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gengmingtian 更名田, redesignation of land

Mar 6, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

The redesignation of land (gengmingtian 更名田, gengmingdi 更名地 or geng Ming di 更明地) was a land redistribution measure carried out in the early Qing period 清 (1644-1911). The project aimed at the distribution of land formerly owned by imperial princes of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644) (fanfeng zhi chan 藩封之產, fantian 藩田, Mingfan 明藩), mainly in north China, but also in the provinces of Hubei and Hunan, with a total size of about 200,000 qing 頃 (see weights and measures).

The princely estates were fallow because of the many turmoils disturbing northern China in the least years of the Ming period, or because the Ming princes had fled after the victory of the Manchus. Many field were immediately occupied by farmers or by members of the local gentry. In the area close to Beijing, the Qing distributed land to members of the Eight Banners (baqi 八旗), the so-called Banner land (juandi 圈地). Concerning the rest, the Qing government decided to declare it as state-owned.

Yet in 1669 the court ordered to redistribute it in order to increase the agricultural output, and to raise the tax income because the bulk of taxes constituted of the field tax. In order to do this, a revision of the household and tax registers was carried out and the names of the Ming princes eliminated from the registers "in eternity" (fei fan ming se yongyuan gechu 廢藩名色永遠革除). Instead, the registers recorded the names of the peasants who had occupied and used the land in the meantime or who had been tenant farmers on the princely estates – the names of commoners were recorded in the entries (gai ru min ming 改入民名), be they farmers or members of the gentry. In this process, no changes in the de-facto ownership were carried out, but the registers were just adapted to the real situation.

The imperial edicts intended to give the land to the new owners for free (wu chang 無償), but in practice, the Ministry of Revenue (hubu 戶部) allowed the one or other region to request payment, as for instance, in Shandong, where farmers had to pay 5 cash (see money) per mu 畝 of land. Other cases are documented.

Guo Songyi 郭松義 (1992). "Gengmingtian 更名田", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 251.
Ma Kewei 馬克偉, ed. (1991). Tudi da cidian 土地大辭典 (Changchun: Changchun chubanshe), 243.
Nongye da cidian bianji weiyuanhui 《農業大詞典》編輯委員會, ed. (1998). Nongye da cidian 農業大詞典 (Beijing: Zhongguo nongye chubanshe), 524.
Zhu Fazeng 周發增, Chen Longtao 陳隆濤, Qi Jixiang 齊吉祥, ed. (1998). Zhongguo gudai zhengzhi zhidu shi cidian 中國古代政治制度史辭典 (Beijing: Shoudu shifan daxue chubanshe), 250.