The Ming-Qing Period: the Twilight of Feudalism

Establishment of the Ming Dynasty

Feudalism declined during the Ming-Qing period. The Ming Dy-nasty had altogether 16 emperors of 12 generations, lasting 276 years from 1368 to 1644, and the Qing Dynasty, 10 emperors of 9 generations, lasting 268 years from 1644 to 1911. Between 1644 and 1661, after the Ming Dynasty had been terminated, four members of the Ming royal house successively established in Nanjing and elsewhere the regimes of Southern Ming, thus continuing the challenge against the Qing which by then had won firm control over the Central Plains of China. In 1980, the British imperialists invaded China and precipi-tated the Opium War. From then on China gradually developed from feudal into a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country.

In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang acceded to the throne in Yingtian (modem Nanjing , Jiangsu Province) and titled his dynasty Ming. Zhu Yuanzhang’s temple name was Tai Zu; he was also referred to as Em-peror Hong Wu.1 He gradually unified the whole country after taking the Yuan capital. Among his civil ministers were Li Shanchang, Liu Ji and Song Lian, and among his military commanders were Xu Da, Chang Yuchun, Tang He and Hu Dahai. All of them were instrumental in assisting him in the founding of the new dynasty.

Zhu Yuanzhang paid close attention to rehabilitation as a means of consolidating his regime after the country had undergone a major upheaval. “People’s financial resources are stringent and inadequate, as the country has been orrly recently unified,” he stated. “We should not pluck the feathers of an infant bird; nor is it wise to shake a newly planted tree.” He instructed his officials not to exact taxes in an arbi-trary manner, and forbade them to enrich themselves through corruption or cause unnecessary disturbances among the people. One constructive measure he adopted was the recruitment of peasant refugees for the reclamation of abandoned fields. The government provided these refugees with oxen to plough the fields and seeds to start the planting. They were even allowed to keep the tilled fields as their own property. No taxes would be imposed for a period of three years; in some cases tax exemption was declared to be permanent. Unemployed peasants in the lower Changjiang River valley–places like Suzhou , Songjiang, Jiaxing, Huzhou and Hangzhou were moved to the Huai River valley where they opened up new fields for cultivation; more than once were poor peasants moved to the frontier and other sparsely populated areas for the same purpose. To solve the problem of the army’s food supply, Zhu Yuanzhang promoted a system of land recla-mation by soldiers. He stipulated that frontier soldiers should devote30 per cent of their efforts to defence and 70 per cent to land cultiva-tion, and the ratio was 2 to 8 as far as soldiers in the interior were concerned, lie paid close attention to the construction of water conservancy projects, and promoted the cultivation of cash crops. The largest of such projects brought irrigation to 10,000 qing (approxi-mately 160,000 acres) of paddy fields. All these measures were in-strumental in the gradual recovery and development of agriCulture during the early years of the Ming Dynasty. Meanwhile, handicraft industry and commerce also recovered and made progress. Population increased too.

Zhu Yuanzhang reorganized the bureaucracy so as to strengthen his rule. At the beginning be adopted the Yuan system of administra-tion, including the Secretariat and the Offices of Left and Right Prime Ministers which administered the whole country. In 1380 he abolished the Secretariat and the Offices of the two Prime Ministers. In their place he installed the Six Boards the Boards of Civil Office, Revenue, Rites, War, Justice and Works, and each of the Boards was head- ed by a minister. There were no high officials between the emperor and the ministers, who were responsible directly to the emperor. In addition to the Six Boards, there were (1) the Office of Transmission responsible for the acceptance of memorials from officials and peti-tions on exclusive information from ordinary citizens as well as officials, (2) the Censorate responsible for the supervision of officials, and (3) the Supreme Court responsible for reexamination of cases on ap- peal. The Board of Justice, the Censorate and the Supreme Court were jointly known as the “Three Justices”, each of which restrained the other two in the administration of justice. In addition, there were the Grand Secretaries of the Inner Chancery who, ranking below the min- isters, were the emperor’s advisers responsible for his clerical work. As for military affairs, while the Board of War exercised overall leaderhsip, the recruitment, registration and training of soldiers were entrusted to five Military Commands¡ªLeft, Right, Central, Front and Rear which had replaced the General Command established during the Yuan Dynasty. The emperor issued orders and appointed comman-ders whenever the army was mobilized for warfare, and officers and men returned to their garrison duties once the war was over. In local administration, the Ming Dynasty established an institution known as the Administrative Commissioner’s Office in charge of civil and fi- nancial affairs of a number of prefectures, subprefectures and counties. Customarily, the area governed by such an office was referred to as a”province”¡ªa term that has been in use since. The area of jurisdiction for each of eleven provinces¡ªShandong, Shanxi, Henan, Sichuan, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan and Gui-zhou¡ªhas remained approximately the same throughout the years, but the areas of jurisdiction of other provinces have undergone substantial changes. The Shaanxi Province of the Ming Dynasty was split to be-come Shaanxi and Gansu provinces during the early period of the Qing Dynasty; the Huguang Province was likewise split to become Hubei and Hunan provinces. By the same token, the area known as South Zhili during the Ming Dynasty became Jiangsu and Anhui provinces early in the Qing Dynasty, and the area known as North Zhili became Zhili Province that corresponded to today’s Beijing Mu-nicipality, Tianjin Municipality , most areas of Hebei Province , and small parts of Henan and Shandong provinces. The Ming Dynasty had also an office known as Judicial Commissioner’s Office responsible for the administration of justice in the provinces. Another office known as Military Commissioner’s Office was in charge of military affairs on a local level.

Zhu Yuanzhang used severe punishment and indiscriminate kill-ing as a means to strengthen his rule. In 1380 he killed a high official, Hu Weiyong, and the people directly or indirectly implicated exceeded30,000, who also died as a result. In 1393 he killed General Lan Yu, and more than 15,000 persons, being implicated, were executed. Few of those who had helped him in founding the Ming Dynasty survived a normal span of life. He established an intelligence organization known as the Imperial Guard whose sole duty was to gather damaging infor-mation on officials and ordinary people alike, so as to subject each of them to the constant fear of losing not only his own life but the lives of all his family as well.

Zhu Yuanzhang stipulated that there were only two avenues to of-ficialdom: schools and civil service examinations. The school in the nation’s capital was called Imperial College ; its students were recruit-ed from children of officials who had been recommended by local schools. The subjects taught in the Imperial College included the em- peror’ s edicts, law, and the Confucianist Four Books and Five Classics. Those who graduated with honour would receive appointment as officials. As for the civil service examination, those who had passed examinations in the provinces were referred to as juren or “recommend-ed men”, and all the “recommended men” could participate in the metropolitan examination in the nation’s capital. Those who passed the metropolitan examination could participate in the palace examina-tion, and the successful candidates of the palace examination, classified into three categories, would receive appointment as officials, either on the central or on the local level. The questions in the exami-nations at all levels were derived from the Four Books and the Five Classics, and the answers must be based upon the authorized com- ments and must be phrased in such a way as to reflect the speech of ancients. Later, the style of writing became gradually formalized and stereotyped, and compositions written in such a style were referred to as “eight-legged eassays”. The purpose of this kind of examination was to force people to conform, happily and willingly, to the thought frame-work as determined by the royal house. Under no circumstances was independent thinking or a new style of writing allowed. Needless to say, individual view on government and politics was impossible. To strengthen thought control, Zhu Yuanzhang initiated many cases of literary inquisition. If a few words in a composition aroused his suspicion, he just might condemn its author to death.

To perpetuate the rule of China by the Zhu house, Zhu Yuan-zhang, from 1369 to 1391, successively appointed his sons, nephews and grandsons to twenty-five vassalages scattered around the country, and the designed purpose of these vassalages was to protect the royal house in the capital. Meanwhile, as he was afraid that the vassals might become too powerful for the central government to control, he stipulated that a vassal in the interior regions could not command more than 3,000 personal guards and that he was not allowed to inter-fere with civil administration. Only the Prince of Qin at Xi’an , the Prince of Jin at Taiyuan , and the Prince of Yan at Beiping (modern Beijing ) were granted military commandership. In 1398, the second year after Zhu Yuanzhang’s death, a fierce struggle involving the vas-salages erupted within the royal house.

Upon his death, Zhu Yuanzhang was succeeded by his grandson, who was titled Emperor Hui Di. Fearful of the expanding power of the vassalages, the new emperor, having listened to the advice of Qi Tai and Huang Zicheng, proceeded to reduce it. Hardly had he succeeded in weakening some of the vassalages before the Prince of Yan, the strongest vassal, revolted. The war between Emperor Hui Di and his uncle, the Prince of Yan, lasted four years until 1402 when Yingtian fell and Hui Di disappeared without a trace. The Prince of Yan as-cended the throne and, in the very next year, changed the reign title to Yong Le. Historically he was referred to as Emperor Cheng Zu or Emperor Yong Le. Having seized the throne, he proceeded success-fully with the termination of military power among all the vassalages, thus strengthening further the feudal, autocratic rule. He moved the Ming capital to Beijing and recruited approximately 250,000 artisans and nearly one million peasants to rebuild the city. Three and one-half years of intensive labour transformed Beijing into a grand, magnifi-cent metropolis. In 1421 Beijing was formally declared to be the na-tion’s capital, and Yingtian, the former capital, was renamed Nanjing . At the time when the capital was moved to Beijing , the emperor also mobilized a large number of peasant workers for the purpose of dredging the Grand Canal , so that grains, silks and cotton cloth pro-duced in the south could be continually transported to the north. From Emperor Cheng Zu to his grandson, Emperor Xuan Zong, gradually the Grand Secretaries of the Inner Chancery were given more author- ity, as they participated more in the making of policy decisions. Yang Shiqi, Yang Rong and Yang Pu were among the most notable of the Grand Secretaries during the reigns of Emperors Ren Zong and Xuan Zong.

Beginning in the reign of Emperor Cheng Zu, the economy continued to make progress. Upon his ascension to the throne, the emperor ordered the distribution of farm implements and oxen in Shan- dong and other areas that had been devastated by war. Meanwhile, he continued the policy of his predecessors in opening up new fields for cultivation and in moving people to the less populated regions, thus enabling the areas around Beijing and the frontier areas in the north to be developed further. The record shows that in those years local granaries remained continually full and that grains collected as taxes were shipped to the capital in a continuous, endless flow. The annual requisition of silk and cloth by the imperial govemment was also very large.

As the nation’s economy developed, the Ming regime strength-ened its relations with the ethnic minorities, politically, economically and culturally. It established in Kaiyuan (in modem Liaoning Province ) a horse market to trade with the Niizhen tribes. In 1409 it established in Tirin, near the estuary of the Heilongjiang River , the Nurkan Com-missioner’s Office, with jurisdiction that extended westward to the Onon River, eastward to the Kuye ( Sakhalin ) Island , northward to the Oudi River, and southward to the Sea of Japan . In the northwest where the Uygurs, the Huis, and the Mongolians resided, it established garrison commands, with jurisdiction that covered all the territories to the west of Jiayuguan Pass. The jurisdiction extended westward to the Lop Nur , northward to the Barkol Mountains , and southeastward to the Qaidam Basin . In the areas where the Miao, the Yi and other mi- norities resided, the Ming regime designated their own leaders as government officials. It stipulated that the minorities could pay taxes with the minerals they produced, such as mercury and cinnabar. It estab-lished in modern Qinghai and Tibet (then known as “Dbus-Gtsang”) six offices for administration and conferred the title of King upon the Grand Lamas. Meanwhile, it continued to trade with the ethnic mi- notities in the area, exchanging tea for horse. At the peak of this trade, it annually shipped out hundreds of thousands of jin1 of tea in ex-change for ten to twenty thousand horses.

During the reigns of Emperors Cheng Zu and Xuan Zong, the government, time and again, dispatched Zheng He, a Muslim, as an envoy to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean . In the summer of 1405, at the head of an armada of sixty-two ships and an army contingent of more than 27,800 men, well supplied with gold, silk and other valu-ables, Zheng He set to sea from the Port of Liujia near Suzhou and first landed on Fujian . He sailed again from Wuhumen , Fujian Province, and eventually reached Champa. From Champa he journeyed to Java, Sumatra , and Calicut of India, wherefrom he returned to China in the autumn of 1407. From then on until 1433, he sailed time and again. His longest voyage carried him all the way to the eastern coast of Africa , the Red Sea and Mecca . This record voyage preceded Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America and Vasco da Gama’s navigation around the Cape of Good Hope by more than one-half of a century. One of Zheng He’s retainers named Ma Huan (also known as Ma Zongyuan) recorded his observations during the voyage in a book entitled Vision in Triumph in a Boundless Sea . Fei Xin also wrote a book entitled Vision in Triumph: Ships Sail Under Starry Sky. Both books are important source material in studying the history of inter- course between China and foreign countries during the Ming Dynasty.

The reigns of Zhu Yuanzhang and Emperors Hui Di, Cheng Zu, Ren Zong and Xuan Zong, totalling 67 years, marked the early and the most glorious period of the Ming Dynasty. Nevertheless, peasant uprisings continued, and Japanese pirates frequently landed on China to cause disturbances. The record shows that there were more than one hundred peasant riots and uprisings during this period, such as Sun Jipu’s uprising in Shandong in 1370, the peasant uprising in Guang-dong in 1381, and the peasant uprising in Sichuan in 1385. The leader of each uprising referred to himself as “King of Levellers”, indicating that he wished to bring equality to society. The uprising in Sichuan had a following reported to be as large as 200,000. In 1420, a woman named Tang Sai’er, of Putai , Shandong Province, first established her base of operation in Fort Xieshipeng (located in Yidu , Shandong Province) and then attacked Ju, Jimo and Anqiu. The revolt led by her was the best known among the peasant uprisings during the early Ming period. Suspecting that she might have gone into hiding in a convent or nunnery upon her defeat, the Ming government arrested and then sent to Beijing tens of thousands of Buddhist nuns and Taoist priestesses, but nowhere could she be found.

As for the Japanese pirates, they, after 1369, repeatedly raided and pillaged the coastal areas of Shandong , Zhejiang , Fujian and Guangdong , burning and killing as they went. In some cases they even occupied cities for as long as one year. The Ming government built walled fortifications along the coast for defence; it even sent troops in hot pursuit, attempting to exterminate them. But the result was far from effective.

Both Zhu Yuanzhang and Emperor Cheng Zu did not trust their respective ministers, to a degree rarely seen among Chinese emperors. Beginning with Cheng Zu, eunuchs were entrusted with military commandership and were assigned to such important duties as the defence of the frontier. With the passage of time, they were more and more favoured and given greater and greater responsibilities, creating conditions that led, eventually, to their interference with policy decisions in the imperial government. The excessive power the eunuchs enjoyed proved to be a dangerous cancer on the body politic through-out the Ming Dynasty.

Carrying on Zhu Yuanzhang’s policy of thought control, Emperor Cheng Zu ordered Hu Guang and others to edit The Complete Works of the Five Classics in 121 juan, The Complete Works of the Four Books in 30 juan and The Complete Works of Neo-Confucianism in 70 juan. The purpose was to promote the Neo-Confucianism of Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi, and the method was none other than a reproduction of the extant source materials. Emperor Cheng Zu also ordered Xie Jin and others to compile The Yong Le Encyclopaedia. The contents of the completed work, 22,937 juan altogether, were arranged according to phonetic rhymes, reproduced from more than7, 000 extant works. Sometimes an entire book was included. In this way the emperor kept many scholars employed and happy, demon-strating that he, the emperor, was the final authority in cultural activities. Nevertheless, the work itself was an enormous, unprecedented undertaking, preserving many precious materials which otherwise would have been lost to posterity.

The two original creations of the early Ming period were The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Marsh. The Ro-mance, based on the history of the Three Kingdoms, is China ‘s first historical novel and one of the longest novels in the history of Chinese literature. Through its poignant portrayal of different personalities, it presents vividly a political and military struggle of great complexity. As a sympathizer of Liu Bei against Cao Cao, the author describes Liu Bei and his followers as loyal, audacious and solicitous towards the people’s welfare; Cao Cao and his followers, on the other hand, were characterized as devious, untrustworthy, and poisonous. In either case, the portraits were sharp and vivid, creating a deep impression upon the reader. Zhuge Liang became a personalization of wisdom, and he per-sonally directed a spectacle of grandeur known as the Battle of Chibi. In the selection of topical materials as well as in the artistry of pres- entation, The Romance had a deep impact on the literary works of later periods. The way it judged historical personalities affected mate-rially a reader’s view of the history of the Three Kingdoms. Luo Guanzong, the author, lived between 1330 and 1400, approximately.

Outlaws of the Marsh, another novel, appeared at about the salne time as The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It is a masterpiece in the description of peasant uprisings. Based upon a true historical event that occurred in Liangshan Marsh during the Northern Song period, it traces the entire course of a peasant uprising in feudal China : its origin, development and final defeat. As its theme centres on the saying that “the government drives the people to revolt,” this historical novel not only exposes and condemns the corruption of the ruling landlord class but also praises highly the insurgent leaders for their heroism. It suc- cessfully and poignantly sets forth not only the background of each of the Liangshan heroes but also his thought development that finally led him to climb the mountains “to join the righteous cause”. From the viewpoint of characterization and development of personalities, Out-laws of the Marsh, artistically speaking, is much superior to The Ro-mance of the Three Kingdoms. Its appearance enthused the oppressed masses; the ruling class hated it, of course. Later, other novels, dramas and popular literature in general were deeply affected by it. As for its author, he could be either Shi Naian or Luo Guanzhong. Some say that Shi started the work and Luo completed it. As for Shi, few references about his life are available.

In terms of artistic form, both The Romance of the Three King-doms and Outlaws of the Marsh were created out of the verbal history and vernacular tales of the Song-Yuan period. As for content, the author of The Romance fully utilized the materials contained in The History of the Three Kingdoms by Chen Shou and other works, while Outlaws of the Marsh absorbed many of the traditional stories long circulated among the people. Since the creation of both works had been affected by the peasant uprisings that occurred during the later part of the Yuan Dynasty, their authors were able to open up new vis-tas and write such masterpieces. This does not mean, however, that these two works have no shortcomings. The most obvious shortcom-ings are the expressed feudal concept of loyalty to the emperor and the so-called “faithfulness to friends” found among the small producers. Though Outlaws of the Marsh shows sympathy for, and in fact praises highly, the anti-oppression activities of the Liangshan heroes, it attributes all the hideous behaviour and atrocities to corrupt officials, thus clearing the royal house of all blame. Political situation being what it was, both books could not circulate widely during the early period of the Ming Dynasty. They had to wait until the first half of the sixteenth century when, finally, they appeared in printed form, to be handed down to posterity.

Decline of the Ming Dynasty;Refugee and Miner Uprisings

Emperor Ying Zong ascended the throne in 1435. From then on and for about seventy years a period that comprises the four reigns of Ying Zong, Jing Di, Xian Zong and Xiao Zong the Ming Dynasty declined. During this period the emperors placed their confidence in eunuchs and political instability ensued. The Mongolian tribes of Oirat and Tatar repeatedly raided and caused disturbances; the financial crisis deepened. Greater and greater in scope were the peasant upris- ings in which refugees and miners played an important role.

Ying Zong was not yet nine when he was declared emperor of China . His favourite was a eunuch named Wang Zhen, a former study companion of his, whom he now elevated to become Eunuch-in- Charge-of-Rites. Wang Zhen persuaded the boy emperor to employ severe punishment to keep court ministers in line, while taking ad-vantage of every opportunity to expand his own power. Early during the emperor’s reign, the “Three Yangs” were still active in the government, and this fact deterred to some extent Wang Zhen’s arbitrary exercise of power. By 1442 Yang Rong had already died, and Yang Shiqi and Yang Pu could no longer hold any office. Wang Zhen, con-sequently, had no more scruples in usurping power and in condemning to death, by trumped-up charges, those who disagreed with him. He became a most powerful person who could manipulate the affairs of state.

In 1449, the Oirats sent an envoy to the Ming court to present horses as tribute. The Oirats were located to the west of the Gobi , residing in the Kobdo River valley, the Ertix River valley and the Junggar Basin . Besides the Oirats there were two other Mongolian groups: the Tatars who lived in the Onon River valley, the Kerulen River valley and the Lake Baikal region, and the Urianghads who lived in the valleys of the Liao River , the West Liao River and the Laoha River . Early during Ying Zong’s reign, the Oirats, under the leadership of Esen, had grown so powerful that they actually controlled all other Mongolian tribes. In 1449 when he came to pay trib- ute to the Ming court, Esen felt insulted when the Ming officials de- liberately forced down prices of his horses which he had brought with him. Angered, he mobilized all the Mongolian tribes and marched southward along four routes. Hoodwinked by Wang Zhen, the emperor decided to lead an army personally to meet the invaders headon, despite the admonition of his ministers not to do so. The Ming troops were routed and the emperor was captured alive by the enemy in a place called Tumubao, outside the city of Huailai ; Wang Zhen, the eunuch, was killed by rioting soldiers.

When the news of defeat arrived at Beijing , many high officials were so frightened that they wanted to move the capital and flee southward. Yu Qian, the Deputy Minister of War, resolutely proposed resistance. He took over the responsibility of defending Beijing and prepared carefully for the forthcoming confrontation. As soon as Esen’s troops reached Beijing ‘s suburbs, the defenders, under Yu Qian’s command, engaged them in ferocious combat. Esen was de-feated, and the safety of the capital was secured. In 1450 Esen return-ed Emperor Ying Zong to Beijing , and the normal relationship of trade between the Oirats and the Ming was subsequently restored. In 1455 an internal struggle developed among the Oirats, and Esen was killed by one of his subordinates. From then on the Oirats slowly declined and in its place rose the Tatars. For a long time to come, the Tatars would intermittently raid the border areas, posing a major threat to the Ming regime.

Ying Zong was returned to Beijing the year after Jing Di had be-come his successor as emperor. After his return, the exemperor was confined to the Southern Palace, cut off from outside contact. In 1457, as Jing Di became ill, Cao Jixiang, a former follower of Wang Zhen’s, supported Ying Zong and succeeded in regaining the imperial position for the exemperor. Cao, like Wang Zhen, started his political career as Eunuch-in-Charge-of-Rites and, as his power grew, persecuted, on trumped-up charges, those who disagreed with him. Sometimes even the emperor had to put up with his arrogance. In 1461, Cao Jixiang, with the help of his adopted son Cao Qin, secretly plotted to usurp the throne by force. He was killed when the plot failed. Thus Ying Zong, by placing his confidence in eunuchs, twice ran the risk of losing his life. But he never came to see his mistakes. After his death, his descendants did not learn anything from history either. Emperor Xian Zong placed his confidence in eunuch Wang Zhi, and his successor Emperor Xiao Zong did likewise with eunuch Li Guang. The eunuchs, consequently, were able to continue to meddle in politics. Their power was as great as the emperor’s, thus creating political instability. Dur-ing the reigns of Ying Zong, Xian Zong and Xiao Zong, there were, of course, those who were concerned with the fate of the nation and wished to do something constructive about it; they were not afraid of opposing the eunuchs. Among them were Li Xian, Peng Shi and Shang Lu during the reigns of Ying Zong and Xian Zong; Liu Jian, Xie Qian and Li Dongyang during the reign of Xiao Zong. All of them held important positions at one time or another. They paid close atten-tion to the recruitment of talents, the freedom of expressing ideas on current affairs, the elimination of waste in bureaucratic expenses, the dismissal of superfluous personnel in government, and the rectification of financial administration in general. They opposed and tried to suppress the arbitrary, illegal acts on the part of the eunuchs; they were brave enough to speak out what they felt in front of the emperor. From time to time, even the emperor praised their outspokenness. Thanks to their meritorious service, Ying Zong and his immediate successors were able to maintain their rule.

Nevertheless, the financial crisis gradually worsened after the reign of Ying Zong largely because of the prodigious waste at the court, the ever-increasing military expenditures, and the illegal, large-scale annexation of land by members of the royal house, eunuchs and powerful and influential landlords. Let us look at land annexation to demonstrate the case in point. Early during the Ming Dynasty, regis-tered land under cultivation amounted to 8,507,000 qing (approxi-mately 127,605,000 acres). The figure dropped to 4,228,000 qing in1502. The principal cause for this drop was that land illegally annexed was no longer registered for taxation. To maintain the same income from taxation on a much smaller acreage, the Ming government had to increase the tax on peasants, namely, to shift the tax burden from the illegally annexed land to the land owned and tilled by small landown-ers, thus increasing the exploitation of those who could least afford it. In addition, it extorted money from peasants by invoking a variety of excuses. Yet, the larger the government’s income was, the greater its expenditure seemed to grow. When the oppression and the extortion became unbearable, the peasants had no choice but to stage armed uprisings, which in turn compelled the government to increase mili-tary expenditures. Financial crisis and the increasingly large scale of peasant revolts underscored the decline of the Ming Dynasty.

The refugee problem was serious as early as Ying Zong’s reign. The four districts of Taizhou , Zhejiang Province, had originally a population of 188,000 households; in 1441, only one-third of this population remained. In groups of tens or hundreds, the refugees scattered all over in different places. They ate wild herbs or elm barks boiled with water. Countless number died of hunger or cold. The Jingxiang region around Yunyang on the borders of modern Hubei , Henan and Shaanxi provinces, being comparatively affluent, became a magnet for many refugees. During the reign of Xian Zong, approxi-mately 1.5 million refugees congregated in this region.

In 1445, Ye Zongliu, a native of Qingyuan , Zhejiang Province, led an insurrection in Shangrao , Jiangxi Province. Previously, without a means of livelihood, he followed a group of unemployed peasants to the border area of Zhejiang , Jiangxi and Fujian , where he worked in a silver mine. When the government closed the mine for good, he and his fellow miners revolted, only to be put down by the government shortly afterwards. In 1447, he rose again, and this time he was suc-cessful enough to have occupied Jinhua of Zhejiang Province, Qian-shan of Jiangxi Province , and Pucheng and Jianyang of Fujian Prov-ince. In the winter of 1448, he was killed, but his followers kept on the resistance until 1450.

In 1448, a man named Deng Maoqi, of Shaxian , Fujian Province, led his fellow peasants in an armed uprising, as an opposition to the landlords’ excessive extortions. Calling himself “King of Levellers”, he led his men to occupy many prefectures and counties in the south-western and northwestern sections of Fujian Province . Many peasants, financially bankrupt, came to join the revolt one after another. In fact, the peasant uprising led by Deng Maoqi and the miner uprising led by Ye Zongliu were coordinated, assisting each other. With the passage of time, their forces became greater and greater. In 1449, after Deng Maoqi had died of an arrow wound, his supporters continued the struggle.

In 1465, the refugees in Jingxiang region, under the leadership of Liu Tong and Shi Long, staged an armed uprising in Yunyang. Previ-ously, the refugees, noting how fertile the soil was in this area, went to the mountains to open up new fields. The government said that the mountains were forbidden regions and sent troops to arrest them. Liu Tong and Shi Long reacted by calling upon their followers to resist. In Fangxian (modern Hubei Province ) Liu Tong established a peasant regime and called himself “King of Han”, having a following as large as several hundred thousand men. He and his men fought bravely and defeated the government’s troops time and again. However, because of the lack of experience, they fell victim to the government’s strategy of “divide and conquer”. In 1466 he was captured alive, and subse-quently executed. Six months later, Shi Long, having been betrayed by one of his followers, was also killed.

The refugees in the mountains remained where they were after the revolt was put down. In 1470 a second uprising emerged, this time led by Li Yuan, Wang Hong and Wang Biao, all of whom were Liu Tong’s fromer subordinates. Li Yuan, calling himself “King of Tai-ping”, led his men in attacking Nanzhang (modern Hubei Province ), Neixiang (modern Henan Province ) and other places, and his force grew quickly. In the end, however, the government was too tricky and too unscrupulous for him. Its troops surrounded the mountains, where the insurgents were active, promising the refugees the freedom to re-turn home to their respective occupations unmolested. Altogether more than 1.4 million of these refugees bit the bait and departed, leaving Li Yuan and other leaders totally isolated. Shortly afterwards, Li Yuan and Wang Hong were captured alive upon their defeat. Though the refugee uprisings in Jingxiang, led first by Liu Tong and then by Li Yuan, failed in the end, they forced the Ming government to recognize that they, the refugees, had the right to open up aban-doned fields for cultivation. In addition to the uprisings described above, there were the uprising of 1448 led by Huang Xiaoyang in Guangdong and the uprising of 1456 led by Hou Dagou in Guangxi. In the latter case the insurgents were ethnic minorities, the Yao and Zhuang peoples, and the struggle lasted a much longer time.

As for cultural activities, the reigns of Ying Zong, Xian Zong and Xiao Zong did not produce any memorable men or outstanding works. Yu Qian (1398-1457), the famous Deputy Minister of War who suc-cessfully resisted the Oirats, wrote many socially realistic poems–a rare achievement during this period. Qiu Jun (1420-95), a versatile scholar, participated in the editing of the Documentary Records of Xian Zong as well as the Documentary Records of Ying Zong. Some- times he wrote the events as they were, regardless of contemporary opinion. Regarding the items in Interpretations of the Great Learning(by Zhen Dexiu of the Song Dynasty) as incomplete, he wrote his own”supplements”, which comprised more than 160 juan. In terms of contents, the “supplements” followed the main thought of the Neo- Confucianism pioneered by Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi with special emphasis on learning from the experience of past feudal rulers. During the reign of Xiao Zong, Li Dongyang (1447-1516), an eminent minister, was also the acclaimed dean of letters whose poetry, together with that of others, constituted a new school.

Decay of the Ming Dynasty;Peasant Uprisings Continued

Upon his death, Xiao Zong was succeeded by Wu Zong who in turn was succeeded by Shi Zong. Wu Zong loved pleasure and indulged in dissipations while maintaining a martial appearance; he paid little attention to the running of the government. Shi Zong, a Taoist devotee, did not choose to preside over imperial meetings for years; he rarely received his ministers. These two emperors ruled China for a total of sixty-two years and lowered the Ming regime to a level of utter decadence. Later, there was some revival of vitality during the reign of Mu Zong and the early years of Shen Zong, but this revival could not in any way lessen the political crisis the regime was then facing.

Emperor Wu Zong placed his trust in Liu Jin and seven other eunuchs. Together they were referred to as “Eight Tigers” because of their brutality and ferociousness. Before a petition or memorial could be presented to the emperor via the Office of Transmission, a copy must be sent to Liu Jin first for review. The emperor’s comments or decisions must also be transmitted through the eunuchs. Thus, as head of the eunuchs, Liu Jin not only controlled state secrets but could also tamper with imperial documents and edicts as he pleased. Then, out-side the normal judiciary system, there were three intelligence agenci-es under the emperor’s direct control. One agency was the Imperial Guard, established during the reign of Zhu Yuanzhang. Another agency was the Eastern Chamber that, coming into existence during the reign of Cheng Zu, had more power than the Imperial Guard. The third agency was the Western Chamber that, established during the reign of Xian Zong, was active across the country; its power was even greater han that of the Eastern Chamber. Liu Jin, the eunuch, now established a new intelligence agency called “Inner Chamber” that, operating under his personal command, watched and supervised the activities of both the Eastern and Western Chambers. Besides, he placed his own henchmen in key positions with the Imperial Guard and the two chambers. Using a variety of inducements, he persuaded Wu Zong to do nothing but pleasure-seeking so that he himself could usurp the power of the state. He employed cruel punishment, outright dismissal or killing, to suppress those who opposed him, and he openly solicited and accepted bribes. Provincial officials who sought audience with the emperor must present Liu Jin with twenty thousand taels of silver before an audience could be arranged. Imperial officials who had gone to the provinces for official business had also to bring him gifts when they returned to the capital. Finally, after he had been condemned to death for attempting a coup against the government and all of his property confiscated, it was found that he had in his posses-sion 240,000 gold bars and 5,000,000 silver bars, plus 57,800 taels of gold and 1,583,600 taels of silver, not to mention the huge amounts of pearls and other valuables.

Having killed Liu Jin, Emperor Wu Zong transferred his trust to a military officer named Jiang Bin. Listening to the advice of Jiang Bin, many times he left Beijing for pleasure trips. At one time, while staying in a provincial town, he was besieged by hostile forces. After the invaders had been beaten off, he took the credit and began to call him- self “Generalissimo Valiant”. He handed over much of his authority to Jiang Bin, whose approval must be sought and obtained before any undertaking in or outside the palace, large or small, could be carried out. Jiang Bin was put to death in 1521 upon the demise of Wu Zong. Among his property confiscated, there were 70 chests of gold and3,200 chests of silver.

Peasant uprisings continued during the reign of Wu Zong. The uprisings that had the greatest impact included one led by Lan Tingrui and Yah Benshu and another led by Liu Liu and Liu Qi. The former began in Hanzhong , Shaanxi , in 1509. The insurrectionary army moved eastward along the Hanshui River and captured Yunyang and Jingxiang. Turning westward, it entered Sichuan Province where the people enthusiastically welcomed it and responded. The peasant army expanded quickly as a result. In 1511, Lan Tingrui and Yan Benshu were captured after having fallen into a trap, but his followers con-tinued to be active in Sichuan until 1514 when finally the struggle ended.

The uprising led by Liu Liu and Liu Qi began in 1510 at Wen’ an (modern Hebei Province). The very next year it spread to Shandong ,”as fast as a heavy storm”. Later, the insurrectionary army marched forward along two routes to attack Shandong and Shanxi , led respectively by Liu Liu and Yang Hu. The contingent led by Yang Hu for an attack on Shanxi received welcome from the people wherever it went, and eventually rendezvoused with the contingent led by Liu Liu and Liu Qi. It then launched a ferocious attack on the western region of Shandong , and in Jining it won a great victory over the government troops, after having burned 1,218 ships which the government had used for the transport of grain. After Yang Hu was killed in action, the contingent was led by Liu Hui as commander and Zhao Sui (who had previously passed the lowest level of the civil service examination and received the degree of “licentiate,’) as deputy commander. The insur-gents stipulated strict discipline among themselves and even planned to attack Beijing to overthrow the reigning emperor, thus posing a serious threat to the Ming regime. Later, however, they split their forces to penetrate into various areas of Henan , Hubei , South Zhili and Jiangxi . As they slowly spread and thinned out, they also became weaker, giving the Ming government the opportunity to defeat them one by one. In 1512 the insurrection collapsed.

In the spring of 1511, peasants in various parts of Jiangxi re-volted. They repulsed the government troops that had come to exter-minate them. In 1513, the various insurgent groups collapsed, having suffered suppression and trickery at the hands of the Ming government. Having won the victory, the Ming officials in Jiangxi increased their oppression of the people, especially the peasants who had chosen to surrender themselves to the government. In 1517, peasants revolted again in Nan’an, Dayu and other areas. Meanwhile peasant insurgents were also active in Lechang , Guangdong Province, in Chenzhou (modem Chenxian County, Hunan), Huguang Province, and in Damao-shah , Fujian Province. Governor Wang Shouren of South Jiangxi re- sponded by adopting a dual policy in dealing with the insurgents. On the one hand, he sowed discord among the insurgents and concentrated all his forces for attacks. On the other hand, he controlled the peasants through the tightening of the baojia system* and through an effi-cient reorganization of the troops under his command. In 1518 he reported to Beijing that the whole province of Jiangxi had been pacified.

Wang Shouren (1472-1528) was often referred to as Master Yangming. He was responsible for suppressing not only the peasant uprisings but also a rebellion launched by a member of the royal house, the Prince of Ning, Zhu Chenhao. Furthermore, he was a theoretician who defended the feudal rule. Suffering at the hands of the eunuchs,he, during a period of sorrow and anguish, developed a philosophical system of subjective idealism. He advocated the theory of “innate knowledge” and “agreement between knowledge and action”. Innate knowledge, according to him, is none other than the ability to differentiate right from wrong, a knowledge that is a priori and born with man. Why, then, do people differ in their concept of right and wrong? The reason, he said, is that some people, led astray by selfish desire, can no longer tell right from wrong. We must eliminate selfish desire, he concluded, so we can preserve the innate knowledge born with us. Benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, filial piety, and all other feudal virtues are part of innate knowledge, and only by extending innate knowledge can these virtues grow and develop. By “agreement between knowledge and action” Wang Shouren meant that innate knowl-edge must manifest itself in action. In other words, man’s action is governed by innate knowledge, which cannot be tested by practice. All in all, the emphasis is on knowledge. The ideology of Wang Shouren is an extension of Lu Jiuyuan’s philosophy, and its real meaning is to demonstrate the inherent, unshakable nature of feudal order. It served only as a cardiac stimulant to the dying Ming Dynasty. Among Wang Shouren’s works, the most important is The Complete Works of Wang Shouren, 38juan altogether. Two treatises in this book, “Record of Learning” and “Questions on the Great Learning” are his major contribution to philosophical studies. His student Wang Gen (1483-1540), a native of Taizhou, spread and developed the philoso-phy further, until it became known as the Taizhou School . Contempo-rary with Wang Shouren were two other philosophers, namely, Luo Qinshun (1465-1547) and Wang Tingxiang (1474-1544). Luo Qinshun wrote Knowledge Through Hardship, and Wang Tingxiang was known for his Careful Speech, Elegant Narrative and Discourse on Human Nature. More progressive than their contemporaries, they opposed the subjective idealism advocated by Wang Shouren, and proposed a ma-terialistic point of view. But their influence was not great at that time.

Shortly after he ascended to the throne, Emperor Shi Zong corrected some of the political abuses which he had inherited from his predecessor Wu Zong. Basically he was just as decadent, though in a different way. Beginning in 1523, he set inside the palace altars to worship Taoist deities, praying for good fortune and long life. He believed in the use of charms and holy water as a means of avoiding evil spirits and banishing devils and demons. He placed confidence in Taoist priests, some of whom were appointed to high positions in the government. The imperial government had a rear court as well as a front court. While memorials from regular ministers were submitted through the front court, those from Taoist priests were transmitted by the rear court. None of the regular ministers knew the contents of the Taoist memorials. One day in 1542, Emperor Shi Zong, while soundly asleep, was almost choked to death by one of his lady attendants. From then on he no longer dared to live inside the palace; he moved to the Western Gardens instead, where he spent all his time praying for a long life, and his ministers had a difficult time seeing him. Those who admonished him against his obsession with Taoism could suffer either outright dismissal or some other form of punishment. Among the ministers he trusted no one except Yan Song, who not only acted piously when he prayed but also knew how to write good prayers. Yan served as Prime Minister for twenty years, a long tenure that enabled him to build up his own political clique and practise corruption on a large scale. He was the most powerful and also the most treacherous premier during the Ming Dynasty.

There were two difficult problems the ruling oligarchy faced during the reign of Emperor Shi Zong. One was the Tatars’ southern march. In 1550 the Tatars marched towards Datong . The garrison commander presented the invaders with heavy bribes and asked them to bypass the city and attack somewhere else. The invaders then marched towards Beijing . Yan Song, the Prime Minister, would not allow the defenders of Beijing to resist, and the invaders, consequently, could do whatever they pleased in the city’s suburbs, raiding and pillaging as they went. Another difficult problem was the raiding and pillaging by Japanese pirates. In the spring of 1547, the invaders, in alliance with China ‘s own powerful gentry, unscrupulous merchants and local pirates, landed on the coastal areas of Zhejiang and Fujian where they stepped up their lawless activities. Zhu Wan, then respon-sible for coastal defence, rectified the situation by arresting and put- ring to death those Chinese who had collaborated with the Japanese and guided their invasions. By doing this, he antagonized many high officials and members of the gentry who had been collaborating with the Japanese. He was forced to commit suicide. After Zhu Wan’s death, all officials, high or low, no longer dared to speak candidly on coastal defence, and the Japanese pirates became more and more un- scrupulous. In 1555, Qi Jiguang (1528-1587), having been appointed lieutenant colonel of Zhejiang , proceeded urgently with the prepara-tion of defence against Japanese invaders. Not only did he succeed in training a crack army, but he also introduced new tactics in conducting warfare. Backed by local inhabitants and civil officials, he won great victories against the Japanese pirates successively in Zhejiang , Fujian and Guangdong , thus materially changing the defence situation for the better along China ‘s southeastern coast. Qi Jiguang summarized his military experience in two books: A Treatise on Efficiency and A True Record of the Training of Soldiers.

The financial crisis accelerated during the reign of Emperor Shi Zong. Annual revenue from regular taxes did not exceed 2,000,000 taels of silver, but expenditures, in the year 1551, reached 5,950,000 taels. From then on, annual expenditures fluctuated between three and five million taels; often annual revenue was less than half of annual income. Shi Zong loved construction, on which he spent an annual amount of six to seven million taels during the first fifteen years of his rule. Later, because of his obsession with Taoism, he spent anywhere between two and three million taels on Taoist buildings annually. Since tax revenue from regular sources was obviously inadequate, he invented a variety of excuses in extorting money from his subjects, thus continuing to increase their burden.

Shortly after he ascended to the throne, Emperor Shi Zong corrected some of the political abuses which he had inherited from his predecessor Wu Zong. Basically he was just as decadent, though in a different way. Beginning in 1523, he set inside the palace altars to worship Taoist deities, praying for good fortune and long life. He believed in the use of charms and holy water as a means of avoiding evil spirits and banishing devils and demons. He placed confidence in Taoist priests, some of whom were appointed to high positions in the government. The imperial government had a rear court as well as a front court. While memorials from regular ministers were submitted through the front court, those from Taoist priests were transmitted by the rear court. None of the regular ministers knew the contents of the Taoist memorials. One day in 1542, Emperor Shi Zong, while soundly asleep, was almost choked to death by one of his lady attendants. From then on he no longer dared to live inside the palace; he moved to the Western Gardens instead, where he spent all his time praying for a long life, and his ministers had a difficult time seeing him. Those who admonished him against his obsession with Taoism could suffer either outright dismissal or some other form of punishment. Among the ministers he trusted no one except Yan Song, who not only acted piously when he prayed but also knew how to write good prayers. Yan served as Prime Minister for twenty years, a long tenure that enabled him to build up his own political clique and practise corruption on a large scale. He was the most powerful and also the most treacherous premier during the Ming Dynasty.

There were two difficult problems the ruling oligarchy faced during the reign of Emperor Shi Zong. One was the Tatars’ southern march. In 1550 the Tatars marched towards Datong . The garrison commander presented the invaders with heavy bribes and asked them to bypass the city and attack somewhere else. The invaders then marched towards Beijing . Yan Song, the Prime Minister, would not allow the defenders of Beijing to resist, and the invaders, consequently, could do whatever they pleased in the city’s suburbs, raiding and pillaging as they went. Another difficult problem was the raiding and pillaging by Japanese pirates. In the spring of 1547, the invaders, in alliance with China’s own powerful gentry, unscrupulous merchants and local pirates, landed on the coastal areas of Zhejiang and Fujian where they stepped up their lawless activities. Zhu Wan, then respon-sible for coastal defence, rectified the situation by arresting and put- ring to death those Chinese who had collaborated with the Japanese and guided their invasions. By doing this, he antagonized many high officials and members of the gentry who had been collaborating with the Japanese. He was forced to commit suicide. After Zhu Wan’s death, all officials, high or low, no longer dared to speak candidly on coastal defence, and the Japanese pirates became more and more un- scrupulous. In 1555, Qi Jiguang (1528-1587), having been appointed lieutenant colonel of Zhejiang , proceeded urgently with the prepara-tion of defence against Japanese invaders. Not only did he succeed in training a crack army, but he also introduced new tactics in conducting warfare. Backed by local inhabitants and civil officials, he won great victories against the Japanese pirates successively in Zhejiang , Fujian and Guangdong , thus materially changing the defence situation for the better along China ‘s southeastern coast. Qi Jiguang summarized his military experience in two books: A Treatise on Efficiency and A True Record of the Training of Soldiers.

The financial crisis accelerated during the reign of Emperor Shi Zong. Annual revenue from regular taxes did not exceed 2,000,000 taels of silver, but expenditures, in the year 1551, reached 5,950,000 taels. From then on, annual expenditures fluctuated between three and five million taels; often annual revenue was less than half of annual income. Shi Zong loved construction, on which he spent an annual amount of six to seven million taels during the first fifteen years of his rule. Later, because of his obsession with Taoism, he spent anywhere between two and three million taels on Taoist buildings annually. Since tax revenue from regular sources was obviously inadequate, he invented a variety of excuses in extorting money from his subjects, thus continuing to increase their burden.

This does not mean, however, that the single tax system did not have shortcomings. It was true that the hitherto irregular, miscellaneous requisitions became a regular tax under the new system. But since the tax must be paid in silver, the peasants’ selling of grain for silver gave the middlemen another opportunity of exploiting them. Furthermore, the single tax system itself could not prevent government officials from imposing extra levies. While the new tax system simplified tax collection, reduced illegal takes by tax col-lectors, and therefore helped the increase of government revenue, it did not in any way lessen the burden on taxpayers. Nevertheless, the measures taken by Zhang Juzheng were a change for the better, in view of the widespread corruption in the government; as a means of reform, they were, of course, incompatible with the personal interests of many powerful men. Those whose interests were adversely affected launched a ferocious attack against him. Meanwhile, Shen Zong also became increasingly annoyed with a man who constantly found something to criticize in connection with the emperor’s personal life and activities. In 1582, Zhang Juzheng died. His death was like the lifting of a heavy burden as far as the emperor was concerned.

From the time Emperor Wu Zong ascended the throne to the early years of Shen Zong, there had been indeed much achievement in literature. There were influential writers who made contributions in the fields of essays, dramas and novels. In different artistic forms and in a variety of ways of expression, these writers and their works re-flect certain aspects of life during this period of decadence in Chinese history.

In essay writing, writers like Li Mengyang (1472-1527), Li Pan-long (1514-70) and Wang Shizhen (1528-90) advocated that “good prose should read like the works of the Qin and the Hart, and good poetry should be a replica of the golden years of the Tang Dynasty”. In other words, they advocated a formalism whereby writers would return to ancient times in terms of writing style. They opposed the eight-legged style most popular with government officials, and they had nothing to do with the kind of literature aimed to please and flatter those in power. Later, such writers as Tang Shunzhi (1507-60), Mao Kun (1512-1601) and Gui Youguang (1506-71) opposed Li and Wang, promoting instead the writing style that characterized the great writers of both the Tang and the Song dynasties. They stated that “the purpose of writing is to express honestly what one really feels” and that “good writing is a successful communication between the mind and the events outside of it”. In his description of daily life, Gui Youguang was good at revealing the intimate feelings that were both true and moving. His famous works include A Brief Account of My Deceased Mother and A Record of the Xiangfi Pavilion.

In the field of drama, the representative works were The Ape with Four Voices by Xu Wei (1521-93), The Girl Who Washes Silk by Liang Chenyu (1510’80), and The Story of Mingfeng. The Ape with Four Voices actually contains four plays. One of them, The Three Songs of Yuyang, uses Cao Cao as an example to show how selfish and hypocritical powerful ministers really are when they sacrifice other people’s flesh and blood for their own pleasure. Two others, A Girl Named Mulan and A Woman Who Passes the Metropolitan Ex- amination as Number One, subject to criticism the feudal concept of sexual inequality when they point out that women can be as able and talented as men. In the former play, a girl, impersonating a man, sub- stitutes her father as a draftee and eventually leads an army and wins great victories on the battlefield. In the latter, a young woman who disguises herself as a man takes the metropolitan examination and emerges as number one. Both plays are meant as a satire against those high officials and military commanders all males who are incom-petent and cowardly. In The Girl Who Washes Silk, Liang Chenyu describes the tragic love between the silk-washing girl Xishi and a minister in the Kingdom of Yue named Fan Li. It is a story of how two persons in love sacrifice their own happiness in order to avenge the shame of their own country. The Story of Mingfeng, according to tra-dition, was written by either Wang Shizhen or one of his students. It describes the struggle between Yan Song and his political enemies during the reign of Shi Zong and, in the process, reveals the cruelty and corruption of politics at that time. About the time of Shi Zong, there was a musician in Kunshan named Wei Liangfu who worked on improving the popular songs of his native city. The improved version, sung with the accompaniment of flute, pipa and moon guitar, was later known as the Kunshan tune. The Story of Mingfeng was the first opera that adopted the Kunshan tune and helped to popularize it.

As for novels, the most outstanding creation was Journey to the West. Its author Wu Chengen (c. 1500-82) came from Huai’an (modem Jiangsu Province ). The novel, 100 chapters altogether, is based upon the popular, traditional tales about a Tang monk named Xuan Zhuang (Hsuan Tsang or Tripitaka) who went to India to procure Buddhist scriptures. Writing in a romantic, imaginative style, the author artistically creates a Monkey King named Sun Wukong. Courageous and fearless, the Monkey King turns the Palace of Heaven upside down, challenging the authority of all the Taoist deities, such as the Jade Emperor, the Immor-tals, and the Star Kings, to whom wide publicity was given during the Ming Dynasty. Poking fun at them, he views them with contempt when they try to buy him over. Because of his resoluteness and alertness, he is able to overcome eighty-one ordeals, defeating all the deities and de-mons each and every time. In the end he reaches nirvana with his master Xuan Zhuang and two fellow monks, attaining Buddhahood. The author’s description of the Monkey King reflects the wishes of the la-bouring masses of his time, who, like the Monkey King, dared to challenge the established authority, and hoped that they would become to-tally free after all the ordeals they King wears on his head a golden had gone through. But the Monkey band that automatically tightens up and causes enormous pain if he chooses to disobey his master Xuan Zhuang. No matter what wonders he may work, he cannot jump out of Buddha’s palm. All this shows Wu Chengen’s fatalistic point of view: peasant uprisings come and go, bearing little hope for the future. The limitations of the Monkey King reflect the tragedy that all men have to suffer. The deities and demons the author depicts have as many social implications as they are supernatural. Besides, he attributes to some of the characters an animal characteristic and places them in a special realm of fairy tales where they perform all kinds of magic. The depic-tion looks natural and harmonious, full of wonder and fun. Journey to the West pioneered a new way of novel writing which was unprece-dented and unique. Later novels of this genre fell far behind, in terms of artistic skill as well as content.

The works of literature as described above contrast sharply with the corruption in politics at that time, indicating unmistakably the intensity of social contradictions. The force of reform was marching forward, relentlessly, to attack the force of corruption. But social con-tradictions of this kind would continue; they could not find a resolution in a short space of time.

Rise of the Manchus; Peasant Uprisings Towards the End of the Ming; Fall of the Ming Dynasty

After the death of Zhang Juzheng, Emperor Shen Zong did what-ever he wished in the pursuit of pleasure and paid little attention to state affairs. This was the time when the Manchus rose steadily as a military power in the Northeast, and their aristocracy, in a short period of sixty years, replaced the Ming Dynasty as sovereign of China .

The forerunner of the Manchus was the Niizhen. At one time, one group of the Niizhen named Wanyan moved from the Northeast to the Huanghe River valley and founded the Kingdom of Jin , leaving behind many other tribes that continued the primitive life characterizing the later stage of a gentile society. After the Kingdom of Jin was conquered, the various tribes of Ntizhen lived under the jurisdiction of first the Yuan and then the Ming Dynasty. During the Ming Dynasty, the Nuzhen had three major groups: Jianzhou, Haixi and Donghai. They lived in, respectively, the upper reaches of the Hun and the Suzi rivers, the mid-dle and lower reaches of the Songhuajiang River and the valley of the Huifa River (located to the north of Kaiyuan, modem Liaoning Prov-ince), and, finally, the lower reaches of the Songhuajiang River and the vast area where the Heilongjiang River pours into the sea. The region where the Jianzhou inhabited was fertile in soil, and it grew practically all the drought-resistant crops. The Jianzhou group traded regularly with the Mongolians and the Koreans, as well as the Hans. It exported horses, cattle, pelts of marten and ginseng, in exchange for iron tools and daily necessities. In terms of economic development, it was much more ad- vanced than any of the other Niizhen groups. In 1583, Nurhachi of the Aisin Gioro clan was elected chief of the Jianzhou group. With Hetuala (modem Xinbin , Liaoning Province) as his base of operation, he an-nexed neighbouring tribes one by one. In 1593, Yehe (located in the area to the north of Kaiyuan), Hada (located in the area to the east of Kaiyuan) and other Haixi tribes attacked Nurhachi, in alliance with such Mongolian tribes as Horqin. Nurhachi defeated them all and became more powerful as a result. From then on and for more than twenty years, his power increased steadily until he controlled practically all the Niizhen territories. In 1616 he, having won great victories in a war of unification, declared himself Great Khan, established his capital at Hetuala, renamed Xingjing, and called his regime Great Jin, known as Later Jin to historians. Later Jin was then a local, independent regime within the territory of China other than the Ming regime. At this time the Niizhen had not yet acquired the name of “Manchu”.

While expanding his power and influence, Nurhachi adopted such measures as registration and organization of civilian population, con-struction of city walls for defence, invention of a written language and enactment of statutes. Based upon the tribal niulu system, he developed an Eight Banner organization. In the past, whenever the Niizhen marched as a military group or went out hunting, every ten participants were organized to form a basic unit known as niulu. Now, under Nurha- chi’s Eight Banner system, each niulu was expanded to include 300 persons; 5 niulu or 1,500 persons formed a jiala, and 5 jiala or 7,500 persons became a banner. There were altogether eight banners, each of which was identified by a specific colour of its flag: yellow, red, blue, white, yellow-bordered, red-bordered, blue-bordered and white-bordered. Appointed by Nurhachi, the head of a banner was one of his sons or nephews. The purpose of the Eight Banner system was to or-ganize all the Ntizhen people in a military fashion, so that they could become more efficient as producers and as warriors. As a result of introducing this system, the military strength of the Niizhen increased; so did their economic production. The system sped up the Ntizhen’s social development; it also strengthened Nurhachi’s position as their ruler.

Interestingly, this enormous development in the northeastern section of China did not attract the attention of the Ming government at all. At the time when Nurhachi was busy with the establishment of a new regime, Shen Zong, the Ming emperor, squandered money even though the treasury was virtually empty; he sent out eunuchs across the country to extort more and more even though his subjects had little for their own livelihood. Besides, he waged three wars in Ningxia , Korea and Guizhou .

For the investiture of the crown prince and other princes, plus their respective weddings, Shen Zong spent 9,340,000 taels of silver, not to mention the 2,700,000 taels spent on their costumes. For the purpose of collecting pearls and other valuables, he spent 24,000,000 taels more. At that time, the annual revenue from land taxation to-talled about 4,000,000 taels. In other words, it would require six years’ Collection of land tax to come up with this enormous sum, pro-vided, of course, that this collection was not used for any other pur-pose. He sent eunuchs to open up gold and silver mines, stipulating the amount of gold and silver that they had to produce, regardless of whether the mines had or had not gold or silver, or whatever amount the mines could actually produce. He also dispatched eunuchs to Guangdong to search for pearls and other valuables, to Lianghuai to
extort money from gabelle, and to all the commercial regions to set up tariff barriers so as to collect more. These eunuchs, by invoking the authority of the emperor, blackmailed as they wished. Not only did they rob people of their property and punish local officials under various excuses, they also arrested and killed people at will. In the end they could not but provoke the people’s vigorous resistance. In 1599, the merchants in Linqing (modern Shandong Province ), in protest against tax superintendent Ma Tang’s ruthlessness, called a strike. They burned his office and nearly beat him to death. Chen Feng, who was sent to Huguang as a mine superintendent, simulta-neously serving as a tax superintendent, suffered a similar fate. When collecting taxes at Wuchang, he was besieged in his residence by local inhabitants who, subsequently, arrested six of his henchmen and threw them into the Changjiang River . For more than a month, the tax superintendent did not dare to show up outside of his resi- dence. In Suzhou , tax superintendent Sun Long wanted to increase taxes on looms, only to see many workers call a strike and close the workshops. Those workers who had lost their jobs because of the strike, under the leadership of a man named Ge Xian, surrounded Sun Long’s office, beat to death several of his retainers, and burned to the ground the residence of Tang Xin, a local bully who had col- laborated with the tax superintendent. In 1603, the workers in the Xishan Coal Mine went in groups to Beijing to demonstrate against mine superintendent Wang Chao. In 1606, the miners in Yunnan burned the office of the tax collector as a protest against mine su- perintendent Yang Rong. Yang Rong retaliated by suppression and killed more than one thousand miners in the process. More miners joined the struggle and, in alliance with the people in the area, burn-ed Yang Rong’s residence, killed its owner and threw his body into the fire, besides killing more than two hundred of his followers. The struggle waged by workers and merchants against mine and tax su- perintendents was a new class struggle, at a time when the feudal society of China had entered a period of decline.

Three wars were waged by Shen Zong, beginning in 1592. In that year, Bobai, the former deputy commander in Ningxia, made an alliance with the Tatars to challenge the authority of the Ming regime. The latter sent an expeditionary army to crash him and succeeded only after more than six months of fighting. In the same year, Hideyoshi of Japan, invaded Korea , which the Ming government dispatched troops to support. The war persisted for six years before it finally ended. In1594, Yang Yinglong, a native officer in Bozhou (modem Zunyi County , Guizhou ), refused to obey any more orders from the Ming government, and the latter responded by sending an expeditionary army. Almost six years had to elapse before the war came to an end. The enormous outlay in manpower and financial resources occasioned by the three wars further weakened the Ming regime.

During Shen Zong’s reign, many key posts in the government were left vacant, and factional strifes among officials remained seri-ous. For more than twenty years, the emperor did not grant audience to his ministers; too often were there no responsible officials in char-ge of this or that office, on both the central and the local levels. In 1611, the Six Boards of the Inner Chancery, the Censorate, the Supreme Court, the Office of Transmission and many organs on the local level were inadequately supplied with administrative officials. But this administrative paralysis did not prevent top officials from engaging in factional strifes. In 1594, Gu Xiancheng, a former senior secretary of the Board of Civil Office, joined with such eminent scholars as Gao Panlong and Qian Yiben to lecture at the Donglin Academy in Wuxi . Not only did these scholars speak candidly on current affairs, but they criticized contemporary leaders as well. They wanted reforms to be carried out in government, tax collection rationalized and rectified, and the power of high officials and influ-ential gentry curtailed. Their proposals had an enormous impact, and they, therefore, were resented and ostracized by those in power, who called them “Men of the Donglin Party” and instigated political groups on the local level to suppress them. A factional strife ensued, leading to political disturbance and instability.

Political anarchy and costly military campaigns on the part of the Ming government provided Nurhachi with opportunities to attack it. In 1618, at the head of twenty thousand men of a combination of cavelry and infantry, Nurhachi captured the strategic Fushun (mod-em Liaoning Province ) and the nearby fortifications. Shortly after-wards, he attacked Yaguguan (located to the southeast of Fushun ) and captured Qinghecheng. Only then did the Ming government realize how serious the situation was. Quickly it ordered Yang Gao to take command and prepare for offensive action. But there were difficulties involving the raising of funds and the gathering of troops. Ten months had to elapse before Yang Gao succeeded in bringing together an army of 90,000 men. This army, plus a supporting unit of10, 000 men from Korea , marched towards Xingjing along four routes. Nurhachi responded with all of his Eight Banners 60, 000 men altogether for the confrontation. In the summer of 1619, the two sides fought a ferocious battle at Sarhu (to the southeast of Fu-shun), and the Ming army was decisively defeated, losing 310 com-manders and 45,800 men. This battle proved to be a turning point, as it enhanced the morale of the Ntizhen, while reducing sharply the strength of the Ming regime.

The Ming government deteriorated further during Emperor Xi Zong’s reign (1620-27). The emperor placed confidence in a eunuch named Wei Zhongxian, who was in charge of not only the Eastern Chamber but all the incoming petitions and memorials as well. He was given a free hand to place his diehard followers in the Six Boards and the offices of the governors and governors-general. Altogether they formed a eunuch clique. They ruthlessly persecuted persons whose names they had on a list–those who held high positions but refused to collaborate with them, or those whom they simply disliked. At this time Gu Xiancheng, the leader of the Donglin Party, was already dead, and other leaders like Zhao Nanxing, Zou Yuanbiao and Gao Panlong were either exiled, compelled to resign, or forced to commit suicide. In 1626, Wei Zhongxian sent a man to Suzhou to arrest a member of the Donglin Party named Zhou Shunchang. The people in Suzhou responded by storming into the governor’s office, and governor Mao Yilu fled in panic.

A corrupt regime like this was face to face with an energetic, newly-arising power known as the Later Jin; it could not do much even if it had the best military commanders. Commanders who suc-ceeded Yang Gao, such as Xiong Tingbi and Sun Chengzong, were all able and talented in military affairs; they were good organizers capable of putting up stiff resistance. But all of them were dismissed from their respective commands after only a brief tenure of office. At the time when Sun Chengzong was in charge, he, assisted by his chief lieutenant Yuan Chonghuan, strengthened the city wall of Ning-yuan and other fortifications, in preparation for the defence of the key line between Jinzhou and Ningyuan, so as to make sure that the Shanhaiguan Pass would be safe. But his successor, a member of the eunuch clique named Gao Di, had no understanding whatsoever of the measures hitherto undertaken. In the spring of 1626, Nurhachi attacked at the head of 130,000 men. Gao Di wanted to abandon all the areas in the Northeast and retreat southward to defend the Shan- haiguan Pass. He ordered garrison troops in Jinzhou, Xingshan, Songshan, arid other places to destroy all the defence fortifications, discard the military supplies, and force the inhabitants to move southward by way of the Shanhaiguan Pass. Yuan Chonghuan defied the order by insisting on defending Ningyuan and in the end suc- ceeded in defeating the enemy. Unfortunately, an able general like him soon became a target of jealousy and resentment and was dis- missed from office.

In 1625 Nurhachi moved his capital to Shenyang , known as Shengjing from then on. Having suffered serious injuries in the battle of Ningyuan, he withdrew to Aiyangbao (approximately forty li from Shenyang ) where he died. Nurhachi was succeeded by Huangtaiji who, in 1627, renewed the attack on Ningyuan and lay siege on Jinzhou . Then Yuan Chonghuan was still Ningyuan’s defender, and Huangtaiji, having suffered reverses on a large scale, decided to withdraw. Two months after the battle, the Ming emperor Xi Zong died and was suc-ceeded by Si Zong. The new sovereign was also known as Emperor Chong Zhen, coming to the throne at a time when the situation had become critical. He had to face not only a threat posed by the Later Jin but also peasant uprisings of great intensity, against which he had to devote most of his energy.

Emperor Chong Zhen reinstated Yuan Chonghuan who had been dismissed from his office previously. Yuan was appointed Minister of War with special responsibility for the military campaign in the Northeast. He adopted a long-range plan for defence, strengthened the line between Jinzhou and Ningyuan, and strove to recover those terri-tories that the Ming forces had lost in the battle of Sarhu. In 1629 Huangtaiji, having bypassed the defence line established by Yuan Chonghuan, crossed the Great Wall via Inner Mongolia , and captured Zunhua in North Zhili . Quickly Yuan Chonghuan led his troops to reinforce the defence. But Emperor Chong Zhen, falling into a trap set up by Huangtaiji to sow discord and distrust among the Ming camp, arrested Yuan Chonghuan and condemned him to death. Meanwhile, Huangtaiji continued the offensive and succeeded in capturing Yong- ping, Qian’an and Luanzhou. However, as Sun Chengzong was rein-stated to the commandership, the Later Jin forces could not break the defence at the Shanhaiguan Pass. Shortly afterwards, Sun Chengzong recovered Yongping and other cities, and the Later Jin forces had to withdraw.

In 1636 Huangtaiji changed his title from “Great Khan” to”Emperor” and named his new regime “Great Qing”. The Jianzhou group of Ntizhen was, from then on, known as “Manchu”. Shortly afterwards, new organs of government were added, such as the Six Boards, the Censorate, and the Board of Minorities Affairs. In 1636 and again in 1638, Huangtaiji sent troops to breach Xifengkou, a pass of the Great Wall, and launched attacks against the Ming regime. In their first campaign, the attacking Qing forces captured Chang-ping and went as far as the area outside the west city gate of Beijing . In their second campaign, they went as far as Shandong Province . Having been dismissed from office, Sun Chengzong lived in his native city of Gaoyang at the time; he committed suicide when the city fell to the invaders. The Qing troops retreated northward only after they had captured large numbers of people and animals, plus gold and silver. They devastated many cities and towns that they did not wish to occupy.

In 1639 the Ming government ordered Hong Chengchou to de-fend all the areas to the north of the Shanhaiguan Pass. Huangtaiji, meanwhile, was determined to destroy the defence line between Jinzhou and Ningyuan as a prelude to the seizure of the Shan- haiguan Pass. In 1641 he dispatched large forces to besiege Jinzhou , and Hong Chengchou personally led his men to that city for de-fence. The battle lasted more than six months, and in the end the Ming forces were decisively defeated. Many generals heroically sacrificed their lives, but Hong Chengchou, the top commander, surrendered after he had been captured alive. Now that Jinzhou was lost to the enemy, all the defence lines north of the Shanhaiguan Pass were breached, and the invading Qing forces began to knock at the pass itself.

In 1642 the Qing forces again crossed the Great Wall in force, capturing many cities in Zhili and Shandong . As before, the invaders took into possession large numbers of people and animals, plus gold and silver, before they retreated to the Northeast.

Both Nurhachi and Huangtaiji were outstanding leaders in mili-tary affairs. The latter was an outstanding statesman besides. By re-peatedly penetrating deep into North China , he swept aside all the obstacles beyond the Shanhaiguan Pass. He organized for the purpose of production those Han people who had surrendered to him; he re-cruited able-bodied Mongolians and Hans to form Mongolian Eight Banners and Han Eight Banners, respectively. He treated well the Ming generals who had switched their loyalty to him, such as Hong Chengchou, Kong Youde, Geng Zhongming and Shang Kexi, all of whom helped the Manchus militarily and made no small contributions to the establishment of the Qing Dynasty.

Huangtaiji died in the fall of 1643 and was succeeded by his third son Fu Lin. Fu Lin, after the Qing forces had entered North China, was known as Emperor Shun Zhi. Six months after he ascended the throne, peasant insurgents led by Li Zicheng entered Beijing . The situation in China changed drastically.

The peasant uprisings towards the end of the Ming Dynasty began in Shaanxi Province . They were the net result of a gradual development that had persisted for a long time. In 1627, Shaanxi suffered a severe drought, and acres of land could not yield one ker- nel of grain. But the government continued to put pressure on the peasants to pay rent and taxes, and such pressure precipitated a re-bellion. Peasant Wang Er gathered several hundred hungry men to attack Chengcheng and killed the magistrate. The very next year, Wang Jiayin staged an uprising at Fugu, and Gao Yingxiang, Wang Zuogua and Zhang Xianzhong did likewise in Ansai, Yichuan and Yan’an, respectively. In a short period of time, several dozen upris-ings erupted, and thousands of hungry peasants participated in the battle for survival.

In 1631 the Ming government dispatched troops to suppress the widespread revolts. The insurgents moved from Shaanxi to Shanxi and fought on both sides of the Huanghe River . As each of the insur-gent groups fought alone without coordination, they were easily defeated by the government troops one by one, and many important leaders lost their lives as a result. Gao Yingxiang, in alliance with Zhang Xianzhong, Ma Shouying and Luo Rucai, broke through the government encirclement, crossed the Huanghe River at Mianchi, and then, after passing through western Henan and northern Huguang, reached southern Shaanxi . Once again, they were surrounded. Mistakenly Gao Yingxiang led his men into the Chexiangxia Gorge, Xing’an (modern Antang , Shaanxi Province), wherefrom they could not escape. Li Zicheng feigned surrender and, by bribing government troops, was allowed to leave. Shortly afterwards, the insurrectionary army expanded to become a powerful force of several hundred thou-sand men.

In 1635 the peasant army led by Gao Yingxiang, Zhang Xian-zhong and Li Zicheng, fought its way towards Fengyang, original home of the royal house of the Ming, where it burned and destroyed the tombs of the reigning emperor’s ancestors. This action indicated the rebel leaders’ determination to overthrow the Ming Dynasty. Later, Zhang Xianzhong led his army eastward and captured Luzhou (mod-em Hefei City , Anhui ) and Anqing. Gao Yingxiang and Li Zicheng, on the other hand, returned to southern Shaanxi , where they repeatedly defeated the Ming army sent to exterminate them. The next year, Gao was captured in an ambush and subsequently executed. The remainder of his forces supported Li Zicheng as their leader who, from then on, took over the title “Dashing King” which had been Gao’ s. Li’s forces fought in various places in Shaanxi and Sichuan until, in 1638, they were defeated at Zitong, northern Sichuan. Only Li Zicheng and eighteen of his close followers managed to escape on horseback, while the rest was dispersed. To forestall the government’s attack, Li and his close followers hid themselves in the Shangluo Mountains , Shaanxi Province . Previously, Zhang Xianzhong, having been defeated, feigned surrender to the government in Huguang. The tide of peasant uprisings reached a low ebb.

In the summer of 1639 Zhang Xianzhong rose again at Gucheng (in modern Hubei ), Huguang Province . Meanwhile, Li Zicheng emerged from the mountains, once again gathering followers to stage another uprising. Zhang Xianzhong, having fought for several years in Huguang , Shaanxi , and Sichuan , declared himself emperor at Chengdu , Sichuan Province, in 1643. He called his regime “Da Xi”(“Great West”). Li Zicheng, while marching through the Yaohan mountains, was once again defeated by the Ming forces. With fifty of his followers, he broke through the encirclement on horseback and entered Henan . Then a severe famine occurred in Henan , and thou-sands of hungry people joined him. Many intellectuals, who had been ostracized by the corrupt Ming regime, also enlisted under Li Zicheng’s banner, helping in planning strategy. From then on, the insurrectionary army raised such slogans as “equalization of landown- ership” and “freedom from taxation”. It declared that “virtuous schol-ass will be respected”, “despots will be eliminated and the people protected”, and “there will be no violation of people’s lives and property”. These slogans indicated that the warfare waged by the peasants had made a qualitative jump.

In 1641, while the Ming forces were concentrating on attacking Zhang Xianzhong in Sichuan , Li Zicheng, taking advantage of the void in Henan , attacked and seized Luoyang . The Prince of Fu–Zhu Changxun–was killed, and all the grain, gold, silver and other valu-ables were taken from his mansion and then distributed among hungry people, who enthusiastically supported Li’s forces. In 1642, after his army had captured Xiangyang, Li Zicheng declared himself King of Xinshun and established positions for civil and military officials. In 1643, the insurrectionary army left Xiangyang and marched northward; it passed through Henan and then captured Xi’an . Early in 1644 Li Zicheng changed the name of Xi’an to Xijing. He called his regime the Great Shun and himself the King of Great Shun. He conferred ranks and titles on those who had performed meritorious deeds; he introduced the civil service examination system as a means to elevate scholars. Shortly afterwards, he left Xi’an and marched his army to-wards Beijing . There was little resistance from the Ming forces, and in a little more than one month, he and his men reached the suburbs of Beijing . On the 18th day of the 3rd lunar month, Li’s army succeeded in seizing the outer city of Beijing . Early next morning Emperor Chong Zhen hung himself at the foot of the Coal Hill (known as Jing Hill today) behind the imperial palace. Li Zicheng personally led his army into the city, and the Ming Dynasty perished in the storm of peasant uprisings.

As the corruption of the feudal system, feudal governance and feudal rulers especially the hypocritical and cruel aspect of it!was revealed unmistakable for the world to see towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, there were philosophers, men of letters and historians who exposed or criticized the social evils they saw, in various degrees and, in some cases, in a highly concentrated form.

Li Zhi (1527-1602), also known as Li Zhuowu, was a prolific writer, his representative works being Book Burning, Book Holding. Supplement to Book Burning and Supplement to Book Holding. was a fighter who dared to oppose feudalism openly. He satirized not only those self-styled Neo-Confucians but also powerful officials. He criticized the viw of “heavenly reason” vis-a-vis “human desire” !a view that was held by Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi, Zhu Xi, Lu Jiuyuan and Wang Shouren. He exposed the hypocrisy of speaking loudly about “benevolence” and “righteousness” while paying no attention to the life or death of common men. He said that scholars, beginning with the Tang-Song period, only echoed Confucius regarding what was right or wrong without making their own judgement. He criticized all those who elevated the sayings of Confucius to the level of infall feudal canon, and he wanted nothing better than to pull down the ta-blet of Confucius from the altar of feudal ideology. He opposed the condemnation of Qin Shi Huang by all the Confucians throughout history; he, instead, praised the Qin monarch as the “most unique em-peror” since history began. He admired Zhuo Wenjun for her fore-sightedness when she selected Sima Xiangru as her husband, even though the self-righteous, diehard pedants had characterized her be- haviour as a violation of good customs.* Nevertheless, Li Zhi was an idealist. He did not have the courage to oppose the feudal concept of a subject’s obligation to be loyal to the sovereign, and he did not provide a new ideal as a substitute for feudal ethics. His contribution lies in the fact that he exposed the ugly side of feudal rulers, and dealt a crushing blow to feudal ethics. Frightened, these feudal rulers put him to death on trumped-up charges when he was seventy-six years old. After his death, repeated orders were issued to burn all his books, but somehow his works survived. Later, other writers invoked his name for their own works, believing that a book bearing his name would enjoy greater prestige.

Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) was one of China ‘s best dramatists. Among his works were Peony Pavilion, Purple Hairpin, The Dream of Handan and The Southern Tributary State; together they are referred to as Four Dreams of Linchuan. Of the four, Peony Pavilion is his most representative work. It is a story of a young woman named Du Liniang who, shackled by feudal ethics, resolutely struggles for romantic love and happiness. As the only daughter of Du Bao, Prefect of Nan’an, she lived in her father’s official mansion for three years without even visiting the garden, being so enslaved by the feudal concept of “proper behaviour”. Living under such lonely, joyless circumstances, she, as a girl of adolescence, cannot but feel sorrowful and unhappy. One day, she ventures into the garden and the bright, beauti-ful spring suddenly wakes her up to her youth. She does not actually meet any young man, of course; the young man only appears in her dream. She grasps the youog man and will not let him go, only to wake up and see him disappear. From then on, she suffers a love sickness, of which she eventually dies. As a spirit, she finds the young man in her dream, who turns out to be a scholar named Liu Mengmei. She takes the initiative and expresses to him her love, and they are married as soon as her spirit reenters her body and she becomes alive again. In this story, the author, through the use of romanticism and imagination, made possible what in real life could not be realized. The struggle of a young woman for love, unchangeable through life and death despite all the obstacles, was a sharp and poignant challenge to feudal ethics. The story reveals not just the difficulty involving a young woman’s search for love. It reflects the kind of ordeal people have to undergo just to enjoy the rights that are inherently theirs. It shows that even under the harshest circumstances people do not lose hope for a bright future. Subtly and in fine detail, the author presents a psychological drama as he reveals a young woman’s innermost feel- ings in the way of a lyrical poem. Completed in 1598, the play was performed on stage across the country shortly afterwards. It has had an enduring influence on Chinese theatre for more than three hundred years.

Flowering Plum in a Golden Vase, a novel of considerable length, appeared sometime during Shen Zong’s reign. Since the author referred to himself as “A Laughing Man from Lanling”, probably he was a native of Lanling (modem Yixian , Shandong Province). Unfortunately, there is no way we can find out about his real name. Unlike The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which was based on history, or Outlaws of the Marsh and Journey to the West which owed their sources to long-standing popular tales, Flowering Plum was the crea-tion of one man who wrote about society as he saw it. Tracing the rise and fall of a powerful family that belongs to a man named Ximen Qing, the author describes the evil-doings of influential officials, de-spicable members of the gentry, local scoundrels and dishonest mer-chants-how they secretly plot with one another to kill people in order to obtain their wealth, illicitly appropriate other people’s wives and daughters, and wheel and deal in litigation. These people are not hy-pocrites who wear Neo-Confucian masks; they have tom off the mask of feudal ethics; and they openly live a corrupt life and conduct crimi-nal activities. In exposing the rotten life of the landlord class, the nov-el is certainly a success. Still, while exposing the seamy side of soci-ety, the author does not reveal his personal likes or dislikes: he does not make value judgement. Besides, he devotes a sizable space to homilies by Buddhist nuns, obscene songs by prostitutes, and po-nographic details. All this mars the artistic achievement of the novel itself.

Shortly after the appearance on the market of Flowering Plum in a Golden Vase, three other books, all by Feng Menglong (1574-1646), were also in circulation. The three books are: Stories to Enlighten Men, Stories to Warn Men and Stories to Awaken Men, each of which has 40 stories. These books contain the vernacular tales of the Song-Yuan period and their imitations written during the Ming Dynasty, all of which were edited or rewritten before incorporated into the new vol-umes. Some of the stories deal with internal struggle among the feudal ruling class, exposing its cruelty and hypocrisy; others describe the true feelings of men and women in love and the oppression that women suffer under feudalism. They often express a fatalistic point of view, and sometimes describe sex in a vulgar way. An admirer of Li Zhi, the author was a progressive in his thinking. Through the three books he edited, he contributed to the popularity of vernacular tales and similar stories.

During the reigns of Emperor Xi Zong and Emperor Chong Zhen, three voluminous works on history made their appearance. One was A Record of Military Affairs by Mao Yuanyi. Consisting of 240 juan, it was completed in 1621. It is a collection of all relevant materials on war theories, military strategies, battle tactics and war supplies throughout Chinese history. It is in fact a military history rich in sour- ce materials; it might be regarded as a military encyclopaedia of its time. The second book is a chronological history of the Ming Dynasty entitled National Deliberations, which has l00 juan. Tan Qian (1593-1657), the author, began work on this book in 1621. Written in the form of annals, it is one of the most important works on Chinese his-tory. The third book was A Collection of Essays on National Affairs During the Ming Dynasty, edited by Chen Zilong (1608-47) and others who completed the work in 1638. Consisting of 508 juan, it contains all the important works on national affairs, dating back to the very beginning of the Ming Dynasty. It is a collection of source mate-rials on Ming politics and economics. In its own way, each of the three books attempted to rescue the Ming Dynasty from the crisis it faced. But the trend towards demise had gone too far for these books to do any good.

Peasant Regime of the Great Shun;Princes of the Southern Ming; Unification Activities During the Early Qing Dynasty

Upon entering Beijing late in the spring of 1644, Li Zicheng fur-ther developed his political regime, known as the Great Shun, that had its beginning in Xi’an . The key personnel in his government consisted of the peasant commanders who had fought with him, but he also brought in some of the ex-Ming officials. In the areas within his control, he carried out a policy of “taking money away from the rich and giving it to the poor”. He opened the granaries and distributed their contents among the needy; he also encouraged peasants to recover the land which the landlords had illegally occupied. By means of this kind, he intended to carry out his policy of “equalization of landownership” and “exemption from rent and taxation”. In addition, he took such measures as the cultivation of abandoned fields by unemployed peas- ants, besides forcing the corrupt Ming officials to hand over their illegal gains for military expenditures. However, he underestimated the strength of the Ming forces that remained, as he did not choose to take them on in hot pursuit, certainly not in an organized fashion. The measures he took in defence against the Qing forces to the north of the Shanhaiguan Pass were also inadequate. Meanwhile, the peasant regime itself, due to the rapid development of the revolution, under-went a change. The moment he entered Beijing , Li Zicheng wanted to be inaugurated as an emperor as early as possible. His chief adviser, Niu Jinxing, gathered around himself a large number of ex-Ming offi-cials and busily prepared for Li’s inauguration so that he himself could quickly assume the position of a prime minister and thus enjoy the power of the state. Outstanding generals like Liu Zongmin and Li Guo, who had fought hundreds of battles, were now only thinking of pleasure and comfort; their militancy wanted.

Bad policy and adverse internal development caused the peasant regime of Great Shun to lose the opportunity to strengthen itself. At the time when the peasant army entered Beijing , Wu Sangui, the Ming garrison commander at the Shanhaiguan Pass , had not decided what course to follow: his attitude was that of wait-and-see. Then, when he saw how the peasant army put pressure on the corrupt Ming officials to hand over their illegal gains and how the remainder of the Ming forces planned to counterattack, he decided to surrender to the Qing army and lead it into China proper by the route of Shanhaiguan. Jointly they would defeat the peasant regime, so he hoped. The Qing army, stationed north of Shanhaiguan and only waiting for an oppor- tunity to attack, accepted Wu’s surrender. Immediately it moved southward in two columns.

As Li Zicheng had no information about Wu Sangui’s surrender to the Qing, he personally led an army of 60,000 men eastward from Beijing , attempting to force the Shanhaiguan commander to surrender to himself. While he was engaged in heavy fighting against Wu San-gui at Yipianshi near Shanhaiguan, a cavalry unit of the Qing army suddenly attacked him, a move that was totally unexpected. Unable to take any counter measures, he hurriedly withdrew and returned to Beijing . Meanwhile, the Qing army, led by the turncoat generals Wu Sangui, Shang Kexi and Kong Youde, crossed the Great Wall in force.

After returning to Beijing , Li Zicheng was most anxious to be inaugurated as emperor despite the military crisis. He left Beijing in a hurry the very next day after the inauguration, as he moved his army westward towards Shaanxi . The Prince of Rui (Dorgon) of the Qing followed in the wake and soon entered Beijing . In marching his army against Li Zicheng, Wu Sangui raised the slogan of “avenging our sovereign and fathers”, a slogan that was meant to cover up his own capitulation to the Qing regime. After entering Beijing , the Qing regime itself also declared that it sought to “avenge the sovereign and fathers” on behalf of the Ming subjects. Through measures like this, it wished to ingratiate itself with the Han landlords, and win them over.

As the Qing regime became more or less stabilized, Dorgon proposed that the capital be moved to Beijing . Emperor Shun Zhi was invited to enter North China , as thanks were offered to Heaven and Earth, suggesting that the emperor was the sole sovereign of all of China . Dorgon, the emPeror’s uncle, was appointed regent who wielded the real power of the state; politically as well as militarily. It was then decided that Ajige, or the Prince of Ying, was to lead an army to attack Li Zicheng, while Duoduo, or the Prince of Yu, was to march southward to conquer South China .

After retreating from Beijing , the Great Shun army led by Li Zicheng suffered a series of internal dissensions, and its morale also went from bad to worse. In defending Tongguan and in the ensuing battle against the Qing attackers, it suffered reverses; it had no choice but to move to the Xiangyang region, Huguang Province . During the early summer of 1645, Li Zicheng retreated to Wuchang. Shortly af-terwards, he went to the Jiugong Mountains , Tongshan County , where he was killed by the enemy in an ambush. Among the remainder of his following, the group led by Li Jin and Li Laiheng continued to fight for the next twenty years. Zhang Xianzhong, who had established the Great West regime in Sichuan , was defeated by the Qing forces in a battle fought in 1646. He was killed in action in the Fenghuang Mountains , Xichong. His surviving lieutenants, like Sun Kewang and Li Dingguo, realized that the Qing army was a much more dangerous enemy than the Ming regime and therefore decided to make an alli- ance with the Southern Ming to face the common foe.

The term “Southern Ming” comprises several ephemeral regimes in South China . In 1644, one month after Li Zicheng had entered Bei-jing, Ma Shiying, the Ming governor of Fengyang, and Shi Kefa, Minister of War in Nanjing , supported Zhu Yousong, or the Prince of Fu, to assume the imperial title in Nanjing . This was the first regime of the Southern Ming. Real power was in the hands of Ma Shiying and Ruan Dacheng who, at one time, were members of Wei Zhongxian’s eunuch clique. They indulged in bribery and corruption and did their best to ostracize Shi Kefa. Furthermore, they induced the Prince of Fu to indulge in pleasure-seeking, paying no attention to the affairs of the state. There was also dissension among the generals who defended the Changjiang River , and the defence was weakened considerably as a result. When the Qing army, under the command of the Prince of Yu (Duoduo), marched southward, Shi Kefa put up a heroical resistance at Yangzhou . Being totally isolated from any support, he was captured when the city fell. He refused to surrender and was executed. In the summer of 1645, the Qing army entered Nanjing , and the first South-ern Ming regime came to an end after only one year of existence.

Two months after the fall of Nanjing , two other Southern Ming regimes emerged in Fujian and Zhejiang , respectively. Huang Dao-zhou and Zheng Zhilong supported the Prince of Tang (Zhu Yujian) as emperor in Fujian , and Qian Suyue and Zhang Huangyan supported the Prince of Lu (Zhu Yihai) as “National Supervisor” in Shaoxing , Zhejiang . Zheng Zhilong, the real power behind the Prince of Tang’s regime, only knew how to exploit people and nothing else; conse-quently there was not much hope here. In the summer of 1646, the Qing army attacked Fujian , and Zheng Zhilong surrendered. The Prince of Tang retreated to Tingzhou where he was captured and died shortly afterwards. As for the Prince of Lu’s regime, it had at one time repulsed a Qing attack. However, its military commanders were arro-gant and disobedient, and the power of the state fell into the hands of the prince’s relatives and eunuchs. It suffered defeat when the Qing army attacked again. The Prince of Lu retreated first to Zhoushan and then to Jinmen Island . Eventually he went to Taiwan .

In the winter of 1646, Qu Shisi, the high-ranking Ming official then in charge of the defence of Guangdong and Guangxi, supported the Prince of Yongming (Zhu Youlang) as emperor at Zhaoqing (mod-em Gaoyao , Guangdong Province), with the reign title of Yongli. Though he was as incompetent as other Ming princes who had failed, Emperor Yongli’s regime lasted for a period of fifteen years, thanks to the co-operation given to it by the remainder of the peasant army and the heroism of such generals as Qu Shisi and He Tengjiao. Li Dingguo, a former subordinate of Zhang Xianzhong’s and Li Jin and Li Laiheng, Li Zicheng’s former lieutenants all of them had fought on the side of Emperor Yongli against the Qing forces. Early in 1662, Emperor Yongli was captured, and the last regime of Southern Ming came to an end. At this time the Qing Emperor Shun Zhi had already died, and Emperor Kang Xi had been in power for almost one year.

While fighting against the peasant army and the various regimes of Southern Ming, the Qing Dynasty stressed the importance of bringing about harmony among the ethnic minorities in China ‘s bor-der areas. In 1647, the Mongolian group of Chigin and the Uygurs in Xinjiang sent envoys to pay tribute, indicating their fealty to the new regime. In the same year, the two leaders in Tibet , Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, also sent envoys to present native products. In 1651, the Qing court dispatched officials to invite Dalai Lama to Beijing where he lived for many years. In 1655, the Mongolian group of Khalkha sent envoys to pay tribute and pledge fealty. After the successful suppression of the peasant uprisings and the extermination of the various Southem Ming regimes, there were only two obstacles to the unification of China . One involved Yunnan , Guizhou , Guangdong and Fujian , and the other concerned Taiwan .

Because of his contribution to the anti-Ming campaigns, the turn-coat general Wu Sangui was titled Prince of Pingxi, who had under his jurisdiction the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou . The three genera-tions of Geng Zhongming, Geng Jimao and Geng Jinzhong, each titled Prince of Jingnan, controlled Fujian . Shang Kexi and his son Shang Zhixin, successively titled Prince of Pingnan, occupied Guangdong . Over any of these territories the Qing government had no effective control. Wu Sangui could appoint and dismiss his own officials, or-ganize and train his own army; the Boards of Civil Office and War in Beijing had no say on these matters at all. In fact, Wu Sangui and others had become separatist regimes in direct confrontation with Beijing . In 1673, when Emperor Kang Xi decided to take back their fiefs, they revolted. For a while, they seemed to be powerful and mighty, and the rebellion was not crushed until 1681. Yunnan and the other provinces were finally brought under the Qing Dynasty’s direct control.

Taiwan was Zheng Chenggong’s base of operation against the Qing regime. Zheng Chenggong was the son of Zheng Zhilong but held a different political view from that of his father. After the father had surrendered to the Qing, the son led more than ninety of his fol- lowers to Nan’ao, Guangdong Province , where he began his anti-Qing activities. The small number of his initial followers quickly grew to scores of thousands. First, he established the anti-Qing bases in Jinmen and Xiamen ; and then, in coordination with Zhang Huangyan who supported the Prince of Lu, he thrice moved northward to attack the coastal areas of Zhejiang and the lower Changjiang. For the purpose of conducting a protracted war, he, in 1661, sailed across the sea to Taiwan where he expelled the Dutch colonialists who then illegally occupied the island. On the island of Taiwan , he proceeded with po-litical, economic and cultural reconstruction. Not until 1683 when his grandson Zheng Keshuang was in charge did Taiwan finally succumb to the Qing forces. Taiwan and the mainland were once again united, and the unification effort of the Qing government was crowned with success.

The political chaos prevalent during the dynastic change from the Ming to the Qing was long and intense. From a historical perspective, it presented a series of important questions. To answer these questions, a number of great thinkers emerged, such as Fang Yizhi, Wang Fuzhi, Gu Yanwu, Huang Zongxi, Tang Zhen and Yan Yuan.

Both Fang Yizhi (1611-71) and Wang Fuzhi (1619-92) had per-sonally participated in the anti-Qing movement. Both were outstand-ing thinkers of the materialist school. Besides, Fang was a scientist, and Wang a historian. Both believe that the universe consists of matter, and it has not been created by God or man’s consciousness. Following traditional phraseology, they call matter “qi”, or “vitality”, which, says Fang Yizhi, is none other than “fire”. According to Fang, ‘Tire” itself contains contradictions that are in fact the source of motion in the material world. As nature and society are in a continual process of motion, man’s knowledge, which is based upon man’s continuous observation of the laws that govern things, will also increase. The gathering and dispersion of “vitality”, says Wang Fuzhi, is in itself a revelation of the objective laws that govern the motion of matter. The motion of things becomes richer and richer with the passage of time; in the process of development, a new stage is reached, only to be re- placed by a newer one. Though the water in a river flows continuously and endlessly, today’s water in the river is no longer yesterday’s. So- ciety continues to make progress, and the new things of today have grown out of certain aspects of the old things of yesterday. Wang Fu-zhi is eloquent in historical criticism; sometimes he combines knowl-edge of history with personal observation to reach independent judgements of his own. He says, “Land should not be appropriated by the ruler of the country as his private property,” indicating that the tiller should own the land he tills. A viewpoint of this kind was indeed very progressive for its time. Fang Yizhi wrote several books, his rep-resentative works being Understanding the Literary Expositor and Yaodipao Village . Wang Fuzhi was often referred to as Master Chuan-shan. Among his works were Yellow Book, Nightmare, Unauthorized Commentary on the “‘Book of Changes”, Thought and Question, Comments on “History as a Mirror” and Comments on the History of the Song Dynasty.

Gu Yanwu (1613-82) was often referred to as Master Tinglin. Actively opposing the Qing regime all his life, he was an outstanding historian who stood for “learning for the purpose of utilization”.”Every individual is responsible for the rise or fall of his country,” he says, and the individual should regard the affairs of the state as his own. Gu Yanwu had nothing but contempt for those who, like a slave or servant, pledged fealty only to one family or one dynasty. Through the study of history, plus his own observation of geography, customs and products of different regions in China , he analyses past and con-temporary reforms, criticizing obsolete social systems, and points out the problems existing in society, and expresses his own social ideals. In 1639, he began the writing of Zhaocheng Gazette and The Merits~on’s geographical conditions, mountains, nvers and natural for-tresses, irrigation and water conservancy, products, taxation and mili-tary defence. The Daily Accumulated Knowledge is his representative work which, he says, “would be hidden in a famous mountain, waiting to be discovered by those who want to change the world for the bet-ter”. “It would be circulated,” he continues, “when a true, benign ruler emerges.” He also makes concrete proposals for political reform. In philosophy, he believes that “vitality permeates throughout the uni-verse”, or in other words, consciousness derives its origin from matter. Though he had materialist leanings, he was not systematic in his presentation. Contemporary with Gu Yanwu was Gu Zuyu (1631-92), also a historian who believed in “learning for the purpose of utilization”. He devoted more than thirty years of his life to the writing of a book entitled Essentials of Historical Geography, consisting of 130 juan. It has remained an outstanding work on the military history of China and historical geography. Another contemporary of Gu Yanwu’s was Ma Su (1621-73). He was also a historian interested in the betterment of the world. His work, An Interpretation of History, consists of 160 juan. It is detailed on the rise and fall of different kingdoms during the pre-Qin period; it is also detailed on the similarities and differences be-tween different schools of philosophy during the same period. In the use of historical materials, the author views Confucian classics, histo- ry and philosophy with impartiality. As for the organization of his book, he combines different forms in history writing and comes out with a composite form of his own. The book has remained a most useful work on pre-Qin history.

Huang Zongxi (1610-95), often referred to as Master Lizhou, was a great political thinker as well as a historian. During his early years, he fought uncompromisingly against Wei Zhongxian’s eunuch clique. He fought against the Qing army too when the latter marched south-ward to annex South China . Later, he summarized his political thought in a brilliant, anti-feudal work entitled A Ming Barbarian Waiting for a Visitor. In this book he condemns feudal monarchs for their attempt to “appropriate for themselves all the good things in the world, while leaving to others all the harmful things in the world”. It is this kind of attitude, he says, that really brings harm to the world. He criticizes feudal laws as “laws of a single family” rather than “universal laws” because they are intended to satisfy the selfish desires of monarchs at the expense of the people’s interests. He wants politics to be what it ought to be, namely, an instrument for public good. He regards the division between sovereign and subject, between officials and com-mon men, as no more than a division of labour. Political administra-tion should be in the hands of a powerful, virtuous premier, he says, and schools, serving as a forum of public opinion, should have the added function of supervising governmental activities. All in all, this book amounts to a declaration of human rights at a time of feudal decline; it remained a source of inspiration to Chinese youth when a movement for democracy developed two hundred years later. Later in his life, Huang Zongxi worked diligently on the history of the Ming. He wrote Cases in the History of the Ming (244 juan) and Ming Lit-erature (482 juan). Another book, The Ideological Controversy Dur-ing the Ming Dynasty (62 juan), was a pioneer work in its field. He also wrote The Ideological Controversy of the Song-Yuan Period, but the book was never completed. Tang Zhen (1630-1704) wrote a book entitled Private Thoughts, in which he courageously condemns the entire feudal system, going as far as saying that “all the monarchs for the past two thousand years were none better than bandits and thieves”. In many respects, his political thought is similar to Huang Zongxi’s.

Gu Yanwu (1613-82) was often referred to as Master Tinglin. Actively opposing the Qing regime all his life, he was an outstanding historian who stood for “learning for the purpose of utilization”.”Every individual is responsible for the rise or fall of his country,” he says, and the individual should regard the affairs of the state as his own. Gu Yanwu had nothing but contempt for those who, like a slave or servant, pledged fealty only to one family or one dynasty. Through the study of history, plus his own observation of geography, customs and products of different regions in China , he analyses past and con-temporary reforms, criticizing obsolete social systems, and points out the problems existing in society, and expresses his own social ideals. In 1639, he began the writing of Zhaocheng Gazette and The Merits~on’s geographical conditions, mountains, nvers and natural for-tresses, irrigation and water conservancy, products, taxation and mili-tary defence. The Daily Accumulated Knowledge is his representative work which, he says, “would be hidden in a famous mountain, waiting to be discovered by those who want to change the world for the bet-ter”. “It would be circulated,” he continues, “when a true, benign ruler emerges.” He also makes concrete proposals for political reform. In philosophy, he believes that “vitality permeates throughout the uni-verse”, or in other words, consciousness derives its origin from matter. Though he had materialist leanings, he was not systematic in his presentation. Contemporary with Gu Yanwu was Gu Zuyu (1631-92), also a historian who believed in “learning for the purpose of utilization”. He devoted more than thirty years of his life to the writing of a book entitled Essentials of Historical Geography, consisting of 130 juan. It has remained an outstanding work on the military history of China and historical geography. Another contemporary of Gu Yanwu’s was Ma Su (1621-73). He was also a historian interested in the betterment of the world. His work, An Interpretation of History, consists of 160 juan. It is detailed on the rise and fall of different kingdoms during the pre-Qin period; it is also detailed on the similarities and differences be-tween different schools of philosophy during the same period. In the use of historical materials, the author views Confucian classics, histo- ry and philosophy with impartiality. As for the organization of his book, he combines different forms in history writing and comes out with a composite form of his own. The book has remained a most useful work on pre-Qin history.

Huang Zongxi (1610-95), often referred to as Master Lizhou, was a great political thinker as well as a historian. During his early years, he fought uncompromisingly against Wei Zhongxian’s eunuch clique. He fought against the Qing army too when the latter marched south-ward to annex South China . Later, he summarized his political thought in a brilliant, anti-feudal work entitled A Ming Barbarian Waiting for a Visitor. In this book he condemns feudal monarchs for their attempt to “appropriate for themselves all the good things in the world, while leaving to others all the harmful things in the world”. It is this kind of attitude, he says, that really brings harm to the world. He criticizes feudal laws as “laws of a single family” rather than “universal laws” because they are intended to satisfy the selfish desires of monarchs at the expense of the people’s interests. He wants politics to be what it ought to be, namely, an instrument for public good. He regards the division between sovereign and subject, between officials and com-mon men, as no more than a division of labour. Political administra-tion should be in the hands of a powerful, virtuous premier, he says, and schools, serving as a forum of public opinion, should have the added function of supervising governmental activities. All in all, this book amounts to a declaration of human rights at a time of feudal decline; it remained a source of inspiration to Chinese youth when a movement for democracy developed two hundred years later. Later in his life, Huang Zongxi worked diligently on the history of the Ming. He wrote Cases in the History of the Ming (244 juan) and Ming Lit-erature (482 juan). Another book, The Ideological Controversy Dur-ing the Ming Dynasty (62 juan), was a pioneer work in its field. He also wrote The Ideological Controversy of the Song-Yuan Period, but the book was never completed. Tang Zhen (1630-1704) wrote a book entitled Private Thoughts, in which he courageously condemns the entire feudal system, going as far as saying that “all the monarchs for the past two thousand years were none better than bandits and thieves”. In many respects, his political thought is similar to Huang Zongxi’s.

Yan Yuan (1635-1704), also known as Yah Xizhai, advocated the acquirement of practical knowledge through practice and action rather than through the mere reading of books. He pointed out the contrast between two worlds, the world of “fancy” and the world of “matter” or “reality”. In the former world, people speak for the sake of speech, believe in superstition, and employ rigid dogma to smother people’s creativity. In the latter world, farmers till the fields, tailors make clothes, workers construct roads, physicians take care of patients, etc. it is a world full of life and work, as each of the participants makes his own contribution to society. The author predicts that the former world will fall and will in due course be replaced by the latter world. As for his thought on social economy, he believes that a land system will develop, in which “all land in the world will be enjoyed by all the people in the world”. Philosophically, he regards “vitality” as the essence of all the objects in the universe, and “reason” as the law that exists a priori in all objects and things. “Reason” cannot exist independent of objects and things, he says. Thus he severely criticizes the Neo-Confucianism of the Song and Ming dynasties and, from the beginning to the end, regards himself as an ideological opponent of such philosophers as Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi, Zhu Xi, Lu Jiuyuan and Wang Shouren.

Amid the tide of progressive thought, there was, in the field of literature, a book entitled Strange Tales from a Lonely Studio. Pu Songling (1640-1715), the author, was also known as Pu Liuxian who hailed from Zichuan (modern Zibo , Shandong Province). Consisting of nearly 500 tales, the book was, basically speaking, completed in 1680. Most of the tales describe the violent interference with young people’s love affairs by feudal ethics and the resistance young people put up in quest of their own happiness. They also describe the cruel oppression people suffer under feudal governance and the stifling of talents under the civil service examination system. The author uses a combination of the literary language of classical beauty and refined vernacular of his day to portray lively characters in his stories. Thus in content as well as in artistic form, the book is a great accomplishment.

Among the men of letters early during the Qing Dynasty were Qu Dajun (1629-96) and Wei Xi (1624-80). The former’s poetry and the latter’s prose, which reflect the reality of their time, are characterized by an artistic skill of the highest quality. Wu Weiye (1609-71), also known as Wu Meicun, was a famous poet, particularly noted for his seven-character lines.

In conclusion, it might be said that the progressive thought as ex- pressed by Fang Yizhi and others was the major contribution to cul- ture during the period of later Ming and early Qing. The contribution was particularly significant in view of its opposition to what the feudal rulers stood for at that time. It is true that the thought as expressed by Fang Yizhi and others had its limitations and, due to the immaturity of historical conditions, could not develop further. Nevertheless, it her-aided the inevitable change that was forthcoming. As the history of the Qing proves, the change was a change for the worse, certainly not a change for the better.

Qing Rule Strengthened

Beginning in 1683 when it finally unified China , the Qing regime took various measures to strengthen its rule. Not until 1774 when Wang Lun staged an armed uprising did anything eventful take place.

The various Qing institutions were fairly well established at the time when it moved its capital to Beijing . Slowly and gradually they

became more complete upon China ‘s unification. Government institu-tions included the Inner Chancery, the Six Boards, the Censorate and the Supreme Court, all of which were inherited from the Ming Dynasty and adopted with some modifications. In the Innr Chencery there were Grand Secretaries, Assistant Grand Secretaries and Secre- taries, who could be either Manchu or Han, but the Manchus held the real power. Hans as well as Manchus were appointed ministers, viceministers and censors. Only in the organs below the level of the Inner Chancery and the Six Boards was there the provision that some Mon-golians may be also employed. The Inner Chancery held a higher position than its Ming counterpart, but it was not the highest policy-making organ in the government. During the early Qing period, the highest organ of the government was gent, established before the Manchus the Conference of Princes Re- entered Beijing . It consisted of members of the Manchu aristocracy who were charged with the re- sponsibility of presenting policy options for the emperor to act upon. The Privy Chamber was established in 1729; not until 1732 was it formally named the Privy Council. Emperor Yong Zheng established the organ as a means to strengthen his personal rule at the expense of the power of the Manchu aristocracy, as the newly created organ was meant to replace the Conference of Princes Regent. Serving in the Privy Council was a Grand Minister of the emperor’s own choice who could act or issue orders upon the emperor’s personal command. Whenever an important event of military nature ensued, a specially selected Grand Minsiter, normally a Manchu, would be put in charge. The paramount position of the Manchus in matters military and their privileged position in politics characterized the Qing rule. It cannot be denied, however, that while maintaining the privileged position of the Manchu aristocracy, the Qing regime also found it necessary to con-sider the interests of Chinese landlords and leaders of the ethnic minorities. Essentially it was a regime that, using the Manchu aristocracy as the core, united the ruling classes of all the ethnic groups in China .

The governor-general was the highest official on the local level, at the head of one, two or three provinces. The governor headed only one province, and his position was a little below the governor-general’s. Legally, however, their positions were parallel, as the gov-ernor-general had no jurisdictional control over the governor. Each was in charge of the military as well as civil affairs within his juris-diction. Under each were the administrative commissioner and the judicial commissioner, in charge of the administrative and the judicial functions, respectively. Below a province were prefectures and coun-ties, headed by prefects and magistrates, respectively. Early during the Qing Dynasty, all the governors-general were Manchu, but the gover-nors could be either Manchu or Han, at a ratio of approximately fifty-fifty. Later, however, some Han people were appointed governors-general, and more as governors. Most of the prefects and magistrates were Han.

On the lowest level of territorial administration, the Qing regime put into practice a bao-jia system. According to the bao-jia law prom-ulgated in 1757, every ten households were organized as a pai; every ten pai formed a jia, and every ten jia became a bao. The leaders of the pal, jia, and bao were chosen from local landlords or heads of large clans. Their responsibility was to watch all the inhabitants within their respective jurisdictions. A tablet was posted on the front door of each household, and on the tablet were written the name of the house- hold head, his occupation, and the number of people in the household. Whenever a member departed from the household or moved to live in another residence, such fact must be reported to relevant authorities. The registration and organization of inhabitants in groups of ten and five had their beginning as early as the Qin-Han period and were enforced throughout subsequent dynasties. The purpose was the organization of all the available labour force for governmental duties. As far as the bao-jia system of the Qing Dynasty was concerned, the empha-sis was on the “prevention of banditry”. This marked a very important change.

At the beginning, the Qing Dynasty enforced the Ming statutes. In 1646, the Code of the Great Qing was completed; it was repeatedly revised during the reigns of Kang Xi and Yong Zheng. In 1740, during the reign of Emperor Qian Long, the Statutes of the Great Qing, consisting of 47 juan and 226 categories, was completed. In addition to the regulations normally found in the legal codes of the previous feu-dal dynasties, the Qing document contained elements of oppression based upon the difference in ethnic groups. For instance, the Manchus were leniently treated whenever punishments were imposed for crimes committed. In the case of the Manchus, there were such leniencies as”substitute pnishment” and “deferred punishment” leniencies that were denied to other ethnic groups. There were specially constructed jails for the Manchus, and the living conditions in these jails were generally better than those in other jails.

As for the recruitment of governmental officials, the Qing Dy-nasty followed the Ming example by putting into practice the civil service examination system. In addition, it had the so-called contribu-tion system and the special examination system. Under the former system, a person could make contributions to the government, in the form of either cash or grain, and would then be rewarded with a pro- motion or a governmental post to hold. Under the special examination system there were three categories: scholarship and literature, gov-ernment, and virtuous conduct. The examination for scholarship and literature was given twice, one in 1679 and one in 1736. Candidates for the examination had to be recommended either by officials in the nation’s capital whose ranks were third degree or above, or by the highest officials in the local government, namely, governors-general and governors. Only those who were outstanding in learning and per-sonal conduct, besides being talented in writing, would have a chance to be recommended. Having passed the examination, the recom-mendee would be rewarded with an official appointment.

In military matters, the main force for fighting was still the Man-chu, Mongolian and Han Eight Banners even after the Qing had en-tered China proper. Meanwhile, the government began to organize new military units, known as Green Battalions in the provinces, and the Green Battalions were staffed by Han Chinese, with Manchus as commanders in some cases. The soldiers of the Eight Banners and the Green Battalions were stationed across the country, from the nation’s capital to small cities and towns, but the soldiers of the Eight Banners soon became corrupt after they entered China proper. Thus, beginning at the time when Wu Sangui’s rebellion was suppressed, the Green Battalions became more and more important as the nation’s fighting force. Besides the Eight Banners and the Green Battalions, there were military units temporarily organized for a specific campaign, and they were dissolved as soon as the campaign was over. As an instrument of controlling the people, the military organization was more emphasized during the Qing Dynasty than it had been during any of the previous dynasties.

Having succeeded in securing the control of the areas where the Han people lived, the Qing regime began to take steps to strengthen its control over the ethnic minorities. During the early Qing Dynasty, the Mongolians who lived in the northwestern region of China appeared in three separate groups. The three groups were Southern Mongolians, Northern Mongolians (Khalkhas), and Western Mongolians (Eleuts or Oirats). During the reign of Emperor Kang Xi, the Jungar tribe of the Eleut Mongolian group became more and more powerful, and eventu- ally it annexed all of the four tribes of the Eleut group. It threatened Tibet and harassed the Khalkha Mongolians. In 1690, the Jungar army, under the commandership of Galdan, moved to the Ujumqin area of today’s Inner Mongolia , only 900 li from Gubeikou, a narrow pass at the Great Wall to the northeast of Beijing . The Qing government was greatly alarmed. Emperor Kang Xi personally led troops to meet the invader and, at Ulanbutung (modern Chifeng, Inner Mongolia Auto-nomous Region), decisively defeated him. In 1696 and again in 1697, the emperor moved against Galdan who, having been defeated and feeling hopeless, committed suicide. In 1717, Tsi-wang Arabtan, a nephew of Galdan’s, led his Jungar tribe towards Tibet and captured Lhasa . In 1720, the Qing government sent an expeditionary army to Tibet where it succeeded not only in expelling Tsi-wang Arabtan but also in installing Dalai Lama VI as ruler of Tibet . In 1727, it placed two ministers-in-residence in Tibet and thus greatly strengthened its control. During the reign of Kang Xi, the Uygurs who lived on both sides of the Tianshan Mountains had been, at one time, under Gal-dan’s control. After Galdan’s defeat, a religious leader named Huoji-zhan gathered troops south of the Tianshan Mountains and set up a separatist regime. In 1758, Emperor Qian Long sent an expeditionary army westward and, the very next year, pacified the areas south of the Tianshan Mountains . In Kashgar and other cities, the government, to administer the pacified areas, created new offices of assistant minis- ters, pioneer ministers, and managing ministers, all under the jurisdic-tion of the General of Ili. As for such ethnic minorities as Miao, Yao and Yi who inhabited China ‘s southeastern region, the government, beginning in 1726 (during the reign of Emperor Yong Zheng), pro-moted the policy of “replacing tribal chiefs with government officials” on a large scale. The hereditary system whereby tribal chiefs succeed-ed one another was abolished, and the tribal areas were converted to prefectures and counties, the heads of which were appointed by the central government. The measures taken by the Qing government in China ‘s border regions helped strengthen national defence and stabi-lize local communities in terms of social order. Naturally, while em-ploying military force to achieve the intended purpose, the govern-ment also brought sorrow and misfortune to the local populace.

During the reign of Kang Xi, the government proceeded with the struggle against the Tzarist expansionists who were committing ag-gression against China . Towards the end of the Ming and early during the Qing Dynasty when China was plunged into chaos, Tzarist Russia continued to nibble away Chinese territories on the upper valley of the Heilongjiang River . In 1649, the Cossacks of Russia forcibly occupied Yacsa and built the Albazin fortress. In 1658, Tzarist Russia constructed the city of Nerchinsk at the mouth of the Nibuchu (Nerchinsk) River, besides dispatching troops to invade the valley of the Songhua-jiang River . After China was unified, Emperor Kang Xi, in 1685, or-dered an counterattack. The Qing forces defeated the Russians at Yac-sa and then destroyed the city of Albazin . Tzarist Russia sent rein- forcements the next year and rebuilt the city of Yacsa . Chinese troops counterattacked again and once more defeated the Russians. The Tzarist expansionists, knowing that the trend was working against them, expressed the desire for peace. The result was the Sino-Russian Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689, which fixed the boundary between the two countries at the Ergun River (a tributary of the upper Heilong-jiang), the Geerbiqi River , and the Outer Hinggan Mountains up to the sea. The areas to the south of the rivers and the mountains, including the Kuye ( Sakhalin ) Island , were Chinese, and the areas to their north were Russian. The treaty legally delimited the eastern section of the Sino-Russian border and curbed Tzarist Russia’s greed and aggression. It was an important victory for Chinese diplomacy.

Social order returned upon the unification of China . In 1712, the government declared that the 1711 revenue from poll tax be made permanent and that no additional poll tax be levied, no matter how fast the population was to increase from then on. This measure was publicized as “no increase in tax during a prosperous era when population increases”. In 1716, an experiment was introduced in Guangdong , whereby “poll tax is incorporated into land tax”. In 1724, the same measure was put into practice in the Beijing area. Later it was adopted nationwide. This programme of incorporating poll tax into land tax meant the abolition of the poll tax de facto, and those who did not own land would not have to pay poll tax. It was a good programme which helped the restoration of social order. From then on people did not have to hide themselves from census-takers in order to evade taxes, and population figures, as reported by local governments to Beijing , also became more accurate. In 1711, the reported population of China was 24,620,000; in 1774, it was 221,020,000.

Generally speaking, administrative efficiency during the best years of the Qing was higher than that of the Ming Dynasty. The Qing regime not only adopted the Ming institutions on a large scale but also learned a lesson from its predecessor’s failures. In other words, it did not exploit people in such a ruthless fashion as the Ming had done. During the Qing Dynasty there was no emperor who favoured and trusted eunuchs to such an extent that he would not attend to the af-fairs of the state for years. The relationship between a Qing emperor and his Privy Council was also much closer than that between a Ming emperor and his Inner Chancery. Not surprisingly, the Qing regime could maintain the appearance of being powerful for a considerable length of time, while the Ming regime could not. Beneath the surface there was, of course, all kinds of contradictions, which would some day break through the cover and emerge to the surface.

As for cultural activities, the Qing regime adopted various meas-ures to control them as soon as it had succeeded in consolidating its conquest of China . First, it continued to promote the eight-legged essays and the honouring of Confucius and the Net-Confucian schol-ars so as to freeze people’s thought. During the reign of Kang Xi, The Complete Works of Neo Confucianism was reprinted, and The Com- plete Works of Master Zhu Xi and The Essence of Neo-Confucianism were also compiled and published. Scholars like Li Guangdi and Tang Bin were placed in high position and praised highly as the so-called”famous ministers of Neo-Confucianism”. In 1684, Emperor Kang Xi personally went to Qufu to pay homage to Confucius. During his reign, Emperor Qian Long did the same nine times. Second, the Qing regime prohibited the circulation of books deemed unfriendly or harmful to itself. Third, it carried out literary inquisition, the most notorious of which occurred in 1711-13 and involved a book entitled A Collection of Nanshan. The book was considered to have anti-Qing contents and the author violated a taboo by proposing to use the reign titles of Southern Ming princes; he and more than one hundred implicated persons were executed as a result, while several hundred others were punished by exile. Fourth, in the name of editing books, the Qing authorities censored them. During the reigns of Yong Zheng and Qian Long, the government sponsored the compilation of two giant works. One was A Collection of Books of Ancient and Modern Times, com- pleted in 1725. Consisting of l 0,000juan and rich in source materials, it was divided into 6 major parts and 6,109 individual items.

This was the greatest undertaking since the compilation of The Yong Le Ency- clopaedia. With the materials classified according to their characteristics, A Collection of Books was superior to The Yong Le Encyclopaedia, which had a classification based upon the difference in phonetic rhymes. Another literary undertaking, entitled The Complete Library of the Four Treasuries, had its beginning in 1772 and was completed ten years later. Consisting of more than 89,000 juan that were bound into more than 36,000 volumes, it was the largest collection of books in all of China’s history. The purpose of compiling A Collection of Books was to take scholars’ minds away from such thought as “learn-ing for the purpose of bettering the world”; when busy with a literary undertaking of such a gigantic size, scholars would have little time for anything else. Still, there was no obvious attempt to censor books in the name of editing them. The compilation of The Four Treasuries, on the other hand, was a different matter. In the name of collecting books, the government burned and destroyed those which it did not like. In the name of editing books, it arbitralily deleted or changed their con-tent. While the compilation of The Four Treasuries helped the preser-vation of many books which otherwise could have been lost, it also changed and made less authentic many books it helped preserve.

After the reign of Kang Xi, the government could not control the development of culture despite its attempt. Li Gong (1659-1733), a student of Yan Yuan’s, promoted his teacher’s ideas until he became as famous as his mentor. Their philosophy was known as the School of Yan-Li. Li Gong wrote The Collected Works of Shugu. Wan Sitong(1638-1702), a student of Huang Zongxi’s, wrote A Chronological Chart According to Dynasties, which has 64 juan. To trace the events towards the end of the Song Dynasty and the rise and fall of the Ming Dynasty, he wrote Loyal and Righteous Men Towards the End of the Song Dynasty (16 juan) and A Draft History of the Ming (500 juan). To understand a historical figure, he says, one must evaluate the time he lives in and must know the inside of him as well as the outside. What he says reflects the thought of many scholars of the late Ming and the early Qing period who wanted to use learning as a means to better the world. Later, influenced by Wan Sitong, Quan Zuwang(1705-55) studied the history of the Southern Song and the history of the Southern Ming. He wrote biographies for many distinguished scholars and outstanding persons who lived during the late Ming and the early Qing period. By reading his book, The Collected Works of the Jiqi Pavilion, one senses his dissatisfaction with the Qing regime.

In the area of literature, the outstanding works were dramas by Hong Sheng and Kong Shangren and novels by Wu Jingzi and Cao Xueqin.

Hong Sheng (1645-1704) completed a drama entitled Palace of Eternal Youth in 1688. It describes the Tang emperor Xuan Zong’s exodus to Sichuan upon the outbreak of An Lushan’s rebellion and the death of his favourite concubine Yang Yuhuan, who was forced to commit suicide. Later, the emperor thought of her constantly, and his devotion to her moved Heaven who agreed to let the lovers become an eternal, inseparable twosome in the Palace of Heaven . Kong Shangren(1648-1718) wrote Peach Blossom Fan which was completed in 1699. It describes a story of love between Li Xiangjun, a songstress, and Hou Fangyu, a well-known man of letters. It praises the true, unshak-able love, which she feels for him, and which enables her to resist all kinds of threats and temptations from the feudal elements. Moreover, it describes Li Xiangjun as a resolute, uncompromising fighter. Both books use stories of love to reveal the important events that accom-pany a dynasty’s rise and fall; they present to their readers not only the broad vistas of social contradictions but also the lessons to be learned from history. They have a deep, practical meaning.

Wu Jingzi (1701-55) wrote The Scholars, a long novel satirizing the civil service examination system. He describes how the system attracts those intellectuals who have on their minds only fame and wealth which they pursue like a mad man. He also describes the unsavoury behaviour of those who have passed and those who have failed to pass the examination. While depicting the harmful effect of this system upon society, he in fact reveals the deep roots of corruption that existed during even the most glorious era of the Qing Dynasty. The book is as realistic as it is profound. Though there are no major characters in the book, a reader does not feel that it is loosely organized, since its main point is always clear and refreshing. The language used in the book is precise and yet rich in symbolism, and the poig-nancy of its caricature is both humorous and real. All in all, it is an outstanding novel of satire. It had a strong impact at the time of its publication, and it laid a solid foundation for similar novels that ap-peared in later years.

Cao Xueqin’s real name was Cao Zhan (c. 1715-64), bom into a Han Banner family in Nanjing . He later moved to live in Beijing . His novel, The Dream of Red Mansions, is a great realist work. The main thread of the story concerns the love between Jia Baoyu and his two cousins, Lin Daiyu and Xue Baochai. In the Process of describing the tragedy of love and marriage among the main characters and the de-cline of the feudal, aristocratic Jia family, the author reveals the evils that accompany the life of a feudal clan. Because of the unconquerable contradictions within the family itself, it is a foregone conclusion that sooner or later it will decline. The novel approves the rebel spirit of Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu who oppose feudal ethics; it speaks positively of their feelings towards each others, feelings that are built upon a common ideal. It only regrets that in the end they cannot escape the yoke of feudal influence. After the death of Lin Daiyu, Jia Baoyu is duped to marry Xue Baochai, but there is no happiness in the marriage. The novel reveals the author’s awareness of contemporary failings and his broad understanding of the pulse of his time. He feels that the so-ciety of his day will certainly collapse, even though the old influence is still strong enough to drag down the new force and thus creates tragedy. Through this novel the author ably crystallizes China ‘s fine tradition of artistic expression; using vivid and rich language, he cre-ates a great number of characters of various types. On the positive side are such characters as Jia Baoyu, Lin Daiyu, Qingwen, Yuanyang; on the negative side appear Xue Baochai, Wang Xifeng, Jia Zheng and Xiren. Each person, while appearing as a model in a given category, also possesses his or her own characteristics. Like a roll of painting that slowly unfolds its content, each character in the novel develops his or her own bent while going through the life process. The novel’s construction is seamless; encompassing a broad vista, it is sheer beauty on a massive scale. It marks the peak in the history of Chinese novel. The book was hand-copied for circulation even before it was completed. From the viewpoint of content, artistic skill, and treatment of subject matter, its beneficial impact on Chinese literature not only on novels but also on dramas, poetry and films has been long and obvious.

As for academic studies, the area that had been most affected by the Qing’s cultural policy and been used for the realization of its poli-tical purpose was collation in the field of Confucian classics and his-tory. During the reign of Kang Xi, Yan Ruoqu (1636-1704) and Hu Wei (1633-1714) studied the texts of the Book of History and the Trib-ute of Yu and made important contributions. Thus began the academic vogue of collation for the sake of collation. The emphasis on “learning for the purpose of bettering the world” that characterized scholars of the early Qing period was abandoned altogether. As the new academic style could in no way violate the Qing regime’s taboos, it was happily encouraged by the government. During the reign of Qian Long, two schools of textual criticism developed, the Wu and the Wan. The former school was headed by Hui Dong (1697-1758), and the latter by Dai Zhen (1723-77). Dai Zhen, also known as Dai Dongyuan, had a tendency towards materialism, as he strongly opposed Neo-Confucianism. “A man might be saved if he were to be killed by law,” said he. “He is doomed if he were to be killed by Neo-Confucianism.” Dai’s ontribution to philosophy was overshadowed by his contribu-tion to textual criticism, and his philosophy did not exercise the same kind of influence as his study of collation did. In doing textual research, he covered a large ground, including phonology, etymology, study of institutions as well as textual evaluation, to all of which he made contributions. However, in terms of the development of social thought, these contributions, as compared to those made by scholars of the early Qing period, were a step backward.

Decline of the Qing; Uprisings of Different Ethnic Groups

People’ resistance activities did not stop even after the Qing had unified China . For one thing, the secret White Lotus Society, histori-cally eminent, continued to be active. In 1721, Zhu Yigui staged an armed uprising in Taiwan and, at one time, had a following of as many as 300,000 men. But the anti-Qing uprising, being crushed six months later, did not have a chance to be developed into something more challenging. Half a century later, in 1774, Wang Lun, a leader of one of the White Lotus sects, raised the standard of revolt in western Shandong Province . He attacked and captured Shouzhang, Tangyi, Yanggu, and the old city of Linqing . As Linqing, located on the bank of the Grand Canal , was the place where ships bearing grains and other materials must pass through on their way northward to Beijing , the Qing government immediately dispatched troops to exterminate the rebels. Wang Lun, surrounded and outnumbered, ascended to the top of his residence where he burned himself to death. Later, uprisings against the Qing government continued throughout the later part of Qian Long’s reign and the reigns of Jia Qing and Dao Guang.

In 1761, a Muslim in Gansu named Ma Mingxin founded a new sect of Islam. This event marked the beginning of Islam being divided into the Old and the New Sect. The division provided the Qing gov-ernment with the opportunity of sowing dissension among the Muslims, as it supported one sect against the other. In 1781, it threw Ma Mingxin, leader of the New Sect, into a prison in Lanzhou , and such an action generated strong resentment on the part of all the Muslims and the Salars. Under the leadership of Su Sishisan and Han Er, both from Xunhuating (modem Salar Autonomous District, Xunhua County, Qinghai), the Muslims attacked and occupied Hezhou (mod-em Linxia, Gansu). They proceeded to march towards Lanzhou . The Qing government ordered Ma Mingxin to be killed and dispatched General Agui, at the head of a crack division from the capital, to attack the Muslim rebels. Though Su Sishisan and many of his followers made the heroic and ultimate sacrifice, the Muslims of the New Sect and the Salars did not submit themselves meekly to the suppression, as they, under the new leadership of Tian Wu, continued to propagate the teachings of the New Sect. In 1783, once again they raised the standard of revolt, this time in Fuqiang (modem Gangu , Gansu ). Once again, the Qing government dispatched General Agui, at the head of troops from the capital, to suppress them. Tian Wu was killed inaction, but his followers, commanded by Zhang Wenqing and Ma Siwa, continued the attack and captured such cities as Tongwei and Jingyuan. In1784, the uprising collapsed.

In 1786, Lin Shuangwen staged an armed uprising in Taiwan . Previously, he had been a leader of the Heaven and Earth Society in Zhanghua, Taiwan . The organization was also known as the Triad Society, a popular, secret group that had its beginning during the reign of Kang Xi. It opposed the Qing regime and was most active in South China . The background of its members was complex, but most of them were poor, hard-working peasants. Lin Shuangwen raised such slogans as “winning people’s hearts” and “protecting agriculture” to protest against the Qing government’s ruthless exploitation. After capturing Zhanghua, he was declared “Marshal of Obedience to Heaven”. Meanwhile, another man named Zhuang Datian, having raised the standard of revolt in Fengshan (modem Gaoxiong), attacked and captured Fengshan. Marching northward, he rendezvoused with Lin Shuangwen to attack the capital of Taiwan (modem Tainan ). The Qing government summoned a combined force of army and navy from seven coastal provinces to suppress the insurgents. Early in 1788, Lin Shuangwen was captured, and the uprising ended.

In 1795, Shi Liudeng, a Miao leader in Tongren Prefecture (mod-ern Tongren County , Guizhou ), led his people to stage an armed uprising in Dazhaiying, as a protest against excessive corv6e and ruthless exploitation on the part of the Qing government. Subse-quently, a Miao man named Shi Sanbao, who hailed from Yongsuiting (modern Huayuan), Hunan Province , and another Miao man named Wu Bayue, who hailed from Qianzhouting (modern Jishou), Hunan , led other Miao people in response. The insurgent army quickly won over large areas in Hunan , Guizhou and Sichuan , after having killed Fu Kangan, the Governor-general of Yunnan and Guizhou . The Qing government then dispatched several hundred thousand troops from Yunnan , Guizhou , Hunan and Guangdong to suppress the rebellion. Meanwhile, it sowed dissension among the insurgents so as to achieve its goal of “divide and conquer”. Shi Liudeng was killed in action after having been defeated, and Wu Bayue and Shi Sanbao were captured. But the remainder of the insurgent army did not submit readily, as it reemerged in 1799 to challenge the Qing authority in the various areas of Hunan and Guizhou . It persisted in its struggle until 1806.

In 1796, members of the White Lotus Society revolted in a vari-ety of areas: Nie Jieren at Zhijiang , Hubei Province and Wang Conger (female) and Yao Zhifu at Xiangyang. Fellow members in Dazhou, Dongxiang, Taiping, Bazhou and Tongjiang responded one after an-other. Refugees and poor people in Jingxiang, salt workers in the Changjiang River valley, and army deserters in eastern Sichuan all of them participated in the struggle. The insurgent army fought in various areas of Henan , Shaanxi and Sichuan , tiring to exhaustion the Qing army that had been dispatched to crush it. Later, the Qing gov-ernment put in good use the militias controlled by local landlords, that were coordinated with the regular army to fight against the insurgents. In the meantime, it mobilized several hundred thousand troops from various provinces for the effort. In 1798, the insurgent unit led by Wang Conger and Yao Zhifu was surrounded on all sides in the mountainous area of Yunxi. Unable to break through the encirclement, both leaders jumped from a cliff and committed suicide. In 1799, the insurgent unit that had its beginning in Dongxiang , Sichuan Province, was compelled to retreat,to Gansu and subsequently fought at Qinzhou, Mianzhou and other places. After Leng Tianlu, its leader, was killed in action, his followers quickly dispersed. Towards the insurgents who continued to resist, the Qing government adopted a scorch-the-earth policy, as it built fortifications and castles into which it evicted all the peasants. The purpose was to cut off the link between the insurgents and the masses so as to isolate and entrap the former. In 1801, after the death of its leader Xu Tiande, the insurgent contingent that had raised its standard of revolt in Dazhou , Sichuan Province, became several small units active in different areas. In 1804, the uprising led by the White Lotus Society formally came to an end, having persisted for a period of nine years. To suppress it, the Qing government had to mo-bilize forces from a dozen provinces and spend more than220,000,000 taels of silver in military expenditure.

The Sect of Heavenly Reason was an offshoot of the White Lotus Society. Earlier it had proselytized in Zhili , Shandong , Shanxi and Henan provinces. Its members were mostly poor peasants, domestic servants and slaves, hired hands and small peddlers. Lin Qing, its leader, had been proselytizing in Daxing County near Beijing for a long time. By attending to the needs of the sick and organizing poor people for mutual assistance, he became a leader of many. Meanwhile, another man named Li Wencheng was proselytizing in Huaxian, He-nan Province . Lin and Li made an agreement with the followers of the Heavenly Reason Sect in Shandong and Zhili that they would simulta-neously rise in rebellion on the fifteenth day of the ninth lunar month,1813. Unfortunately, the news of the attempted uprising was leaked before it could be carried out. As Li Wencheng was thrown into jail, Zhang, Li’s wife, led the sect’s adherents in revolt ahead of schedule. On the seventh day of the ninth lunar month, Zhang and her followers successfully broke into Huaxian. They not only rescued Li Wencheng but, subsequently, also occupied Junxian ( Henan Province ). The sect’s adherents in Dingtao and Jinxiang , Shandong Province, and in Chang-yuan, modern Henan , responded positively to the uprising one after another. Lin Qing, however, had no inkling that the uprising would take place ahead of schedule. On the fifteenth day of the ninth lunar month, he led two hundred of his followers into Beijing and then at-tacked the imperial palace. Quickly the Qing government sent its Rifle Battalion to the scene to counterattack, and Lin Qing, having been captured was subsequently executed. Meanwhile, the insurgent army in Henan was surrounded by the Qing forces, and Li Wencheng and many of his followers burned themselves to death. But Zhang, Li Wencheng’s wife, continued the defence of Huaxian; thrice she and her men attacked the Qing army at night. Early in 1814, the Qing army attacked and entered the city. Wielding a sword, Zhang fought from street to street. Overcome by exhaustion, she finally killed her-self.

In 1835, Cao Shun staged an armed uprising in Zhaocheng (mod-em Hongdong County , Shanxi ). Cao was a member of a secret society named First Heaven. In 1834, upon assuming the leadership of this society, he began to organize peasants and manufacture weapons. The next year, he attacked Zhaocheng and killed its magistrate. Later, he divided his army to attack Huoxian, Linfen and several other places. As his force was thinned out, it became an easy target for the Qing army. The uprising failed as a result.

There were numerous armed uprisings against the Qing authority towards the end of Emperor Qian Long’s reign. Facing them, the Qing government not only dispatched troops to suppress them but also pro-moted or strengthened the bao-jia system, so as to tighten its control of the people. Meanwhile, Emperor Qian Long himself lived a corrupt life of self-indulgence as usual. After his accession to the throne, he went to South China time and again for pleasure; the tours of pleasure were repeated between 1780 and 1784. Earlier, during Kang Xi’s reign, summer palaces were built in Chengde. The construction was con-tinued during Qian Long’s reign. In 1790, the last of Qian Long’s seventy-two summer villas was finally completed. Like corrupt mem-bers of the ruling classes during other dynasties, the officials of the Qing Dynasty used a variety of methods, including blackmail, to ex-tort money from the people, and greedy landlords exploited peasants likewise, so as to enrich themselves. Heshen, a Grand Minister of the Privy Council, amassed a huge fortune towards the end of Qian Long’s reign, a fortune that consisted of 8,000 qing (approximately120,000 acres) of farmland, 84,000 taels of gold, and 55,000 silver bars, not to mention, in the underground vault, 1,000,000 taels of sil-ver, pearls and other valuables worth 8,000,000 taels of silver, silk and leather worth another 1,000,000 taels of silver, and six hundred jin of ginseng. In addition, he owned forty money stores and seventy-five pawnshops. Towards the end of Qian Long’s reign, corruption and bribery were open secret among local officials. Among the higher posts, the Superintendency of Water Control yielded the largest reward in terms of bribery that could be collected. Emperor Jia Qing said in 1811 that more than half of the annual budget of 30,000,000 taels of silver appropriated for water control was lost in corruption. Many superintendents of water control deliberately broke dykes to create an emergency, so they would be able to request huge funds to repair them. Then they siphoned off for their own use large sums from the appropriated funds.

Corruption among officials reduced the government’s income. Besides, there were huge outlays occasioned by the suppression of people’s uprisings. As a result, the government had a difficult time to make ends meet. Towards the end of Qian Long’s reign, the govern-ment each year had only about two million taels of silver at its dis-posal after payment of the salaries of officials and administrative expenses. Towards the end of Jia Qing’s reign, only five provinces were able to fulfil their tax quotas and hand over the receipts to the national treasury. As a result, the budget could not be balanced, as total reve-nue could not match the huge expenditure. To solve the financial problem, the Qing government, time and again, introduced miscella-neous, oppressive taxes. Besides, it expanded the so-called tribute system. Not only offices but also nominal titles, such as the degree of jiansheng (imperial college student) could be bought and sold. Those who had bought such titles were not entitled to the holding of an office, of course; they were, however, to enjoy higher social positions that enabled them to bully others. From 1816 to 1830, the selling of the jiansheng degree alone netted the government as much as 2,270,000 taels of silver. As revenue increased, so did waste. Besides, much of the revenue which should have gone to the national treasury was in-tercepted for personal use by officials at various levels. It was said then that if a magistrate wished to become rich by one thousand taels of silver, his subordinates, who handled the bribery for him, would acquire for themselves ten times as much; if a governor wished to become richer by ten thousand taels of silver, the magistrates, who handled the bribery for him, would use the opportunity to obtain for themselves one hundred thousand taels of silver. The seriousness in financial difficulties in the government and the widespread corruption among the officials indicated nothing but the utter rottenness on the part of the ruling oligarchy.

As for cultural activities, there were a number of outstanding scholars during the later part ofthe Qian Long period and thereafter. made important contributions in the textual study of Confucian clas-sics and history. Fearful of antagonizing the ruling elite, they avoided reality as much as possible. The research scholar Qian Daxin (1728-1804) was as much noted for his versatility as for his specialization. In his books, such as The Study of Differences in the Twenty-two Dynastic Histories and The Record of New Discoveries by Shijiazhai, he was discriminating in his selection of materials and objective in his judgement. Both books were important works on historical studies. Some-times he assumed the role of a lecturer when he spoke of the corrupt practices in politics of his time. Inthis regard, he was much more progressive than his fellow textual researchers.

Contemporary with Qian Daxin and independent of the vogue of textual criticism were Wang Zhong and Zhang Xuecheng. Wang Zhong (1744-94) was a supperior writer, an eminent historian and an outstanding philosopher and, in his own words, “a man who, ashamed of pursuing useless studies, was most interested in being of practical

use to the world. He studied institutional changes from ancient to modern times and also the measures adopted which were beneficial or detrimental to the people’s livelihood. He learned about all of them and studied thoroughly each, in the hope that someday he might be able to use the knowledge he had acquired.” A scholarly interest of this kind was most unusual at this time since it was contrary to the general trend. He believed that only by studying history could one understand the implications of academic changes. The academic suc-cessor to Confucius, said he, was Xun Zi rather than Mencius; Confu-cianism and Mohism were equally outstanding, and Mohism should not be discriminated against. He was, in fact, criticizing the popular, time-honoured orthodoxy and proposing a new attitude towards dif-ferent schools of thought. This attitude of freeing oneself from the bondage of feudal culture and of pursuing historical truth as one saw it was highly praiseworthy since On Learning that, because of when he died. it was very rare at the time. He wrote its huge size, was not yet completed when he died.

Zhang Xuecheng (1738-1801) was an outstanding critic on his-torical science. Against the academic trend of his time, he pointed out that textual research, being only a means to an end, should not be an academic discipline by itself. Textual research to a scholar, said he, was like a vehicle or a boat to a traveller. Just as a traveller could not be satisfied with sitting in a vehicle or a boat without knowing where he was going, a scholar should not study textual criticism for its own sake. He proposed that a scholar should not just follow the vogue and should instead oppose it if it were wrong. In defining a good historian, he emphasized a systematic and objective assessment of cultural and academic developments, as well as faithfulness to historical reality. In other words, a historian should not distort historical facts and should avoid being blinded by his own prejudice. Speaking of the ancient history of China , he regarded Confucian classics as historical records, proposing that the developments of all schools of thought be studied. He believed that social development followed an objective, inevitable course, and this belief was contrary to the scholastic approach adopted by scholars of textual criticism and research. His historical point of view contained in it elements of materialism, but his main interest was confined to the history of culture. Besides, his views were heavily coloured by a cyclic approach to history. His works, compiled by later scholars, were known as The Posthumous Works of Zhang Xuecheng, the most important of which was The General Meaning of Literature and History.

Both Wang Zhong and Zhang Xuecheng were unorthodox in the sense that they did not choose to follow the popular trend. As a result, they did not exercise as much influence on scholarship as they should have. The presence of their works, nevertheless, indicated a new de-mand, a new trend in academic studies.

After Wang Zhong and Zhang Xuecheng came Gong Zizhen (1792-1841) who, also known as Gong Ding’an, was an essayist, a poet, a historian and a philosopher. He compared the society of his days to a sick body covered with scabs and scars, stating that its sick- ness was so advanced as to be beyond cure. He pointed out the cor-ruption of officials at all levels, the shamelessness of those who ex-ploited others through blackmail and oppression in order to live a materially more enjoyable life. The male tillers and the female weav-ers, on the other hand, lived a life of slavery. He believed that there was no law that could not be changed or no precedent that could not be broken. Sooner or later, changes had to be made. He wrote a well-known poem which read as follows:

The vitality of China cannot come about
Until storm sweeps and thunder roars.
Ten thousand horses are mute: How tragic it is!
May Heaven arouse itself–I plead:
Send us talents–all kinds of talents!

The poet felt sad in view of the deathly situation he faced. He called for the storms and thunders so that necessary changes could be made and a new situation created. One year before his death, the Opi-um War broke out, and China entered a new historical period. The new period did not bring to the Chinese people good fortunes. Instead, it brought nothing but greater misfortunes.

The Decline of Feudalism and the Emergence of Sprouts of Capitalism and Arrival of Western Colonialism

The Ming-Qing period was marked by the decline of feudalism. During this period, the social economy continued to develop, the nature of labour power underwent a considerable change, and the feudal relations of production imposed shackles on production development. Sprouts of capitalism slowly emerged in certain areas and in certain industries. It could not grow normally, however, since it could not yet free itself from the prevalent feudal influence.

In agriculture, cultivated acreage increased at a fast rate during the early part of the Ming Dynasty. In 1383, the newly cultivated acreage was as much as 1,800,000 qing (27,000,000 acres), about one-half of the total cultivated land. In 1393, total cultivated land for the nation as a whole reached 8,500,000 qing (127,500,000 acres). The principal cause for the speedy increase of cultivated acreage was peace and stability after a long period of war. However, the figure declined to 7,010,000 qing (105,150,000 acres) in 1581–a figure that stood as the largest during the later part of the Ming Dynasty. In 1661, early during the Qing Dynasty, total land under cultivation amounted to 5,490,000 qing (82,350,000 acres). The amount steadily increased until by 1812 it reached 7,900,000 qing (118,500,000 acres), or900,000 qing (13,500,000 acres) above the 1581 figure. Still, it was less by 600,000 qing (9,000,000 acres) compared to the 1393 figure. The reason was that the Qing government designated the Northeast as a forbidden region to which Han people were not allowed to emigrate for the purpose of opening up new acreage for cultivation. There were, of course, newly cultivated fields in Mongolia and in the areas south and north of the Tianshan Mountains , but the amount was rather limited.

The development of agriculture during the Ming-Qing period centred on the production of paddy rice and of cash crops, as well as the development of new varieties of crops. During the Ming Dynasty, Fujian and Zhejiang discovered a new strain of paddy rice that could bring two harvests per year. In Guangdong , three harvests of paddy rice per year were not uncommon. Paddy rice fields appeared as north as Zhili Province . During the Ming Dynasty, the most productive areas were the provinces of Jiangsu , Hunan , Hubei and Sichuan and the areas along the southeast coast. Such cash crops as cotton were grown across the country. Mulberry trees, tea bushes, sugar canes, fruit trees, dye plants like indigo, safflower and scholartree, sesame, peanut, dragon spruce, tun tree, and other oil-yielding plants the cultivation of these plants was continually promoted until it reached larger and larger areas. The same thing could be also said about medicine herbs. Maize, imported into China early in the sixteenth century, was grown in virtually all regions of China by the eighteenth century. Sweet potato, introduced to China from Luzon towards the end of the sixteenth century, was grown experimentally first in Fujian ; later, its planting

spread to Zhejiang , Shandong and Henan . As planting skill continued to improve, it could be found, eventually, in North China where winter was noticeably colder. Both maize and sweet potato are highly pro-ductive plants, and sweet potato can be planted even in sandy soil. The expansion of cotton planting over large areas and the introduction to China of maize and sweet potato were important events in the history of Chinese agriculture, as they were closely related to the livelihood of the people. Tobacco was also introduced to China during the sixteenth century. At the beginning, its cultivation was confined to the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong . After the Qian Long period, it could be found in Zhejiang , Jiangsu , Shandong , Zhili , Shanxi , Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces. Meanwhile, several famous strains of the same tobacco were produced. Tobacco was a cash crop; its cultivation had a direct bearing on the rural economy.

As for the handicraft industry, spinning and weaving remained a major vocation among the peasants in a self-sufficient economy. Spin-ning and weaving involved all kinds of raw materials, such as silk, cotton and hemp; in Northwest China , wool was also an important raw material. After the middle decades of the Ming Dynasty, the industry created solely for the manufacturing of marketable textiles slowly developed, and it thrived as an independent enterprise in several re-gions. Silk produced in Huzhou, cotton cloth produced in Songjiang, and satin produced in Nanjing and Suzhou were famous throughout the country. As for the agricultural processing industry, including tea making, sugar refining, and oil pressing, it was more advanced than it had ever been. Besides, tea was an important item for export.

The porcelain industry reached a high stage of development dur-ing the Ming-Qing period. Jingdezhen , Jiangxi Province, remained the most famous place for the nation’s porcelain industry. Innovations were continually made in glazing and in multicoloured drawing. The blue vase and the multicoloured vase were then among the industry’s most famous products. Meanwhile, paper making and printing also made progress. Printing could be done by moveable type made of wood, copper, lead or tin, in addition to printing by wooden block. Other than the regular printing plate, there were the multi-printing plate and the flower-relief plate. The multi-printing plate actually con-sisted of two or more plates, each of which printed a specific colour according to design. A page was completed after all the plates had been applied to it one after another. The flower-relief plate bore no ink. When a sheet of paper was pressed upon it, the reliefs on the plate would appear on the sheet in convex form.

During the Ming-Qing period, the salt-making and the iron- smelting industries grew to considerable size in terms of their produc-tion. One salt-making plant in Sichuan employed tens of thousands of workers, directly or indirectly. Even a small plant employed ten thou- sand persons or thereabouts. As for ironsmelting, coke was used as fuel as early as the Ming Dynasty, during which bellows with valves were invented. Bellows of this kind generated strong wind under heavy pressure. The production of cast iron and wrought iron in a continuous process, in addition to a new method of making steel, was also invented during the Ming period. All these achievements were indeed very advanced for their time. The smelting of zinc was consid-ered a most difficult process throughout the world, but the record shows that it was done in China as early as the first decades of the fifteenth century. In the eighteenth century, the Chinese method of smelting zinc spread to Europe . The record also shows that the Chine-se used “explosives” for mining. It seems that the skill of using dyna-mite had already been acquired at this time.

The shipbuilding industry of the Ming-Qing period, especially the building of seagoing ships, had had a long tradition. The very fact that Zheng He could lead a fleet of large ships to pass across the Indian Ocean and reach as far as the eastern coast of Africa speaks loudly of the advanced level of China ‘s shipbuilding and navigational skill. During the reign of Kang Xi, the city of Suzhou built more than one thousand seagoing ships every year, and most of these ships, once abroad, were purchased by foreign countries. This indicates that Chi-nese ships had a good reception abroad. The government, however, often subjected the shipbuilding industry to arbitrary intervention. The industry, therefore, could not enjoy a normal development.

As for the building industry during the Ming-Qing period, among the largest constructions were those of the royal palaces in Beijing , the royal summer palace in Rehe, and the Great Wall. Numerous gardens were also constructed, especially in Beijing and Suzhou .

As for special handicrafts, there were tapestry embroidery in silk, lacquer carvings, jade carvings, and cloisonne enamel, all of which commanded high price and prestige. Cloisonne enamel was a new art form developed during the reign of Emperor Jing Tai of the Ming Dynasty. As for the others, they had had a long history.

Commerce thrived in the Ming-Qing period, and such cities as Beijing , Nanjing , Chengdu , Hankou, Suzhou , Hangzhou and Song-jiang were its major centres. After the Wanli period of the Ming Dynasty, trade and commerce were particularly brisk in the lower valley of the Changjiang River , and many places, because of commercial prosperity, developed quickly from small hamlets of several hundred households to towns or cities of thousands of households. During the Qing Dynasty, the newly developed but nationally known centres of commerce included Foshan of Guangdong Province, Hankou of Hubei Province, Zhuxian of Henan Province, and Jingde of Jiangxi Province. Jointly they were referred to as the four famous towns of China .

Side by side with the development of agriculture, handicrafts and commerce, there were important written works on science and technology.

In 1578, Li Shizhen (1518-93) completed his Outline of Herb Medicine which consists of fifty-two juan. In the Outline, he recorded 1,892 herbs, listed more than 11,00O prescriptions, and included more than 1,100 illustrations. Though much of the materials in the book were available elsewhere, he did a lot of work verifying them. There were other materials which he collected himself. The Outline was a definitive work on Chinese medicine and pharmacology, summarizing all the knowledge on these subjects up to the sixteenth century. It was an important work on botany as well, and it contained much experience in the raising of different plants. Its influence persisted for about four hundred years. It has been translated into various foreign languages. A Chinese physician, who was Li Shizhen’s contemporary, discovered the prevention of smallpox by vaccination. One generation younger than Li Shizhen was another man named Chen Shigong (c. 1555-1636) who wrote Principles of Surgery, a summary of all knowledge on the subject matter.

About fifty, years after the appearance of Outline of Herb Medicine, Xu Guangqi (1562-1633) wrote A Complete Treatise on Agriculture. In his book, he discussed all aspects of agriculture, from the planting of food crops, mulberry trees, cotton, vegetables, fruits, bamboo, trees, and medicine herbs to the manufacturing and maintenance of farm implements. He also discussed animal husbandry. Still, he devoted comparatively more space to water control and the prevention of drought. In the book could be found relevant historical materials as well as his personal observations. He believed that man could conquer nature and proposed the promotion of more and better crops. The author did not have time to complete the book, and the present version, consisting of sixty juan, was edited by Chen Zilong. It was published in 1639.

Geographer Xu Hongzu (1586-1641) was also known as Xu Xiake. Beginning at a time when he was only twenty-two, he travelled across China . For more than thirty years, he recorded each of the areas he had visited its geography, its rivers and streams, its geology, its vegetation, and the living conditions of its people. His most important contribution, however, was his observation and recording of the karst landscape in China ‘s southwest. The topography created through the dissolution of lime in running water took a variety of forms, strange but interesting, and the presence of such a topography indicated a most complex subterranean water system. A study of this kind was, of course, of enormous value to land cultivation and construction. Xu Hongzu’s discovery was two hundred years earlier than that of Europeans. His work, Travels, is available today.

Song Yingxing (1587c. 1660) wrote Expositions of the Works of Nature which, consisting of eighteen treaties, was completed in 1637. First, the book discussed the production of food and clothing, including the cultivation of food crops, cotton and hemp, the raising of silkworms and the reeling of silk, the making of dyes, the processing of food, the making of salt and the refining of sugar. Second, it elaborat-ed on the manufacture of such usable items as bricks and tiles, porce-lain and pottery, vessels, boats and vehicles, the making of paper and candles, the pressing of oil, and the mining and manufacture of lime. Lastly, it discussed the mining and smelting of metals, the manufacture of military weapons and gunpowder, the making of red, black and other dyes, and, finally, the harvesting and processing of pearls and jade. The author went to great detail in describing the raw materials to be used and the process of production for each item elaborated in this book. The book was a definitive work on agriculture and handicraft industry of sixteenth-century China , as it paid particular attention to the advanced experience in production at that time. Almost as soon as it was published in China , it was reprinted in Japan . Later it was translated into several foreign languages.

The accomplishments in science and technology indicated the high level of social production and its possible development. But these accomplishments, in a feudal society like the Ming-Qing China, might not be applied to production at all, largely because of the small scale on which production could be conducted and of the limitations im-posed by political conditions. Even if they could be used in production, they, nevertheless, could not be promoted over a wide area. Beginning with the late Ming period, while science and technology continued to make progress, major written works, such as those described above, became much more scarce.

The development of social production and the continuance of class struggle during the Ming-Qing period gave rise to certain changes in the nature of labour power. First, as the single tax was put into practice and as the poll tax was absorbed by the land tax, not only did the land tax take the form of a property tax which was separated from rent, but the peasants themselves were also exempted from cor-vde, the poll tax and other oppressive taxes. Such an exemption, of course, reduced the degree of the peasants’ dependence upon the gov-ernment. Second, the craftsmen of the Ming Dynasty were different from their predecessors of theYuan Dynasty, whose position was close to that of a slave. Other than the obligation of having to work for the government at a specific time, they had personal freedom. During the Jia Jing period, the obligation to work for the government was com-pounded into a cash levy. During the Wan Li period, the government paid for the services rendered by the craftsmen, and the system of employing labour via pay was soon institutionalized. Early during the Qing Dynasty, the separate identification of “craftsmen households” was abolished altogether, thus freeing the craftsmen from the feudal bondage that had tied them to the government. Third, changes also took place in the relationship between landlords and peasants. During the Ming Dynasty, a new kind of tenant households appeared, the kind that did not have a master-servant relationship with the landlords. The Qing law particularly forbade the use of corporal punishment against tenants by landlords, and the forcible taking over a peasant’s daughter as concubine or slave was punishable by hanging. During the Ming Dynasty, there also appeared large numbers of hired labourers who worked for landlords on a yearly, seasonal, monthly, or daily basis. Most of these labourers, owning their own farming tools, had not yet been completely separated from the means of production; there were, of course, a few who owned absolutely nothing. On the other hand, they were not simple freemen who sold their labour power, as their relationship with the landlords was still that between a superior and an inferior. But they were less dependent upon the landlords, compared to tenant peasants. During the Ming-Qing period, a big landlord might have as many as one hundred or more hired labourers. We know that this kind of development was not uniform across China , and there were extralegal expropriations that had persisted for a long period during the feudal era. Nevertheless, the nature of the labour force did change during the Ming-Qing period, as it slowly freed itself from feudal control. This new trend of development must be duly noticed by historians.

Early during the Ming Dynasty, the sprouts of capitalism first ap-peared in the textile industry. At this time, a wealthy man in Hangzhou provided looms and hired a dozen weavers to work for him. This must be the first handicraft workshop in China organized in the capitalist fashion. During the Wan Li period, “craftsmen in Hangzhou , having their own employers, were paid wages on a daily basis. Those who had no regular employers stood on a bridge early in the morning, waiting for their names to be called.” Among the craftsmen were cot-ton weavers and spinners as well as silk weavers. They gathered in groups of tens or hundreds and would disperse of their own accord if, on a given day, no work was available. Regardless of the purpose of production, for profit in the market place or on orders of the govern-ment, these workers had all been separated from the means of produc-tion and had become independent workers selling their labour power. This meant that a market for free labour power had finally appeared.

Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, many weavers in Suzhou, Hangzhou and Songjiang, realizing that there was profit to be made, gradually increased the number of looms so as to hire other weavers for increased production, while they themselves no longer worked at the looms, even though they started as self-employed workers, buying their own raw materials and personally labouring to transform these raw materials into finished products. There were also cloth merchants who distributed raw materials among the weavers, the dyers, and the stampers who processed the materials that had been given to them. Step by step, the final product materialized. People of the former group the weavers were separated from small commodity produc-ers to become owners of handicraft workshops, and people of the sec-ond group the cloth merchants possessed certain characteristics of a contractor, as they organized different sections of production into a handicraft workshop. Both groups had in them capitalistic character-istics in terms of production relationship. Still, their existence was confined to southeastern China and to a limited number of industries. All we can say is that they represented only the bare beginning of Chinese capitalism.

During the Qing government’s unification of China , southeastern China suffered enormous damages, and the nascent capitalism, as described above, was virtually destroyed. Only after peace was re-stored did the sprouts of capitalism reappear, growing so steadily as to spread to areas outside southeastern China . Nascent capitalism could be found in the textile industry of Suzhou and Nanjing , in the porce-lain industry of Jiangxi , in the sugar-refining industry of Guangdong , in the paper-making industry of Jiangxi , Zhejiang and Shaanxi , in the coppermining industry of Yunnan , and in the coal industry of Beijing and other areas. During the Dao Guang period, some of the silk work-shops in Nanjing each had five to six hundred silk looms, and a mine in Yunnan might employ several thousand workers.

Though nascent capitalism made its appearance during the late Ming and early Qing period, it never had a chance to grow normally for several centuries. The reason was complex. First, there was this inertia of a self-sufficient economy that had prevailed in feudal China for a long, long period. The basic unit of this self-sufficient or natural economy was the family where men tilled and women wove, and there was no need for marketable goods to satisfy the daily demand. An average peasant had no way of improving his livelihood, as he was exploited and oppressed by his government and his landlord. Whenever productivity increased, the benefit of such an increase would first go to the landlord, and the peasant received little or noth-ing. Peasant uprisings struck hard at the landlords, but basically they did not change the economic well-being of the peasants. After a major uprising, certain changes occurred as far as the peasants’ status was concerned; yet they must return to the land and reestablish the tradi-tional household where men tilled and women wove. This structure of a natural economy, namely the traditional household, limited the ex- pansion of a commercial market and prevented industrial capitalism from opening up its own avenue for expansion.

Second, the guilds of the handicraftsmen limited capitalist development. Handicraft guilds existed as early as the Tang-Song period. A guild was not organized for the protection of the toilers; instead, it was organized to enable the feudal government to control the handicrafts-men. By the Ming-Qing period, the guild had been long established as a customary organization that became a force binding the handi-craftsmen. According to the rules of the guild, the distribution of raw materials, the grading of finished products, the numbers of apprentices and journeymen, the marketing of goods produced, and the prices of goods to be sold in the market all this was carefully regulated. The regulation was designed to limit development and forestall competition,presenting an insurmountable obstacle to capitalist development.

Third, the oppression of commerce and the handicraft industry by the feudal government also prevented a capitalist form of production from developing. A feudal government was only interested in tying peasants to the land they tilled in order to control them. It did not want toilers to leave the land, and it was most afraid of their assembly. During the Ming-Qing period, a mine was sometimes opened and sometimes closed, and the government strictly forbade individuals to operate mines on their own. Why? Despite the profit to be realized when the mine was open, the government was most concerned with the troubles that might arise when so many miners gathered for a considerable length of time. As for certain industries that showed promise of further development, such as the textile and mining industries, the Qing government often imposed limitation on production and forcibly purchased finished products at a low price. In the name of governmental monopoly, it levied heavy taxes upon the manufacturing of salt, tea and liquor. As for other products, it charged a broker’s fee when the products were traded, a tariff when the products were transported from one place to another, and a local tax after the products had arrived in the market. BesideS, there were extortions on the part of local officials. All this could not but hinder a nascent capitalism from developing further.

Fourth, the handicraftsmen and merchants, operating under risky conditions, could not compete with landowners and moneylenders in terms of the safety of investment as well as the size of financial returns. Wishing to acquire more land, the landlords lent money at high interest. Wealthy merchants bought land too, besides opening pawnshops. In short, land was considered the most reliable assent and usury the most profitable line of business. All this prevented social wealth from being transformed into industrial capital. Capitalism, consequently, could not grow.

Fifth, both the Qing and the Ming government imposed strict limitations on foreign trade. Sometimes they went as far as forbidding merchants to go out to sea. This selfdefeating policy of preventing one’s own goods from being sold abroad did not help the development of commodity production, of course.

In conclusion, it can be said that the main reason why capitalism could not develop normally in China was the strong and stubborn resistance on the part of feudal influence, which capitalism, in its initial stage of development, could not overcome. The feudal production relationship of the Ming-Qing period not only failed to help the development of the productive forces, but was also able to counteract any development and make social production stand still. In other words, the feudal system, aging and corrupt though it was, was still strong enough to prevent the emergence of a new social system. This, one might say, was the most important characteristic of the declining stage of Chinese feudalism.

The landlord class of the Ming-Qing period was among the most corrupt on record, and the royal house formed the highest echelon of this class. During the Ming Dynasty, members of the royal house controlled directly large landholdings, known as royal plantations. Feudatory princes of the Ming Dynasty and Manchu dukes and counts of the Qing Dynasty were all granted large land-holdings by their respective sovereigns. Nevertheless, the group that had the largest landholdings and the greatest influence on society as a whole was a group known as “the official gentry”. As a result of the often-repeated peasant war of the Song and Ming dynasties, the degree-holding bureaucrat landlords with official ranks were by and large overthrown, and the official gentry took their place. Among the official gentry were also bureaucrats with official ranks but, as a separate class, official gentry of the Ming-Qing period differed from the bureaucrat landlords of the earlier dynasties in many respects. First, their constituents were much wider in scope than the bureau-crats. They included incumbent officials, retired officials, and prospective officials–the last-mentioned being those who had al-ready passed the civil service examinations but had not yet been rewarded with official posts. The word “gentry” was applicable only to the last two groups: a man might be an incumbent official in one place, but he remained a member of the gentry in his hometown. While the official gentry, as a class, were lower in political status when compared to the bureaucrats with official ranks, their capacity of doing evil, such as exploitation of others and corruption, increased nevertheless. Second, incumbent officials protected the gentry, and the gentry supported incumbent officials. Together they formed the local power elite. Thus the official gentry was actually a class of landowning despots. Third, members of the official gentry were in-terchangeable with “mercantile landlords”. Once an official, a man would start a business of his own or open a pawnshop; this was referred to as “a normal process of proceeding from official to busi-nessman”. Salt merchants, tea merchants and import-and-export businessmen they were conducting business in the name of the royal house, and some of them even acquired official titles. This was referred to as “a normal process of proceeding from businessman to official”. Besides, one could always become an official by making financial contribution to the government. In that case, all wealthy businessmen could become government officials, or at least acquire official titles. An important reason why the government of the Ming-Qing period, corrupt though it was, could continue to rule and rule for such a long time was that it was supported by the powerful but corrupt official gentry. Amid widespread, pervasive influence of corruption, new industries could not develop and grow in a normal fashion.

In short, the Ming-Qing period saw a change from progressive-ness to backwardness in China . The period from the early sixteenth to the middle decades of the seventeenth century was an important one in world history: it was a period that marked Western Europe’s transition from feudalism to nascent capitalism. In 1640, while a bourgeois revolution broke out in England , Chinese peasants, led by Li Zicheng, were waging a bloody warfare. In 1784, the steam engine was invented, and the invention paved the way for the Industrial Revolution and ushered in the era of modern industry in Western Europe . In China the same year marked the unsuccessful amred uprising led by Tian Wu. Later, a series of people’s anti-feudal uprisings occurred, but none succeeded. While the feudal forces of the Ming-Qing period remained strong enough to win temporary victories against the people, it created such backwardness that it could in no way resist Western colonial aggression against China . The end result was that Chinese people of all ethnic groups had to experience an ill fate sadder than ever.