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The Establishment of Three Military Farm Colony Settlements (tunpu) and the Opening Up of Military Colony Fields (tuntian) in Hunan in the Ming Dynasty

Shuai MAO (Sun Yat-sen University)
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This article examines the establishment of three military farm colony settlements (tunpu) in Yizhang, Hunan, in order to explore the interaction of the military garrison (weisuo) and civilian administration systems in the Ming dynasty. In the early Ming dynasty, after the pacification of rebellions in the Nanling mountain region, the Ming government began a systematic deployment of military defenses. It was in this context that the three tunpu were established. The earliest soldiers of the tunpu were responsible for constructing and later manning fortifications. In the Xuande period (1426-1435), the soldiers were ordered to turn to cultivation. They seized lands belonging to local residents under the pretext of reclaiming abandoned lands. Thereafter they lived in the tunpu colonies, interspersed with local civilians. The expansion of the military presence threatened the existing social order, and conflicts between soldiers and civilians intensified . After the pacification of further rebellions in the region in the early sixteenth century, the military actively protected "good civilian villages" which had close relations with the civilian county administration. Meanwhile, some villages originally under civilian administration tried to become part of the military administrative system. The military thus gradually became integrated into local society. Moreover the presence of the military inevitably impacted the interests of the county government. In the late sixteenth century, after the magistrate of Yizhang ordered the re-registration of the populace and resurveying of lands, the tunpu system entered a phase of stability. Colony battalions emerged as an important unit of social organization. This persisted until the Qing reform of the military system, with profound consequences.

Journal of History and Anthropology