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Rewards and the Financing of Rewards for the Three Wuliangha Guards During the Ming Dynasty




兀良哈 撫賞 軍費 貪瀆 伐木

Parallel abstracts

This paper discusses one of the Ming Dynasty's diplomatic strategies for defense against the Mongols, and the dynasty's use of a system that paid 'labor allowances' to its allies. Since the beginning of the early 15th century, the Ming Dynasty had given titles and rewards in order to win over tribes of the Wuliangha Guards on the eastern Mongolian steppes. In return, they would give early warnings on invasions by Mongolian troops, so that military defense and deployment could be carried out in advance. In the beginning, rewards were given at the Hsifengkou Pass only. Every year, as tribal chiefs and their entourages entered through the Hsifengkou Pass to go to Beijing to pay tribute, Ming generals would set up banquets at the pass to entertain them or give them gifts of salt, rice, clothing, silk, etc. In the mid-15th century, the tribes of the three Wuliangha Guards gradually moved southwards because of threats from Mongolia. They collected rewards sporadically at passes in the Yan Mountains Range. The Ming frontier generals could only give in to their "supplementary" demands in order to keep the peace. Revenues from business tax, land rent, fines, and incense donations were misappropriated to fund these "unplanned" expenditures. The Ming generals even used revenue from coal mining and interest on loans to merchants, but the most common practice was to order soldiers to cross the borders to cut down trees for building materials or firewood, which they transported back inside the border to sell. As the demand for rewards grew, the expenses increased. In spite of exhaustive efforts to raise funds by various means, the income could not keep up with these expenses. Under the circumstances, the only option was to ask for help from the central government. The Ministry of Revenue and the Ministry of War became the "cash machine" for the fiscal deficit of the border administration. In 1552, the central government allocated for the first time a subsidy of 4,000 taels of silver. As the requests multiplied, the amount of the subsidy increased continuously. By 1591, reward expenses had increased to 50,099 taels of silver. The central government decided to subsidize the full amount in the hope of resolving the exploitation of soldiers. However, the expenses continued to increase. By 1623, the subsidies were increased to 55,993 taels of silver. Nevertheless, the practice of ordering soldiers to cross the border to collect firewood and sell them as their subsidies (which were usually directly deducted from their salaries according to their monthly quota) continued until the end of the Ming Dynasty. Moreover, another cause of the fiscal deficit was the illegal misappropriation of funds by the military officials in charge. The policy of winning over the frontier tribes with rewards had become a good opportunity for collusion among military officials. Furthermore, the quality of the reward items and the banquets was not always good, and feelings of resentment arose among the Wuliangha tribal people who came to collect the rewards. The case-study in this paper is a microcosm of the expansion of Ming military expenditures, brought about by multiple instances of poor planning.

Parallel keywords

Wuliangha reward military expenditure misappropriation logging