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Chinese History - Sui Period Economy

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After several centuries of war, civil war, migration from north to south and state ordered resettlement of the population, there was a real need for economical reconstruction especially in the north of China. The devastated land had to be repopulated to enhance agricultural production and state income by taxes on grain output. The Sui administration implemented the equal-field system (juntianfa 均田法) of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). The state first confiscated the whole arable land that was not privately ownedand distributed a great part of it among the peasantry. Theoretically, all land was owned by the state and lend to the farmers to prevent the emergence of large land estates owned by a single gentry clan. Everybody, from the Princes and the highest officials down to the average peasant, every household was given a certain amount of land, a part being hereditary (yongyetian 永業田), but the most part (lutian 露田) had to be rendered back to the state after the death of the owner. To ensure the supply of grain, state granaries were established all over the country. During the time of division, the Yangtze delta and southern China had developed as an area that was able to provide also the north with grain or rice. Emperor Wendi 隋文帝 started to dig out a great canal that stretched from the lower Yangtze north to the capital Chang'an 長安 (see map). With the division of the Tujue 突厥 (Proto-Turks) tribe into two groups, the problem of intrusions from Inner Asia was solved and the economic way to the old Silk Road was newly opened. In 609, the Sui troops defeated the Tuyuhun 吐谷渾 (not Tuguhun!) tribe and made China able to control the way into Inner Asia totally. Emperor Yangdi 隋煬帝carried out several maritime expedition that led Chinese ships to the Ryukyu- (Liuqiu- 琉球) Islands and Taiwan, and even to the Champa kingdom of Linyi 林邑 in the south of modern Vietnam.
The Great Canal or Imperial Canal 大運河The tax system of the Sui Dynasty was also not new. It consisted of three parts, the tax in grain (zu 租), in textiles or other materials (diao 調), and in corvée labour or military service (yong 庸) for 20 days every year. Peasants had either to serve as soldiers or were used for the erection of state projects like the great Imperial Canal (Yunhe 運河; see map). From the begin of the equal-field system, a great problem of taxation was that the tax basis was the household. Every household, irrespective of its production power and income, had to pay the same tax, what meant a heavy burden for the average peasant, while princes and high officials were exempt of taxes. Furthermore, a large amount of the population did not possess their own household but sought employment with the rich landowners as servants (nubi 奴婢), labourer (buqu 部曲), and tenant farmers (dianke 佃客), and therefore did not pay taxes.
New 5-zhu-coins (五銖錢) were casted (not minted!), and a new system of standard measurements and weights was introduced, partly basing on old standards. Since the Han Dynasty 漢, the state had owned the monopole over the production of salt, iron and liquors. But partly giving up this monopole, the Sui emperors were able to enhance private production of these items and therewith to raise their tax income. Local officials were appointed by the central government and came not necessary from among the gentry, like it has been custom the few centuries before.
The technique of Sui period white porcelain had acheived a certain status. For the conquest of the Chen empire 陳, large warships had to be built, a fact that shows the advanced art of shipbuilding. Other branches of handicrafts were controlled by the ministry of finance (minbu 民部), like iron casting, weapon production, cart production, weaving and dyeing, and so on.
With the unification of China the national trade experienced a development that first served the supply of needed goods to north and south. Furthermore, the international trade along the Central Asian trade routes and with Southeast Asia was promoted. The two capitals Chang'an and Luoyang had each three (later only two) markets that supplied the metropolitan population.

2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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