Junxiang 軍餉 was the pay for troops serving the ruling dynasty, regardless of the working relationship. In ancient times, when military service was part of compulsory labour corvée (yaoyi 徭役), the families of soldiers were paid out a compensation in kind (liangxiang 糧餉). This term was still used in late imperial times.
This compensation was originally not a kind of salary (fenglu 俸祿), as soldiers were not employees of the state. The oldest evidence for a regular salary for troops is mentioned in the chapter on food on commodities (24 Shihuo zhi 食貨志) in the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書, where it is described how the Northern Qi dynasty 北齊 (550-577), the last of the Northern Dynasties 北朝 (386-581), lowered the salaries of all state officials and reduced the number of officials in the local administration in order to finance the regular pay for their troops (changlin 常廩).
With the introduction of the garrison militia system (fubing zhi 府兵制) in the mid-Tang period 唐 (618-907), soldiers again were eliminated from the paylist of state employees, and had to be fed by the local communities. Because militia troops were often not able to purchase their own weapons or the communities unabale to feed their militia, the system fell apart, and the government had to recruit and equip militia in a draft or conscription system (mubing zhi 募兵制). Yet they still received no regular pay or food.
The Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) therefore thoroughly changed the military system and employed professional soldiers which received a regular pay (fengqian 俸錢, in copper cash) and also rice rations (fengsu 俸粟, fengmi 俸米) to feed themselves and their families. The government even equipped them with cloth and fabric, and an allowance to buy soy sauce, salt and tea with.
The military system of the Yuan dynasty 元 (1279-1368) was even more professional, with so-called "military households" (junhu zhi 軍戶制), following the general structure of society with a division of labour. Soldiers were given a monthly rice ration of 4 dou 斗 (see weights and measures).
The Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644) created a similar system called garrison system (weisuo bing zhi 衛所兵制). The troops of each garrison were fed by agro-colonies (tuntian 屯田) belonging to the garrison and worked by soldiers. Their pay came from the central government. From the sixteenth century on, more and more troops were recruited by conscription. Their pay was organized by the commanders who advanced the money and claimed it back from the government, quite similar to the "military entrepreneur" Albrecht von Wallenstein during the Thirty Years War.
The military system of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911) consisted of two pillars, namely the Banner troops (baqi bing 八旗兵, qibing 旗兵) belonging to the Eight Banners (baqi 八旗), and the Green Standard troops (lüying bing 綠營兵). Both consisted of professional bodies of troops receiving regular pay and allowances by the government. The paternal state even cared for the disabled, injured, and the surviving family members of soldiers. Pay and allowances differed in these two bodies, the Banner troops being paid higher salaries than those of the Green Standards, because the members of the Banners, mostly Manchus, belonged to the ruling elite and were thus indirectly bondmen of the emperor, while Green Standard troops took over more trivial services like catching bandits or protecting the boats on the Grand Canal.
Apart from these two military bodies, there were also local guards (fangbing 防兵 or fangxunbing 防汛兵) and local militia (xiangbing 鄉兵 or xiangyong 鄉勇), recruited only in case of need. Their pay was not fix.
The salary of the regular troops consisted of a monthly pay (yuexiang 月餉, yueyin 月銀, paid out in copper cash), monthly rice rations (yuemi 月米, yuexiang mi 月餉米), and – for cavalry units – horse fodder (maliao 馬料). With the creation of independently operating provincial armies, like the Hunan Army (Xiangjun 湘軍) or the Anhui Army (Huaijun 淮軍) in the mid-nineetenth century, the payment fell into the hands of army leaders. This situation continued wide into the Republican era (1912-1949), when warlords (junfa 軍閥) recruited, equipped, paid and fed their armies.