In first year of Longqing of Ming Dynasty (1567), Emperor Muzong of Ming Dynasty announced an adjustment to Ming Dynasty's "sea prohibition" policy, allowing non-government foreign trade in Yuegang, Fujian Province, which is known as "Longqing Switch" in history. The Longqing switch marked final relaxation of 200-year-old Ming Dynasty maritime prohibition policy, and began to legalize private trade. After this transition, Ming dynasty still had great restrictions on private trade, but in end it still gave a window. Subsequently, economic ties of Ming Dynasty with world strengthened, and China began to be included in world market established by West. This not only had an important impact on economy of Ming Dynasty, but also contributed to spread of Western religion and culture in China.First, maritime prohibition and smuggling
In 15th century, humanity entered age of ocean. From 1415, when Portugal began to explore Atlantic Ocean, by end of 15th century, Spain and Portugal opened new routes to America and India. With opening of a new sea route, colonial movement began to rise, America became a colony of Spain, and Portugal monopolized trade in Indian Ocean. In 16th century colonial troops of Spain, Portugal, Netherlands and other countries reached Southeast Asia and southeast coast of China.
However, in defiance of Western colonial expansion, Ming Dynasty enforced a strict "marine ban". After Zhu Yuanzhang established Ming Dynasty, it was difficult to deal with pirates and Japanese pirates, so he introduced practice of drinking poison to quench one's thirst, forbade private foreign trade, and even banned sea fishing. For next 200 years, private trade was banned under Ming Dynasty and coastal economy suffered greatly.
Japanese Pirate Area
Although non-state trade was prohibited, Ming Dynasty actively promoted tribute. The so-called tribute trade is an economic operation monopolized by state and exists in form of "tribute" and "reward". Tribute means other countries claim to obey Ming Dynasty on behalf, and send Ming Dynasty missions to "pay tribute". Wood, wild animals, etc., even ordinary souvenirs, are also acceptable. These tribute items were mainly used by royal family and had little effect on development of national economy. The award is a return gift from Ming Dynasty to missions that paid tribute. Because Ming Dynasty had a policy of "those who come with less money, and with more to whom they exchange," amount of reward was astonishing, typically more than four or five times value of tribute items. The rewards were silk treasuries, copper coins, gold and silver, etc. Under temptation of this policy of Ming Dynasty, an illusory scene of "all peoples were brought to justice" arose. In fact, Ming Dynasty's treasury could not withstand such a large expense, so Ming Dynasty stipulated number and scale of visits from different countries from very beginning. After Yongle Emperor, the tribute trade also declined.
In second year of Jiajing reign, under influence of Japan's "tributary battle", Jiajing Emperor enforced maritime ban, abolished Shibo Department, and tribute trade of Ming Dynasty was virtually paralyzed. Under such circumstances, normal trade between China and Japan was largely interrupted. After normal trade channels were blocked, smuggling arose. Smuggling has existed since ancient times, under Ming Dynasty's no-navigation policy, private trade mainly existed in form of smuggling. However, Jiajing Emperor enforced maritime ban, further spurring smuggling to flourish. "Ming Shizong Shilu" contains: "Business is blocked, businessmen lose their physiology, therefore they turn into bandits."
Battle of Memory
In order to suppress this private business, Ming Dynasty government issued very strict legal regulations. As early as Zhu Yuanzhang's period, prohibition of maritime trade was written into "Law of Ming Dynasty", and continuous sitting law was introduced to encourage people to report. Under strict maritime prohibition, many sea traders became pirates, and Ming Dynasty called them "Japanese Pirates" and carried out brutal encirclement and suppression. In Ming Bengwei Historical Chronicle, it is written that “the city ships have been released, and strength is at bottom. Insidious diplomacy is embarrassing and there is no peace at sea." Of course, in addition to smuggling, these "Japanese pirates" also burned, killed and plundered coastal areas. They burned up to hundreds of thousands of districts.” In 1550, Wang, who was responsible for suppressing Japanese pirates in southeast, committed suicide after being impeached. Since then, coastal defenses in southeast have become increasingly weak, and "Japanese pirates" have become more and more rampant, "poisoning southeast for more than a decade."
The biggest pirate leader of Jiajing period: Wang ZhiSecond, financial crisis and "switch" of Ming dynasty
From middle of Ming Dynasty, when national power went from prosperity to decline, land mergers were severe, economy began to decline, and country's finances began to experience a serious crisis. In event of difficulties in securing budget revenues, budget expenditures continued to increase. In middle of Ming Dynasty, system of land garrisons was destroyed, and system of recruiting soldiers increased, and military spending increased greatly. At same time, bureaucracy of Ming Dynasty continued to expand. At beginning of Ming Dynasty, there were over 28,000 officials in country, and by middle of Ming Dynasty, this number increased to over 100,000. The Northern Song Dynasty, which had most officials before Ming Dynasty, had over 34,000 officials in total. Combined with bureaucratic corruption, large-scale construction during Jiajing period naturally drained treasury even further. In order to increase budget revenues, local taxes were constantly increased during Jiajing period. Xing Yan. The growth of various exorbitant taxes led to an aggravation of social conflicts and constant peasant uprisings.
Currency of Ming Dynasty
After Ming Muzong came to power, financial crisis became more serious, and in history it was called "the long ruins of treasury." At this time, astute people of Ming Dynasty proposed to open maritime ban in order to obtain tariff concessions. In addition, during Jiajing period, Qi Jiguang and others vigorously destroyed Japanese pirates, making coastal areas relatively peaceful, which served as a condition for opening of maritime ban. In first year of Longqing (1567), Emperor Mu Zong of Ming Dynasty issued a decree to ministers: "If there is any inconvenience in previous government orders, they can be revised." , wrote a letter saying, "Please open a market ship and smugglers will become public peddlers." Emperor Muzong of Ming Dynasty approved request and announced a trade policy adjustment to allow private merchants to sell goods far from east and west, known in history as "Longqing Switch".
The main contents of Longqing Switch is as follows: open Yuegang in Zhangzhou, Fujian Province, and establish Haicheng County, a supervisory authority to manage foreign trade and collect tariffs; this loading leaves port and enters port for inspection; all ships must apply for "ship from" and "representing business" certificates and other certificates before they can go to sea; time to go to sea is strictly limited. they will be treated as a crime of "trafficking in Japanese"; number of ships arriving in East and West is limited to 44; It is strictly forbidden to take saltpeter, copper, iron and other items into sea.
After opening and closing of Longqing in 1567 under Ming Dynasty, following decades, policy of prohibiting sea was based on a relatively free situation. But it should be noted that volume and depth of Longqing switches are far from being truly "open". With exception of Yuegang, rest of country is still in a relatively closed state, in addition, there are strict restrictions on facilities and scale of trade, which also greatly reduces effect of transition. Since trade with Japan was still prohibited, pirate groups on southeast coast were still very strong at end of Ming Dynasty. For example, Zheng group arose at end of Ming Dynasty. They made a fortune by monopolizing smuggling trade between China. and Japan.
The scale of Zheng's activitiesThird, impact of Longqing switch: beginning of China's integration into world system
Although Longqing Switch is actually a commercial exchange, it still has a huge impact on China. At that time, countries such as Spain, Portugal and Netherlands connected world as a whole and monopolized world trade. For example, Spain at that time monopolized 80% of world's gold reserves. After Longqing switchover, China began to be included in world trading system created by these Western countries. After discovery of Yuegang, merchants of all sizes in Ming Dynasty rushed to buy and build large ships and sell Chinese delicacies such as porcelain, silk, and tea to East and West. For trade with China, Spain opened a trading floor in Manila, Luzon.
Ming dynasty porcelain
At that time, Western colonists mainly imported glass, guns (such as "Flan machine gun" and "Hongyi cannon"), woolen fabrics and American crops to Ming Dynasty. During late Ming Dynasty, advanced domestic guns were mostly imported from Western countries. But generally speaking, export volume of Ming Dynasty was much larger than import volume. Under such circumstances, a large amount of silver from Spain, Portugal and other countries flowed to China. After most of this silver was mined by Spain in America, it was sent directly to Manila for trade. In 1602, Spanish colonial authorities in Mexico reported to Madrid: "In total, 5 million silver pesos are transported annually from Acapulco to Manila, and in 1597 up to 12 million pesos." He wrote to Spain and said: “There are large quantities of silver and silver goods being exchanged for Chinese items. With exception of a small portion of this silver and silver goods that remain on island, most of rest is transported back to China. Chinese." A large amount of silver flooded into China, causing silver to quickly replace other currencies in circulation and become main currency in China. The influx of silver also set stage for Zhang Jiuzhen's reforms and introduction of "one-whip method".
In addition to silver, high-yielding crops such as corn and sweet potatoes, brought from America by Spain and other countries, had a great influence on China. In ancient China, peak population was mostly maintained at around 60 million people. The introduction of crops such as corn and sweet potatoes greatly improved land use, boosted China's grain production, and set stage for further population growth. During Qing Dynasty, planting area of these high-yielding crops flourished, greatly increasing population of China. At beginning of Qing Dynasty, country's population was less than 50 million, but by 1840 it had reached 400 million.
Foreign trade will inevitably contribute to economic development and prosperity of industry and trade in coastal areas. At end of Ming dynasty, due to decline of tribute trade, official craft fell into decline, on contrary, private craft flourished. In many cities, textile industry flourished unprecedentedly, and even so-called "embryos of capitalism" appeared. Influenced by prosperity of industry and trade during Ming Dynasty, economic crops were widely grown, and areas under cultivation of cotton, sugar cane, tobacco, and tea continued to expand. However, due to limited depth and scope of Longqing Switch, its role in promoting business should not be overestimated. The prosperity of business at end of Ming Dynasty was largely due to monetization of silver, expansion of commodity markets, and smuggling trade.
A flower making machine from Ming Dynasty
After transition to Longqing, exchanges between China and Western countries increased. At this time, West entered a new era in terms of technology and culture, and many advanced Chinese such as Xu Guangqi began to study Western culture and began to "transfer Western knowledge to East." During late Ming Dynasty, Matteo Ricci, a Western missionary, came to China and introduced Western knowledge to China in astronomy, geography, and mathematics, which set precedent for spread of Western knowledge to east. However, Western knowledge at that time was still mainly distributed among upper-class academic bureaucrats, and only a few accepted it, causing China to lose a great opportunity to understand world.
Ricci and Xu GuangqiRecommended Reading
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