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Salt Fields and Local Administration: Tax and Corvee Administration of Saltern Households in Taizhou in the Ming

Jingjiu XU (Sun Yat-sen University)
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In the early Ming dynasty, saltern households (zaohu) were simultaneously registered under both the salt administration and county administration systems, which meant that they shouldered a double tax burden. In order to ensure the continued production of salt, the state granted them various exemptions from their tax obligations to the county administration. In Taizhou, Jiangsu, which had a high concentration of salt fields, saltern households took advantage of this policy to seize civilian lands while avoiding corvee duties, thereby adding to the corvee burden of registered civilians and leading to problems in the household registration system and tax arrears. Beginning in the mid- Ming, tax and corvee reforms specifically targeting the salterns were undertaken. Local officials sought to ensure the fulfillment of tax quotas and therefore brought saltern households more fully under the control of the county tax administration. The response of salt administrations officials was mixed, reflecting the different priorities of the two systems. Ultimately, because national policy placed a higher priority on the salt administration, these reforms did not succeed.

Journal of History and Anthropology