterized by a search for stability through reconstruction of the agrarian social system (which had been abandoned as early as the Song when a commercial revolution had propelled the economy) and at the same time created physical and social immobility while the population more than doubled.

Important  characteristics:
• Agriculture:
restoration and reclamation of land
transfer of immigrants to new territories, land distribution

!!In the beginning of the Ming travel was discouraged. The maximum radius of travel in which no route certificate was required was a distance of 58 km.
Transgression of this law was punished (at times by capital punishment) at the time of return.

Occupations were hereditary. The society consisted of
• peasants who had to settle in villages,
• artisans who worked in state-service workshops,
• merchants who were only allowed to perform trade in necessities,
• and soldiers who were settled at the frontiers in large numbers.
• A small educated elite whose members were more distrusted than trusted by emperor Hongwu, managed the administration of the empire.

Registration for purposes of tax collection: Households were registered in official charts. In order to recruit household members for duty in the labor service system, units of 10 households were formed. Mobility would have and in fact later did distort the systematic registration of the population for tax purposes. In the beginning of the Ming, physical mobility was only supported and at times required for
- creating new settlements in the border regions in order to control military activities of the neighboring peoples or states and

- creating a new social fabric in the cities especially in the metropolitan areas when households of former opponents of contenders for power were sent into exile as settlers of territories that were to be newly cultivated. The population was functionally divided and distributed.

- Officially approved physical mobility
was supervised by the Ministry of War which managed
the courier service,
the postal service, and
the transport service.
Courier stations were established every 35 to 45 km. They kept up to 450 horses and mules, and 50-60 sedan chairs (which had been introduced as a means of transportation during the Yuan Dynasty) and the necessary amount of carriers.

!!The Grand Canal was restored in the beginning of the Ming (1403-1420). This restoration was a pre-condition for the move of the capital from Nanjing to Beijing and for the supply of the new capital with commodities.
47.004 full-time laborers were in charge of maintaining the
Grand Canal in functioning condition. They had to clear the canal of silt, check the dykes, reinforce the dykes whenever necessary and keep the locks in working condition.

!!Labor division between genders
The ideal of labor division between genders that complemented the ideal of the four-class society invoked by Emperor Hongwu at the beginning of the Ming, was summarized in the expression “men plough, women weave”. Manuals by scholars described the necessary works demanded from men in agriculture and the diligence required from women by sericulture and the production of textiles that they produced at home. Ideally men and women both contributed to the tax payments of their household. The topic of men ploughing and women weaving became a stereotype that was applied in literature as well as the arts. The ideology of a peaceful society based on the complementary work accomplished in the rural household was dispersed among the peasants as well as the in the chambers of the court ladies. Handscrolls titled “Pictures of Ploughing and Weaving” showed even palace ladies engaging in the works of sericulture.

By the mid-Ming, men were found in an occupation formerly supposedly limited to women. A multitude of woodblock illustrations in manuals shows male weavers at work. When surplus production increased consumption, a change of job could be a lucrative decision:

There was a growing need of artisans in textile production and the industries related to book production such as woodblock carving, the production of paper and ink, the porcelain industry, as well as in the production of metal works and in mining. Therefore many peasants became hired workers and artisans.

!!Labor service
From the beginning of the Ming until 1561 there existed an elaborate system of labor service obligations that commoners had to comply with. In addition to taxes in kind, paid in grain and tax silk, later also cotton they had to fulfill –usually annual- labor service obligations. The labor service depended on the occupation of the registered male adult (15-60 years of age). It could consist in being conscripted to official building activities (bridges, dams, dykes, roads, palaces etc.), services like controlling and maintaining the canals, granaries, courier and postal stations, etc., or shift work in the imperial workshops on a regular basis (for instance 1-3 months every year). Shift workers of the imperial workshops had to leave their families and live and work for the fixed amount of time in the workshops. The service harmed those conscripted because they lost the income of their business at home during this period. Therefore labor service was eventually transformed into payments in silver so that the administration could hire workers and artisans to do the work.

Under the rule of the first emperor the use of silver as currency was repressed. An attempt was made to stop all private mining (1438) which turned out to be little effective although culprits had to face capital punishment. The Yongle emperor reversed this policy as soon as he began to reign. Silver was mined wherever possible and accessible in
China,Vietnam, and Burma.
Silver as a currency gained vital importance when taxes in kind and later corvée (forced labor) obligations were converted into payments in silver (1561). The state also gained silver when merchants paid for salt-certificates. These payments were then used to buy provisions for the soldiers in the border regions.

International Trade
International trade became prominent with the expeditions of Admiral Zheng He between 1405 and 1433. But soon after the last expedition was concluded (Zheng He died during on the return trip) the continuation was stopped. Records and maps of the expedition were officially destroyed which made the one surviving travel account an especially valuable source on the expedition. International trade now was limited to coastal trade and (illegal) trade with Chinese trade posts in
Southeast Asia.
!!In 1525 all ships with more than two masts operating at the southeastern coast were destroyed by official decree. It was not until 1557 when the Portuguese were permitted to open a trading post in
Macao that international trade was partially revived. One decade later, in 1567, maritime trade was permitted again with the exemption of Japan.

In the Ming literacy on an average level was higher than during any previous period. There are several indicators for this development:
1. the fast development of the book market. In addition to new editions of the Classics with commentaries as study aids for the candidates who prepared for the official examinations and manuals with questions and answers of previous exams, there were cheap editions of novels and theater plays, instruction manuals, books on medicine, music notation, calendars etc.
2. For officials and their staff administrative handbooks on ritual and law regulations, and bureaucratic rules were published.
3. Whole page book illustrations became popular.
4. In order to catch the attention of a large readership, ‘journals’ were published whose pages were divided into up to four different registers containing a text, its illustrations, some commentary, and even advertising for new editions, other books by the same author, the bookseller etc.
5. The amount of woodblock carvers increased (while their wages were lowered).
6. New fonts of characters of reduced complexity in style were created in order to facilitate speedy carving.
7. Registers of landownership, tithing (lijia)- registers, and tax books that had to be sent to the Ministry of Revenue were printed. To keep these registers, the responsible person in the community had to be literate.
8. Standardized printed contracts were used widely for buying and selling land as well as in commercial activities. The forms were filled in by the parties or by a hired scribe but had to be signed by the parties. Brook mentions a contract signed by a woman.
9. The demand made by Emperor Hongwu at the beginning of his reign to establish community schools for adults in order to improve their ability to read and write may have contributed to the increased literacy, although it is difficult to prove that this demand was fulfilled and community schools prevailed over time. They are scarcely mentioned in local gazetteers. Among other objectives the empeor aimed at a wide distribution of his own book “Grand Pronouncements” in order to spread his ideals of law and order.
10. Standardized editions for school textbooks were printed.
11. The production of ink and paper increased.

Ming robe

!!Mandarin square: rank badge for the official robe of a Ming civil official

!!Ming Religious Syncretism: Three Teachings United in One

Since the Song Dynasty religious and philosophical thinking in China showed remarkably syncretistic tendencies: Elements of the three teachings Confucianism,
Daoism, and Buddhism were integrated into a system of metaphysical ideas and practical ethics that only in the Ming Dynasty became widely acknowledged.
The synthesis of the three teachings was the answer to the search for practical methods of spiritual cultivation.

The Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)

The territory of the Qing dynasty

The reign of the  Qing Dynasty is linked to three remarkable rulers:
!!1. Emperor Kangxi (r. 1622-1722): created a government system in which higher ranking positions were headed by a one Manchu and one Chinese official each. Kangxi was well learned in the Chinese Classics, literature, as well as Western mathematics, natural sciences, and mechanics. His intellectual exchange with the Jesuits led to the appointment of a Jesuit as head of the imperial Office of Astronomy. He tolerated Christianity as taught by the Jesuits who allowed for the practice of the ancestor cult by their Chinese converts. When the pope sent an emissary to
Beijing who demanded that the ancestor cult could not be tolerated within the catholic teaching he demanded that the Jesuits leave the country.

Paintings documenting the travels of Emperor Kangxi to the South

2. Emperor Yongzheng (r. 1722-1736): is best known for having consolidated the state finances by introducing a reformed tax system. He also abolished inherited positions.
!!3. Emperor Qianlong (r. 1736-1796 ): was a highly cultured person. Although said to not have excelled in poetry, he composed 42.000 poems (and wrote many of them onto famous paintings…). Later in life he became extremely afraid of conspiracies and started a literary inquisition. In 1771 more than 350 scholars reviewed and annotated more than 10.000 books and manuscripts from imperial collections and from collections in the entire empire.

Emperor Qianlong (r. 1736-1796)

Political Structures

The Manchu, Mongol, and parts of the Chinese population were integrated into civil-military units called banners which again were divided into smaller units of approximately 7500 households each. The eight basic banners were identified by a colored flag (yellow, white, blue, red) with a straight or bordered edge. After more groups of the population had been integrated, there were 24 banners. By 1648 only 16% of the bannermen were of ethnic Manchu origin.

Banners were units in charge of registration, conscription, taxation, and mobilization. The army was led by Manchu aristocrats who were assisted by Chinese generals. The Mongols were fully politically integrated into the Manchu state when the seal of the Great Khan came into the possession of the Manchu rulers in 1635 after a victory of the Manchu over the Mongol army. Possessing the Great Seal aligned the Manchu ruler with Chinggis Khan, who had first united the Mongols in a strategy similar to Nurhaci’s unification of the Manchus.

Book with Manchu and Chinese text

New Institutions:

The Imperial Household Department was an institution newly created in 1661 that replaced the eunuchs in the management of the imperial household. (Eunuchs continued to work as servants in the harem only.) Now Chinese bondservants and officials
-managed the budget of the imperial clan
- provided for the emperor’s food, clothing, housing
- managed the imperial printing bureau
- managed the estates in
North China that had been confiscated and distributed among
the bannermen
- supervised the monopolies of the sale of ginseng, salt, and pearls, the coin-copper
trade with
Japan, the imperial textile and porcelain manufactories
- the customs offices

!!Officials’ ranks and examination system
Officials were graded in 9 ranks with an additional division in a (higher ranking) and b (lower ranking) attributes.
To obtain an official position exams on the
provincial and
national levels had to be passed. W
inners of the national degree could also participate in the highest examination, the palace exam.  Participants for the exams were selected according to a quota to insure that regions were represented in a balanced ratio. Bannermen competed in separate exams which allowed for special privileges.

Social relations

The Machu government faced the danger as well as the usefulness of the well-educated local elites. They could serve the local communities well, but at the same time they could also take over government functions which were part of the officials’ duties. In order to limit their influence, tax-exemption practices were changed: tax and corvee exemptions were no longer granted to the household but now only to the individual.

!!A ban of intermarriage between Han and Manchu proved to be impossible to enforce. Nevertheless, Qianlong insisted on the use of the Manchu language and learning of the Manchu script by the Manchu population. To preserve Manchu history and tradition he ordered the Manchu history to be written, the history of the eight banners, the publication of Manchu genealogies and the recording of the shamanistic tradition of the Manchu.

Foreign Relations

The tributary system functioned as it had under the Ming: envoys from Korea and Vietnam were received in Beijing up to three times per year. The Manchu emperors confirmed the status of the Korean and Annamese kings, a practice that had been performed for centuries in the same way. Tributary states of Central Asia where handled by a new agency, the Court of Colonial Affairs. During several military expeditions the Manchus tried to terminate the hostilities. They finally incorporated the oases into the territory of China and called it ‘New Dominions’ (Xinjiang).

The relations with Tibet where fruitful and stable. The Manchu emperors supported the Tibetan clergy and thus largely gained control over Tibet. Since the Manchu emperor was regarded as an incarnation of Manjusri and as Cakravartin, the “turner of the wheel” he fulfilled the double function of a secular ruler and a spiritual leader.

Social Relations


The basic unit of production and consumption was, as it always had been, the family clan using a common budget and common property. The clan was presided over by a patriarch who made the essential decisions about family matters (marriage alliances between surnames, usually diversified careers of sons, punishments etc.). ‘Membership’ in a clan was indicated by the common family name; family organization strived for joint efforts to keep up shared rites of passage, gravesites, elaborately constructed ancestral halls in which the ancestral tablets were displayed, education for the children, and recording the clan genealogy. These shared institutions and activities especially in south and central China brought clan members of all social levels together.

Economic diversity and growth

Agriculture remained the most important resource of the Qing state. In labor intensive cereal production the majority of the work force of peasants was absorbed. Two zones are dominant for two different crops: In the north wheat and millet are dominant, the south is the area of wet-rice cultivation. Distributing the risk of a bad harvest between landlord and tenants in a share cropping system was dominant. Landownership could be shifting, but largely was limited to members of the same clan; complete alienation from the land appeared usually only over a period of several decades. Tenure could be permanent which in general benefited the tenants because the system offered a high level of security.
The dense population in the south had to devote much of its work time to the irrigation process and to the maintenance of the irrigation system.

!!“Native banks” handled nearly all money transfer transactions we know of modern banks. They
-accepted deposits
-made loans
-issued private notes
-transferred funds between regions etc.
within the monetary system which used copper coins, silver, silver dollars, and paper notes.