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The trade taxation of Northern Song Dynasty occupied first place in ancient times. How did this happen?

According to statistics, Northern Song Dynasty's commercial tax revenue has exceeded 7 million guan, and if government monopoly revenue is included, commercial revenue will reach 50 million guan. By contrast, commercial tax revenue during Xuande period of Ming Dynasty was only 2 million guan. During Song and Song dynasties, total amount of commercial taxation (including monopoly income) exceeded agricultural taxation most of time, accounting for 85% of country's total tax income at its peak. Why were commercial taxes so high during Northern Song Dynasty?

First, commodity economy under Northern Song Dynasty was unprecedentedly prosperous.

Generally speaking, total amount of commercial taxation is positively correlated with prosperity of commodity economy in society. The Northern Song Dynasty was most advanced commodity economy era in ancient China, and its high trade taxes were also normal. We are now far from Song Dynasty, and we cannot experience prosperity of commodity economy in Song Dynasty, but we can record commercial position of Song Dynasty from data and documents left by ancients.

The trade taxation of Northern Song Dynasty occupied first place in ancient times. How did this happen?

An important piece of information is city's population. Residents of cities, except for government officials and those who serve them, are mainly engaged in commodity economy. The Song Dynasty was an era of large-scale urban growth in China. Due to growth of urban population, Northern Song Dynasty began to implement "urban-rural division", and China's earliest urban-rural dual government system emerged. The separation of urban and rural areas was first implemented in Kaifeng and then extended to other Luzhou. At that time, registration of an urban household was called "Fango household", which was divided into ten categories depending on property.

Due to growth of urban population and unprecedented prosperity of trade, former system of segregation has been broken, and city is full of trading places. To adapt to new development trend, Northern Song Dynasty replaced Fangshi system with Xiangfang system. The Xiangfang system is similar to current urban zoning system, which governs inner city based on region.

The trade taxation of Northern Song Dynasty occupied first place in ancient times. How did this happen?

Due to development of rural trade, herb market, which was originally a rural market, gradually turned into a city. For first time during Song Dynasty, a city was founded as part of county. In 962, Song Taizu formally established city's administrative organization. Three years later, City Overseer was established in city, which was responsible for city administration, public safety, taxation, and other affairs.

According to statistics of Song Dynasty Commercial Tax Survey, in 1077, Northern Song Dynasty's commercial tax revenue (excluding monopoly revenues) was about 7.62 million guan, of which state capitals accounted for 49%, counties accounted for 27%, cities also accounted for 24%. At that time, national agricultural tax was only 20.21 million guan, showing that commercial tax's share of Song Dynasty's tax revenue was already very high.

When Ming Dynasty was in Hongzhi, commercial and tax bills were 46.19 million guan. Due to severe depreciation of Daming notes at time, they were actually converted into 130,000 taels of silver. taxation under Northern Song Dynasty was 60 times greater than under Ming Dynasty.

Secondly, commercial taxation under Northern Song Dynasty was heavy.

The economic policy of Northern Song Dynasty was basically further developed on basis of Tang and Five Dynasties, as was its commercial policy. Since Warring States period, China's main economic policy has been to emphasize agriculture and suppress business, and agriculture is also country's main source of tax revenue. However, since late Tang Dynasty, state's finances became heavily dependent on trade, so policy of focusing on agriculture and suppressing trade began to weaken.

During Five Dynasties period, due to division of country, there were many checkpoints throughout country, and taxation was chaotic. After founding of Northern Song Dynasty, Zhao Kuangyin promulgated "Commercial Tax Regulations" to unify national tariffs. This is first commercial tax regulation promulgated by Chinese government. The "Commercial Taxation Regulation" defines types of taxable goods, tax categories, tax rates, and the regime of tax evasion and tax evasion.

The trade taxation of Northern Song Dynasty occupied first place in ancient times. How did this happen?

Compared to Five Dynasties, Northern Song Dynasty's business environment was much freer. Emperor Taizong of Song Dynasty once issued a decree: "The terms of collection and settlement should be mild and simple." Regarding specific rate of commercial tax in Northern Song Dynasty, Wenwen Tongkao notes that “traveler's sale of goods is called excessive tax and is calculated as $20 per thousand dollars; residence tax is called 30 dollars per thousand. dollars.< /strong>”, that is, circulation tax is 2%, and transaction tax is 3%. In addition, if this is a product that state needs, then state will take another tenth of it.

After unification of Northern Song Dynasty, original checkpoints established by warlords were not abolished, but were maintained, and transit tax (conversion tax) continued to be levied. Long-distance trafficking inevitably results in double taxation. The scope of taxation in Song Dynasty was very broad. For example, vegetables, fruits, fish, and ducks were not taxed under Commercial Tax Regulations, but were actually taxed. If one sentence were to summarize objects of taxation in Song Dynasty, it would be this: as long as goods entered market, they could be taxed, and even those that had not yet entered circulation pool would be taxed.

The trade taxation of Northern Song Dynasty occupied first place in ancient times. How did this happen?


To cooperate with collection of trade taxes, special commercial tax authorities began to appear in Northern Song Dynasty, among which were commercial tax institutions in Sijing and commercial tax or tax centers in field. According to statistics, before 1077, there were 1,846 commercial tax offices in Northern Song Dynasty, and by 2011, in tenth year of Xining, there were an average of 1.6 commercial tax offices per county. In contrast, under Ming Dynasty, there were only over 400 tax bureaus.

Third, Northern Song Dynasty's monopoly system reached its peak.

A monopoly system is an economic system that has existed in China since ancient times. This is policy of state to monopolize strategic resources, similar to today's state economy. The monopoly system of Northern Song Dynasty was inherited and developed from late Tang Dynasty. At end of Tang Dynasty, due to severe economic damage caused by separatist rule of northern vassals and cities, national finances were in crisis, so a large-scale monopoly system was introduced, and salt, tea, wine, iron, etc. were all included in sphere of monopoly.

For salt, in early part of Northern Song Dynasty, official production, official transportation, and official sale were promoted. Later, due to consequences of war and shortage of salt in border areas, government enacted “Law on Entry into China” and “Law on Trade”, that is, salt was sold to merchants at a price, and merchants carried out sales.” This policy increased sales of salt, helping to increase government finances. But merchants will arbitrarily raise price of salt, increasing burden on people. According to statistics, revenue from salt tax at beginning of Song Dynasty was 2-3 million guan, and reached 12 million guan in Song Shenzong period.

The trade taxation of Northern Song Dynasty occupied first place in ancient times. How did this happen?

Under Song Dynasty, large-scale trade in tea horses was carried out with ethnic minorities, and scale of tea plantations expanded unprecedentedly, while all tea gardens throughout country were controlled by Northern Song Dynasty government. According to estimates, annual production of tea in Northern Song Dynasty was about 53 million katti. At end of Gaozong of Southern Song Dynasty, national financial income was more than 59.4 million guan, of which profit from tea accounted for 6.4%. By time of Emperor Xiaozong's reign, national financial income was over 65.3 million yuan, and profit from tea was 12%. It can be seen that tea monopoly was one of main sources of financial income in Song Dynasty.

Income from liquor is also very important for finances. Back in Tang Dynasty, liquor sales accounted for one-tenth of Tang Dynasty's total financial income. During reign of Emperor Renzong of Song Dynasty, liquor income reached 14.98 million guan, about 10 times more than during Tang Dynasty. The Song Dynasty opened 1,800 liquor stores throughout country, in charge of selling liquor. In villages and towns, independent brewing is allowed, but it must be taxed.

The trade taxation of Northern Song Dynasty occupied first place in ancient times. How did this happen?

Overall, income collected under Northern Song Dynasty peaked at 42.84 million guan, twice agricultural tax and about seven times commercial tax. The specialization in salted and iron wine is actually a manifestation of a policy of focusing on agriculture and suppression of business, as well as a manifestation of competition with people for profit. The monopoly of many industries under Northern Song Dynasty did increase country's budget revenues, but also increased burden on people.


The so-called "prosperity, people suffer; death, people suffer". The Northern Song Dynasty was era of most developed commodity economy in Chinese history, and country's budgetary revenues came mainly from trade. However, forced expropriation of people under Northern Song Dynasty eventually increased burden on people and intensified social conflicts. Thus, we can understand why Song Dynasty will eventually perish, Song Dynasty could never break out of vicious circle of China's circular development.

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