An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

sanxiang 三餉, taxes for military provisions

Nov 29, 2015 © Ulrich Theobald

In the first decades of the seventeenth century the Ming goverment 明 (1368-1644) began levying three new types of taxes in order to finance the border wars against the federation of the Manchus that threatened the northeastern border regions of the empire. In 1618 the levy for financing the "Liaodong military provisions" (Liaoxiang 遼餉, also called xinxiang 新餉 "new [levy to finance] military provisions") was introduced. It consisted of an additional pay of 0.0035 liang on each mu 畝 of land (see weights and measures), but was a year later doubled, and in 1620 increased by a further amount of 0.002 liang per mu, resulting in an additional levy of 0.009 liang per mu of land.

This tax brought the state coffers and additional revenue of 5.2 million liang annually. The tax was then discontinued, but again requested in 1630, at an increased rate of 0.012 liang per mu of land, yielding 6.67 million liang, yet the government proclaimed tax exemptions (juanmian 蠲免) because of war, so that the yield was in fact 5.22 million liang, in addition to mercantile customs, salt tax and miscellaneous taxes.

The numerous popular uprisings in 1637 forced the Ming government to fall back on a wartime tax to finance the military provisions of 120.000 freshly recruited troops. This time it was doubled and called tax for "the military provisions of [bandit] suppression" (jiaoxiang 剿餉). It yielded a revenue of more than 3.3 million liang, 2.8 of which originated in an increased field tax (tianfu 田賦). Planned to be levied only once, it was applied for three years.

In 1639 further turmoils throughout the provinces caused Grand Academician (daxueshi 大學士) Yang Sichang 楊嗣昌 (1588-1641) to suggest the one-time application of a levy for financing the "military provisions for training [border recruits, bianbing 邊兵]" (lianxiang 練餉), yielding an amount of more than 7.3 million liang, half of which came from a levy of 0.01 liang per mu of arable land.

Altough these "three [taxes to finance the] military provisions" (sanxiang 三餉) allowed the Ming government to recruit, equip and feed larger contingents of troops, the result was that all the more peasants rebelled against exploitation. After the downfall of the Ming dynasty, the Qing 清 (1644-1911) did not really abolish the Liaoxiang tax, but merged it into the regular field tax, which was only reformed in the early eighteenth century (see tanding rumu 攤丁入畝).

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