An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

bailiang 白糧, metropolitan tribute grain

Jan 29, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

So-called "white grain" (bailiang 白糧) was a supplementary tax to the tribute grain (caoliang 漕糧) and was during the Ming 明 (1368-1644) and Qing 清 (1644-1911) periods levied in five prefectures of southeast China (Jiangnan wufu 江南五府), namely Suzhou 蘇州, Songjiang 松江 (today Songjiang Qu 松江區 as part of Shanghai), Changzhou 常州, Jiaxing 嘉興 and Huzhou 湖州. This type of tribute grain consisted of both rice (gengmi 粳米) and glutinous rice (nuomi 糯米). It was levied in addition to the field tax (tianfu 田賦) and served to supply the imperial palace in Beijing and the officialdom as well as the troops garrisoned in the capital.

During the early Ming period 170,000 shi 石 "bushels" (see weights and measures) of rice and glutinous rice were collected by tax captains (liangzhang 糧長) and brought to the capital Nanjing, later to Beijing. Each of the five prefectures thus had to deliver an amount of 44,000 shi of unhusked rice (caogengmi 糙粳米), 8,000 of which could also be covered by an according payment of money (zhese 折色 "converted type", while "original type", i.e. rice, was called bense 本色).

In addition to this basic amount, a transport loss surcharge (sunhao 損耗) was collected to cover the transport expenditure. The Qing required an amount of 220,000 shi of rice, shipped to Beijing along the Grand Canal. In the beginning an amount of 99,000 shi was to be delivered to Beijing and Tongzhou 通州 (today Tongzhou Qu 通州區 and part of Beijing), where it was distributed to various granaries and the palace condiments service (jiucumianju 酒醋麵局) and the Court of Imperial Entertainments (guanglusi 光祿寺), and to the agencies paying out the official salaries.

From 1664 on it was allowed to replace as much as 30,000 shi by payment of money, at a conversion rate of 1.5 tael/liang per shi, which was up to five times higher than the normal market price of grain (when adding the transport surcharge). The government then purchased rice with this money and entrusted its transport to commissioned merchants. In addition to this tax, the usual transport loss supplement (mihao 米耗) was to be paid, as well as a transport fee (yunfei 運費). After 1737, the collection of glutinous rice was reduced, and it was replaced by rice collected together with the normal tribute grain.

Chen Dewei 陳德維, ed. (1992). Shichang da cidian 市場大辭典 (Beijing: Zhongguo kexue jishu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 534.
Li Yinghua 李英華 (1998). "Bailiang 白糧", in Tang Jiahong 唐嘉弘, ed. Zhongguo gudai dianzhang zhidu da cidian 中國古代典章制度大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), 16.
Nongye da cidian bianji weiyuanhui 《農業大詞典》編輯委員會, ed. (1998), Nongye da cidian 農業大詞典 (Beijing: Zhongguo nongye chubanshe), 25.
Wang Meihan 王美涵, ed. (1991). Shuishou da cidian 稅收大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 806.
Zhongguo baike da cidian beianweihui 《中國百科大辭典》編委會, ed. (1990). Zhongguo baike da cidian 中國百科大辭典 (Beijing: Huaxia chubanshe), 335.