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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 Ebrey’s 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 people’s 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

p.2 common people better by fairly reallocating services and taxes “in order to lighten the weight of government on the poor1. Derived from their previous disciplined lifestyle with strong similarities to military style organization. the post was removed permanently and the duties were transferred to the emperor.” To furthermore create a government more for the people. p. Because of their foreign origins. the more official centered type of government brought back local governance of villages through magistrates.223 . In the management of bureaucracy. Under the Ming Dynasty.191 Cambridge Illustrated History. The foundation of Chinese government was local governance and the early Qing and Ming Dynasties had different basic organizations of local villages. Ming Taizu greatly cut government expenses and let the people have some self-governance on the local village level. The Manchu Qing style of government was more hierarchical and authoritative. Tax collection was also more regulated and taxes increased to help maintain the large Manchu army and number of banner-men. There were also instances of severe punishments dealt to officials for minor offenses. He was greatly suspicious of his officials and after an incident with his prime minister. the 1 2 Cambridge Illustrated History. literary inquisition and ruthless suppressions such as the massacre seen in Yangzhou2. They forcibly subjugate the Han Chinese through enforcement of the queue hairstyle. Hongwu emperor set example of centralizing power in the hands of the emperor. In contrast to Ming Dynasty government. Manchu rulers were more able to maintain a disciplined and efficient bureaucracy. 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. the Manchu was able to maintain order and provide authority. Amidst the decline of the Ming dynasty.

Such relative autonomy of government also allowed for each village freedom to produce their own unique solutions to solve conflicts.” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p. 3” In another ordinance. if a conflict ever rises. The organization of the Qing villages allowed for local residents to handle some matters on their own including decision to undertake projects. Qing Dynasty village organization had less autonomy and all projects or proposals had to be finally approved by the local magistrate. maintaining peace and minor judicial duties. For example. The system consisted of having the elders and well off families in the community to lead in tax collection. For example.212 4 . in the “Record of the Old South Ditch”. when villages couldn’t decide on the sharing of the river. “Recently we have followed the suggestion of the villages and grouped all households into separate districts. a special method of maintaining peace proposed was: “As soon as the sun sets.4” In contrast.from now on. The Hongwu emperor believed that such a self-governing system would allow people to live peacefully without government intrusion. the final authority on decisions still laid with the local official who was assigned by the court government. no one will be allowed to walk about…. our ordinances will be properly enforced and the morality of our people will be restored.we will take turns patrolling streets…he who sights a violator wills sound his gong.3 local governance was centered on the local community. 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. each with a fixed number of members….211 “Village Ordinances. The Hongwu emperor gave local communities relative autonomy in governing themselves. village leaders issued special village ordinances in order to protect their residents. However.” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p. they went to 3 “Village Ordinances.

” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p. In “Lan Dingyuan’s Casebook”.6” Excerpts showed that the magistrate was able to effectively give fair judgments due to his learned authority.205-206 . how many of you really followed my instructions? Those of you in charge of money and grain have stolen them yourselves.301 Lan Dingyuan. thus he wanted to curb the power of the officials and their control over the lives of the common people. “Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor. those of you in charge of criminal laws and punishments have neglected the regulations. “However. policing and maintaining peace which were in the hands of village leaders during the Ming were carried out by local officials in the Qing.205 8 Zhu Yuanzhang. Other tasks such as tax collection.” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p. Another way that the two dynasties differed in their governing style was the usage of officials.292 7 Zhu Yuanzhang.7” Besides stating his anger at examples of corrupt officials he warned future officials of the harsh punishments awaiting them if they don’t heed the emperor’s warnings.” Zhu Yuanzhang showed his distrust of the officials and believed that they are very prone to corruption. In the early Ming Dynasty.8” Furthermore. “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. after assuming your posts.4 the local magistrate and he was able to give a very logical and acceptable solution to the problem5.” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p. In “Proclamations of The Hongwu Emperor. the Hongwu emperor greatly distrusted his officials and the intellectual class. 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. “Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor. 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 below…use the name of the court and the government to 5 6 “Village Organization. “Lan Dingyuan’s Casebook.

with power concentrated in the hands of the emperors and lack of officials to deal with tasks in detail. 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.5 engage in evil practices. To combat the chaotic political and social situation they had inherited. However. Such distrust for officials also increased the prevalence of court politics and infighting which led to ineffective governing of subjects. 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.. Chinese intellectuals were recognized and appointed to positions in government.9” However. Qing Dynasty rulers had a hierarchal top to down structure that utilized officials to carry out tasks and report to the emperor. 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 Manchu rulers were greatly Sinocized and during the reigns of Kangxi. the ancient sages created ceremonial practices in order to standardize conduct…. “Proclamations of the Hongwu Emperor.ceremony and 9 Zhu Yuanzhang. For example.207 .” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p. the society in Ming became chaotic at times and societal values became more lax with less regard to following the rules. They were also more interested in obtaining a more uniform society such as requiring wearing of queues. Yongzheng and Qianglong. Manchu rulers still trusted their clansmen more.

6 deference.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. with the lack of officials to govern the masses. I destro yed the list of those involved which the culprits had divulged during the trial. to prevent unnecessary killings and maintain peace.” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p.296 .” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p. Ming society became more liberal as can be seen by the number of plays and love stories prevalent in literature from that time period. “Lan Dingyuan’s Casebook. However. the early Ming and Qing rulers had structurally different government especially on the local levels. In cases described in “Lan Dingyuan’s Casebook”.302 12 Lan Dingyuan. “In the Records of the Old South Ditch”. seem fairly wise and fair in their handling of problems. Lan’s solutions to problems were both fair and humanistic. are sufficient to regulate the vast concerns of an empire. Qing government however stressed more local control with standardization of governance as well as a hierarchy of officials 10 11 Wang Youpu. the local society was also different in the two time periods. Because of emphasis on governance rooted in community organization.297-298 “Village Organization. the villagers complied with all the regulations and the elders of the village handed down the benefits of these rules to us. he decided in one case to be “sympathetic to the people’s troubles and wanting to end the matter. “Exhortations on Ceremony and Deference. people gained a greater sense of common history and identity and more local organizations such as schools and markets become prevalent.12” With different visions for government. local magistrate made the final decisions for the local village communities.11” The officials themselves. Because of the two different systems.” In Chinese Civilization Sourcebook p. the people were grateful for his delegation of water with neighboring villages: “Relying on the wisdom and fairness of Magistrate Di. unlike Ming Taizu’s characterizations. Local village organization in the Ming were mostly based on self-governing by the community but in the Qing. For example.

Ebrey. Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Chinese Civilization: A sourcebook. 2nd ed. Works Cited 1.13” The early Ming dynasty rulers.7 from local ones to ones in court and then to the emperor. 13 Cambridge Illustrated History. Patricia B. 2. However. 1996. Patricia. p.229 . Ebrey. New York: The Free Press. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. was more conservative as evident from the banning of drama and fiction that are deemed “socially subversive or licentious. 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. through carefully guarded morality. 1993. The society during that time. especially the Hongwu emperor. 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.