Book Review—1587: A Year of No Significance (2)

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Nov 25, 2019 12:50
In my previous entry, I introduced the author, Dr.Huáng, and the origin of the book “1587: A Year of No Significance.” Today, I’d like to share with you the main points of this fantastic book.

As I have mentioned, this book grows out of Dr.Huáng’s Ph.D. dissertation and discussions with Dr.Joseph Needham. During his Ph.D. year, Dr.Huáng conducted extensive researches on the Ming Dynasty’s taxation, river transportation and governmental finance system. Furthermore, he continued to drill down this topic while he was lecturer at the University of Michigan: he spent two years to read through the official documents of the Ming Dynasty.

After thorough and innovative researches, he concluded that the Ming Dynasty’s backward technical system such as taxation, transportation, accounting, and financial system, contributed a lot to its decline and collapse.

For instance, there was no de facto centralised governmental financial system at the Ming Dynasty. When a county suffered from food shortage, a nearby administration unit was asked to transport a certain amount of food, let’s say rice, to the county in need. This seemed economical but had hindered the development of the transportation and central accounting system. Another example is that taxation was based on actual goods rather than money and the quality and quantity of goods were hard to be measured. This allowed rooms for bribes and corruption.
上一篇文章我介绍了《万历十五年》的作者黄仁宇先生和这本书写作的背景。今天,我想和大家分享下这本书的主要观点。
正如我提到的,《万历》来源于黄先生的博士论文以及和李约瑟的讨论。在他的博士期间,黄先生对明朝税收,漕运和财政制度进行了深入而广泛的研究。此外,他在任教密歇根大学期间也持续得挖掘这个主题:他花了两年时间来阅读《明实录》等文献。

经过了深入和具有开创精神的研究后,他总结道,明朝落后制度包括税收,运输,会计和财政系统很多程度上造成了她的衰落和崩溃。

比如,明朝没有实际的中央财政制度。如果一个县缺粮食,临近单位就会被要求供粮。这个看起来节约,但限制了运输系统和中央会计系统的发展。另一个例子是税收系统,明朝的税收是基于实物而非货币。实物的质量和数量都很难测量,这就给了 贿赂和腐败很大的操作空间。
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