Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Like the big building projects of today, the Great Wall of China did not come cheap! While hiking the Great Wall try to put yourself in the mind frame of those budgeting and planning the construction of what may be man’s greatest achievement in engineering. 

The Great Wall construction funds in all ages were mainly from government financial allocations. The funds used in The Great Wall construction and frontier defense took up a big part of the national economy. The Great Wall was mainly for armament, and belonged to the national defense system. The gigantic engineering and guard afterward involved large amounts of manpower, material and financial resources. The input sometimes was even unbearable to the national financial capability, and became a heavy burden of the people. Therefore, the already deep social conflicts escalated. In different dynasties and different stages of a dynasty, requirements for the quantity and quality of The Great Wall construction would differ according to the aim and situation at the time, hence differences in the financial input. The Qin and Han dynasties, especially the early stages of the two dynasties, witnessed the summit of The Great Wall construction and huge financial input that was mainly collected from the land tax and the poll tax. During Emperor Wu’s regime during the Han Dynasty, for raising funds for the external troop dispatch, The Great Wall construction and the frontier reinforcement, national monopolization on salt, iron and alcohol was implemented. Later, because of civil wars and intrusions kept enlarging and financial consumption increasing, normal incomes were unable to make ends meet. Therefore, the rulers began to sell official rankings and titular honors in to the public and at the same time carried out “the money atonement for crime” policy. Consequently, from the end of the Western Han Dynasty to the Eastern Han Dynasty, the national finance was in the red and serious social economic depression began.

In the historical records of the Ming Dynasty, there are many records of The Great Wall garrison ministers requesting construction funds from the court. In Memoir of Emperor Shi Zhong of the Ming Dynasty there are lines about Governor and Assistant Minister of Xuanfu, Datong of Shanxi Province Weng Wanda requesting a budget in a memorial presented to the throne in lunar February, the 25th year of the Jia Jing Period. The lines read, “The Great Wall needs extending for about 130 li…and adding a side wall...The total funds will amount to 290,000 liang gold.” The Memoir also records that in lunar July of the year Weng Wanda and other officials organized constructions of side walls of 138 li (69 km) 7 castles and 154 fortresses in Tiancheng, Yanghe and Kaishankou in Donglu of Datong; they also supervised construction of the side walls of 64 li (32km), 10 watch towers and cliff and slop cutting of 50 li (25 km) in Xianghe, Ximalin, Zhangjiakou in Xili of Xuanfu; the whole engineering lasted for 50 some days, and saved 90,000 liang gold compared with that of the former schedule. Funds for The Great Wall construction after the Qin and Han dynasties were mainly from the land tax and income tax. In the Ming Dynasty an additional land tax began to be collected. It was an addition to the normal tax, and started from the Zheng De Period of Emperor Wu Zong of the Ming Dynasty. It was large or small from time to time, but the overall tendency was ascending. At the end of the Ming Dynasty, taxes of various kinds kept increasing due to the need for military expenditure. The abuse of additional land tax resulted in the collapse of the social economy. Army subsidies for those who served in the frontier, suppressed enemies and did military exercises eventually resulted in an increase in the additional land tax for over 20% and 16,000 thousand liang silver nationwide, which increased more than half of that in earlier times. Also, with many corrupt local officials trying to accumulate wealth by unfair means, peasants could not bear any longer and rebelled on a large scale, and the Ming Dynasty was finally overthrown.

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