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Wei Wang Chin 001-206 Comparison of Early Ming and Qing Governance The last two dynasties can be characterized as two of the most long lasting and stable dynasties in Chinese imperial history. However, since the two dynasties were ruled by two different types of people, Han Chinese and Manchu, their inherent governing approach was different. Thus, the impact of their governance on the common people was different as well. The early Ming dynasty emperors instituted a government structure that reflected their roots with the common people. The early Manchu Qing emperors while adopting more Sinocized ways still retained to their authoritative hierarchal Manchu governing style. Their differences are evident in examination of their implementation of taxes, use of officials, organization of local village units and their vision of government. Evidence drawn from primary and secondary sources from Patricia Buckley Ebreys Cambridge Illustrated History of China and Chinese Civilization: A Source Book, help illustrate the difference of governing styles and impact between the early period of the two dynasties, Ming and Qing. Fundamentally, the rulers from the two dynasties held different beliefs and visions regarding government and the nature of ordinary people. The structure of the early Ming dynasty was largely shaped by the founder Ming Hongwu Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang. Due to his experiences during the chaotic ending of Yuan dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor wanted to create a heavenly world where the good is rewarded and evil punished. Also, because of his background as a commoner before ascending the throne, Ming Taizu, Zhu Yuanzhang believed that the common peoples nature was better than that of officials and that the government should be based with the common people. This was evident in his attempts to make the lives of the

common people better by fairly reallocating services and taxes in order to lighten the weight of government on the poor1. To furthermore create a government more for the people, Ming Taizu greatly cut government expenses and let the people have some self-governance on the local village level. In the management of bureaucracy, Hongwu emperor set example of centralizing power in the hands of the emperor. He was greatly suspicious of his officials and after an incident with his prime minister, the post was removed permanently and the duties were transferred to the emperor. There were also instances of severe punishments dealt to officials for minor offenses. The Manchu Qing style of government was more hierarchical and authoritative. Derived from their previous disciplined lifestyle with strong similarities to military style organization, Manchu rulers were more able to maintain a disciplined and efficient bureaucracy. Amidst the decline of the Ming dynasty, the Manchu was able to maintain order and provide authority. Because of their foreign origins, Manchu rulers were more skeptical of the nature of the dominant populations of Han Chinese subjects and looked towards their officials to maintain order and to control the people. They forcibly subjugate the Han Chinese through enforcement of the queue hairstyle, literary inquisition and ruthless suppressions such as the massacre seen in Yangzhou2. In contrast to Ming Dynasty government, the more official centered type of government brought back local governance of villages through magistrates. Tax collection was also more regulated and taxes increased to help maintain the large Manchu army and number of banner-men. The foundation of Chinese government was local governance and the early Qing and Ming Dynasties had different basic organizations of local villages. Under the Ming Dynasty, the
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Cambridge Illustrated History. p.191 Cambridge Illustrated History. p.223

local governance was centered on the local community. The Hongwu emperor gave local communities relative autonomy in governing themselves. The system consisted of having the elders and well off families in the community to lead in tax collection, maintaining peace and minor judicial duties. The Hongwu emperor believed that such a self-governing system would allow people to live peacefully without government intrusion. Such relative autonomy of government also allowed for each village freedom to produce their own unique solutions to solve conflicts. For example, village leaders issued special village ordinances in order to protect their residents. They are given such autonomy that in one ordinance the leaders further reorganized the village into smaller units so that ordinances can be better enforced. Recently we have followed the suggestion of the villages and grouped all households into separate districts, each with a fixed number of members.from now on, our ordinances will be properly enforced and the morality of our people will be restored. 3 In another ordinance, a special method of maintaining peace proposed was: As soon as the sun sets, no one will be allowed to walk about.we will take turns patrolling streetshe who sights a violator wills sound his gong.4 In contrast, Qing Dynasty village organization had less autonomy and all projects or proposals had to be finally approved by the local magistrate. The organization of the Qing villages allowed for local residents to handle some matters on their own including decision to undertake projects. However, if a conflict ever rises, the final authority on decisions still laid with the local official who was assigned by the court government. For example, in the Record of the Old South Ditch, when villages couldnt decide on the sharing of the river, they went to

Village Ordinances. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.211 Village Ordinances. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.212

the local magistrate and he was able to give a very logical and acceptable solution to the problem5. In Lan Dingyuans Casebook, the role of magistrate was shown to be central to the local governing unit as he was the only representative of the central government most people ever encountered.6 Excerpts showed that the magistrate was able to effectively give fair judgments due to his learned authority. Other tasks such as tax collection, policing and maintaining peace which were in the hands of village leaders during the Ming were carried out by local officials in the Qing. Another way that the two dynasties differed in their governing style was the usage of officials. In the early Ming Dynasty, the Hongwu emperor greatly distrusted his officials and the intellectual class, thus he wanted to curb the power of the officials and their control over the lives of the common people. In Proclamations of The Hongwu Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang showed his distrust of the officials and believed that they are very prone to corruption. However, after assuming your posts, how many of you really followed my instructions? Those of you in charge of money and grain have stolen them yourselves; those of you in charge of criminal laws and punishments have neglected the regulations.7 Besides stating his anger at examples of corrupt officials he warned future officials of the harsh punishments awaiting them if they dont heed the emperors warnings. I punish them with the death penalty or forced labor or have them flogged with bamboo sticks in order to make manifest the consequences of good or evil actions.8 Furthermore, he expressed his anger towards local bureaucratic staff who limited access of common people to officials: they utilize the prestige of the government to oppress the masses belowuse the name of the court and the government to
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Village Organization. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.301 Lan Dingyuan. Lan Dingyuans Casebook. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.292 7 Zhu Yuanzhang. Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.205 8 Zhu Yuanzhang. Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.205-206

engage in evil practices.9 However, with power concentrated in the hands of the emperors and lack of officials to deal with tasks in detail, the society in Ming became chaotic at times and societal values became more lax with less regard to following the rules. Such distrust for officials also increased the prevalence of court politics and infighting which led to ineffective governing of subjects. To combat the chaotic political and social situation they had inherited, Qing Dynasty rulers had a hierarchal top to down structure that utilized officials to carry out tasks and report to the emperor. They were also more interested in obtaining a more uniform society such as requiring wearing of queues. The Manchu rulers were greatly Sinocized and during the reigns of Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianglong, Chinese intellectuals were recognized and appointed to positions in government. However, Manchu rulers still trusted their clansmen more, thus important posts in government with Han Chinese officials were balanced with Manchu counterparts that were of higher rank. Local provincial posts were given to Chinese officials because of their relative knowledge to Han Chinese traditions so they can better communicate instructions of the emperor to the common people. For example, the central government would mandate moral public lectures of instructions from the emperor and the local officials would use local vernacular to further enhance the understanding of the edicts. The argument given in Exhortations on Ceremony and Deference showed the attempt of central government to provide standardized solution to societal moral problems by encouraging common people to observe standard ceremony and customs: Because the customs of every place differed, the ancient sages created ceremonial practices in order to standardize conduct..ceremony and

Zhu Yuanzhang. Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.207

deference, are sufficient to regulate the vast concerns of an empire.10 The people though given less autonomy in self-government seem to appreciate the authority of wise magistrates and look up to local officials in solving problems. In the Records of the Old South Ditch, the people were grateful for his delegation of water with neighboring villages: Relying on the wisdom and fairness of Magistrate Di, the villagers complied with all the regulations and the elders of the village handed down the benefits of these rules to us.11 The officials themselves, unlike Ming Taizus characterizations, seem fairly wise and fair in their handling of problems. In cases described in Lan Dingyuans Casebook, Lans solutions to problems were both fair and humanistic. For example, to prevent unnecessary killings and maintain peace, he decided in one case to be sympathetic to the peoples troubles and wanting to end the matter, I destro yed the list of those involved which the culprits had divulged during the trial.12 With different visions for government, the early Ming and Qing rulers had structurally different government especially on the local levels. Local village organization in the Ming were mostly based on self-governing by the community but in the Qing, local magistrate made the final decisions for the local village communities. Because of the two different systems, the local society was also different in the two time periods. Because of emphasis on governance rooted in community organization, people gained a greater sense of common history and identity and more local organizations such as schools and markets become prevalent. However, with the lack of officials to govern the masses, Ming society became more liberal as can be seen by the number of plays and love stories prevalent in literature from that time period. Qing government however stressed more local control with standardization of governance as well as a hierarchy of officials

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Wang Youpu. Exhortations on Ceremony and Deference. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.297-298 Village Organization. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.302 12 Lan Dingyuan. Lan Dingyuans Casebook. In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.296

from local ones to ones in court and then to the emperor. The society during that time, through carefully guarded morality, was more conservative as evident from the banning of drama and fiction that are deemed socially subversive or licentious.13 The early Ming dynasty rulers, especially the Hongwu emperor, sought to forge a heavenly society for the common people devoid of evil especially of bureaucratic kind from the chaotic warfare following the fall of the Yuan. However, the early Qing dynasty rulers sought to stabilize and create a more disciplined government structure out of the lax and ineffective political situation following the decline of Ming.

Works Cited 1. Chinese Civilization: A sourcebook. 2nd ed. Ebrey, Patricia B. New York: The Free Press, 1993. Ebrey, Patricia. Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1996.



Cambridge Illustrated History. p.229