3.5.6 Taxation and Currency



Table of Contents
3.5.6.1 The Land Tax and Compulsory Labor
3.5.6.1.1 The Tax on Farm Land
3.5.6.1.1.1 The Hu-tiao (戶調) Method of the Western Chin
3.5.6.1.1.2 The Land Tax of the Eastern Chin and the Southern Dynsties
3.5.6.1.1.3 The Land Tax of the Northern Dynasties

3.5.6.1 The Land Tax and Compulsory Labor

3.5.6.1.1 The Tax on Farm Land

3.5.6.1.1.1 The Hu-tiao Method of the Western Chin

1). The Origin of the Hu-tiao (戶調) Method of Land Taxation. According to the taxes levied on the agricultural population by the Han dynasty, the land taxes were collected in grain while the head tax was reckoned in cash and althought the nominal rate for the land tax was one-thirtieth in reality the grain that the peasants handed over to the landlord was usually one-half the harvest. (See the Biography of Wang Mang in the Han Shu. "...this was officially one out of thirty but in reality for every ten the tax was five.") Moreover, there were absolutely no restrictions on the sale or size of privately-owned farmland. This situation continued through the division and chaos of the Three Kingdoms until the time of the transition from Wei to Chin which gave rise to two related phenomena: the first was that numerous influential families and nobles occupied too much farm land and possessed too many tien-k'o (tenant farmers), the other was an outcome of the large refugee population, some of whom wandered about the various regions while others submitted to nobles with the overall result of many empty fields with no one to cultivate them seriously affecting production and state tax revenues. Following Chin Wu-ti's pacification of Wu, he then instituted a form of hu-tiao-shih. Its aims were on the one hand to increase the restrictions on farmland held by nobles and officials, and on the other hand to encourage the people to plow and sow the uncultivated land, at the same time changing the Han dynasty practice of cash payments into in-kind levies of cloth. In this case, tiao has the meaning of levy. (Hence, hu-tiao means a household levy.)

2). The Hu-tiao Laws as Implemented by the Western Chin

According to the Monograph on Food and Commodities (Shih Huo Chih) after Chin Wu-ti had pacified Wu he instituted the hu-tiao chih shih, the original text of which reads as follows:


A male household head annually submits three bolts of chüan (raw silk), three chin (a weight measure) of mien (silk floss), women and minor males who are the head of a household submit half of this. For all those those in outlying commanderies in some cases are two-third (of the tax liability), those who are distant are one-third. The eastern tribal peoples will submit a tribute of cloth, each household one bolt, some of the distant ones, one chang (a ten foot length).

Each adult male will hold seventy mou (畝) of farm land, each female thirty mou, in addition a male who is the head of a household will have fifty mou of k'o-t'ien (tax fields), a female head will have twenty mou, other adult males get half while other adult females receive none. Males and females between the ages of 16 and 60 are ch'eng-ting (formal adults); from 15 down to 13 and from 61 to 65 are considered tz'u-ting (secondary adults); while those 12 and below and 66 and above are the elderly and the young and not included.

The distant barbarians have no k'o-t'ien, submitting three hu of rice per household, the more distant ones five tou, the most distant ones submit the equivalent in cash, twenty-eight wen a person.

Those with official rank fomr the first to the ninth each, whether eminent or humble, are given possession of land. Those in the first rank are given fifty ch'ing (about 756 acres), the second rank forty-five ch'ing, the third rank forty ch'ing, the fifth rank thirty ch'ing, the sixth rank twenty-five ch'ing, the seventh rank twenty ch'ing, the eighth rank fifteen ch'ing and the ninth rank ten ch'ing. Moreover those of both high and low rank protect and support their relatives, most to the nine degrees of kinship and a few to three generations. The descendants of the Imperial family, State guests, the Ancient Worthies, even the sons and grandsons of scholars are also like this. In addition, those who obtained protection are considered household dependents (i-shih-k'o) and tenant farmers (tien-k'o)....

3). An Explanation of the Hu-tiao Method

Because the meaning of the historical text, the Monograph on Food and Commodities (Shih Huo Chih) used above is not clear there are many questions about it and thus have given rise to numerous differing explanations by later scholars. We will now consider the follow interpretation.

One: Chan T'ien has the meaning of 'land that can be legally possessed', especially a prescribed land allocation for officials and the nobility in order to limit the arbitrary seizures by powerful families. Land quotas were also given to the common people in order to display an equal distribution of land to make certain that everyone had land to till and in order to avoid wasting arable land and manpower. Seventy mou for men and forty for women combined to given a husband and wife one-hundred mou, and this tallies with the ancient principle used to organize agricultural production of "one husband and one-hundred mou" (i.e. one household).

Two: Chan T'ien defines an area of land that can be enjoyed but it was not necessary that it all be capable of cultivation (this is because in antiquity one-hundred paces comprised one mou while in Chin times two-hundred and forty paces comprised a mou, thus one-hundred mou was a very large area that the labor of a husband and wife could not hope to cope with) and so also a k'o-t'ien standard was proscribed, k'o-t'ien being the land that had to be cultivated and taxes paid on, the so called 'supervised land' (tu-k'o-t'ien). The k'o-t'ien was set at 50 mou for males and 20 mou for women, seventy mou when combined and this is the so called ten-seven tax. This land had to be part of the chan-t'ien and no land could be added on to it to serve as k'o-t'ien.

Three: Tiao is a levy on households paid in cloth that replaced the cash head tax of the Han. It was a new regulation that was promulgated after Wu was pacified and the lands united because the land of Wu was an abundant producer of silk cloth thus silk cloth became the major focus of taxation. The people of the eastern barbarian tribes did not cultivate silkworm mulberry and therefore paid tribute in cloth that was produced locally (the tsung tax). In the case of the grain tax that had been collected ever since the time of the Han and Wei, it existed just as of old. There is a lack of written records with regard to the collection quotas of the grain tax, only the quote from the Chin Ku-shih in the Ch'u-hsüeh Chi which says:
The masses incur k'o-t'ien, fifty mou for a husband from which four hu is collected in taxes.
This is to say that eight sheng is collected in taxes on each mou. Although this number is by no means certain it does serve as an indicator that there were land taxes in addition to the household levy (hu-tiao). Therefore, the regulations for those distant eastern tribes in the Monograph on Food and Commodities (Shih-hou Chih), those who had no fixed k'o-t'ien did not have to pay the household levy but they did collect rice or the equivalent in cash, making it clear that rent payments on land were something that could never be avoided.

Four Even though there were limits prescribed by law it was common for ordinary prominent officials and aristocrats to still enjoy vast agricultural holdings, for example an official of the first rank was entitled to fifty ch'ing, equivalent to the arable land of fifty families of commoners, on down to the smallest which was the ten ch'ing alloted to an official of the ninth rank which was equal to the cultivated lands of ten families. Those few officials who shared a long and close association relied on their rank to protect (yin) their in-laws, children and grand-children, the yin in this instance referring to exemption from compulsory labor service. In addition to this they also possessed a large group of slaves and farm tenants that were attached to the land to serve as its cultivators, to create a privileged class. The lifestyle of the influential and powerful families that made up this privileged class was unrestrained and extravagant, thus their struggles to seize power were also very intense.

5). With regards to the chan-t'ien of the household levy system and the significance of the common peasant having equal allocations of farm land, it served as the source of the equal field system practiced by the Northern Wei dynasty that followed. The levy in cloth collected in addition to the land tax and compulsory labor served as the source of the tsu-yung-tiao system of the T'ang dynasty.

6). The household levy system was promulgated after the pacification of Wu but after eleven years the revolt of the Eight Kings broke out and after twenty years there was the disastrous Yung-chia period so that all the lands under heaven were in upheaval, therefore the time to implement this government order was very short and I am afraid that they were never able to carry it out fully so that its achievements are not recorded in history,

3.5.6.1.1.2 The Land Tax of the Eastern Chin and the Southern Dynsties

(1) After the Eastern Chin had fled south over the river, the state disintegrated, the borders were in flux and for all intents and purposes the household levy system had been torn asunder. The histories report in the year Hsien-ho 5 Ch'eng-ti began to measure the people's land and taking one-tenth, each mou taxed at three sheng of grain, reduced to two sheng during the reign of Hsiao-wu-ti (see the Monograph on Food and Commodities in the Chin Shu). This makes it clear that the chan-t'ien limitations had ceased to exist and that there was a return to taxation according to acreage. Because at this time the lands of the north were lost, a large group of "guest households" (k'o-hu) wandered into Chiang-nan and temporary administrative units were set up, household registration was in confusion and the land tax system was likewise hard to stabilize. Moreover, in addition to grain, there was still cloth levies, usually not called tiao but pu, and together with grain and cloth of the land tax was called tsu-pu. The Miao and Yao of the mountainous southwest usually had levies made on their valuables. The various tribes of Ling-nan submitted their local products, for example such things as kingfishers and rhinocerous horn. Whenever faced with war the various articles required by the government forces were usually requisitioned by the government when and where they were needed. Every situation had its own unique response that is not recorded in history books. (See the Study on Land Taxes in the 2nd ch'üan of the T'ung-k'ao.)

(2). In principle the land tax of the Southern Dynasties was acquired from the Eastern Chin, but at the same time the grain tax and cloth levy was always convertible (convertible in the sense that the cloth levy could be converted into a grain tribute, or the grain tax converted into a payment of cloth or some other commodity) so that at the same time it was customary to call the grain levy, the cloth levy and equivalences in commodities or currency the san tiao (three exchanges)(See the Biography of Hu San-sheng in the T'ung-chien). With regard to the rates and regulations of the tax levy during the Sung, Ch'i, Liang, Ch'en each had modifications and in addition were not detailed in the histories. Only in the Monograph on Food and Commodities in the Sui Shu is there a section that reflects back on the land tax system of the Southern Dynasties saying:
The levy: an adult male is liable for two chang of raw silk, three liang of silk thread, eight liang of cotton, eight ch'ih of ray silk and three liang, two fen of cotton used to pay officials, five shih of grain tax, and two shih of grain to pay officials, an adult female would be liable to half that amount. Men and women from the ages of 16 to 60 are considered adults. At 16 a male submits half the levy, at 18 the full levy, and at 66 is exempted from the levy. A woman who marries is considered an adult, but if she stays at home she becomes an adult at 20.
The text is very broad and sweeping and does not specify any specific period, but perhaps it is the system in effect during the Liang and Ch'en at the end of the Southern Dynasties.

3.5.6.1.1.3 The Land Tax of the Northern Dynasties

In the north after passing through the tumults of the Five Barbarians, the land tax situation was complex and confused. For the most part, it was on the spot levies of cloth and grain while continuing to use the formalisms of the Western Chin household levy, and it remained this way until the beginning of the Northern Wei unification. It goes right on up to the Northern Wei implementation of the Equal Fields system when there were once again formal arrangements for a detailed system of land tax standards and land allotment.

(1). The Northern Wei Establishes the Equal Fields System (均田制 Chün-t'ien Chih)

At the end of a period of great upheavals the Northern Wei found vast lands with sparse populations and so practiced the equal fields system to allocate land on the basis of population. The system began in T'ai-ho 9 of the Emperor Hsiao-wen-ti who adopted the proposal of Li An-shih (), requiring that an adult male over the age of 15 be given 40 mou of lu-t'ien (land without trees), his wife to receive 20 mou (a husband and wife comprised a household), slaves were treated the same as liang (good people) and for each head of oxen to receive 30 mou (as long as the oxen were not old or calves) up to a limit of four head. The lu-t'ien was public land so when they became old enough for exemption or died the land was returned, but in addition to the lu-t'ien they were also given sang-t'ien (桑田 land to plant mulberry trees on) and the sang-t'ien was held in perpetuity and not returned to the state. Under the system a husband and wife were given 20 mou of sang-t'ien to plant 50 mulberry trees, 50 jujube trees and 3 elms. In addition to the lu-t'ien and sang-t'ien, the state also allocated land for dwellings (new houses). Three adults were given one mou, five slaves were given one mou and this was the method of distribution. Besides allocating as much of the abandoned land as possible for cultivation, the farm land that had belonged to landlords and was in excess of the quotas had to be sold, while those with not enough had to buy what they lacked, but by no means was land seized to be given to the peasantry. This sort of land allocation was for the broad mass of the population, with regard to the aristocracy and state officials there were also official lands and grants, for example a Prefect was given 15 ch'ing (頃), a Chih-chung Pieh-chia (治中別駕) was given eight ch'ing, the subprefect of a major prefecture and the director of a commandery were given six ch'ing. They took turns occupying the official residences. This is the general situation of the land system of the Northern Wei. With regard to the regulations of the land tax, a man and his wife were a household and each year they submitted one pi of cloth and two shih of grain, four individuals over 15 and not yet married were equivalent to a household as were eight slaves (male or female) or twenty head of oxen.