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buzhengshi 布政使, provincial administration commissioner

Oct 31, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Provincial administration commissioners (buzhengshi 布政使), also called "regional office" (fansi 藩司) or — quite archaic — "regional earl" (fangbo 方伯), were Ming 明 (1368-1644) and Qing period 清 (1644-1911) officials mainly responsible for the financial matters of a province, and also for the organization of official communication.

Buzhengshi were heads of the provincial administration commission (buzhengshi si 布政使司 or buzhengsi 布政司, full name chengxuan buzhengshi si 承宣布政使司), and second only to the provincial governors (xunfu 巡撫). The office was created in 1376, with the official rank 2A. In 1382 the number of posts was doubled to one commissioner to the left (zuo buzhengshi 左布政使), and one to the right (you buzhengshi 右布政使) for each province. In 1391 the rank was reduced to 2B. Administrative regulations for this office were only fixed in 1428.

The heads of the 13 regional offices were for local government equally important as the heads of the Six Ministries (liubu 六部) for the central government. While acting as heads of provinces, the commissioners had duties similar to those later fulfilled by grand coordinators (xunfu, same office as the governor, but with different duties during the Ming) and supreme commanders (zongdu 總督; this office was later that of governors-general), but their power declined in the course of time and was taken over by the coordinators and commanders. The Qing continued this office, but in 1667 reduced it to one person (except in Jiangsu, which continued to be administered by two buzhengshi), rank 2B, and split up the territorial responsibilities of Jiangnan 江南 (into Jiangsu and Anhui), Huguang 湖廣 (into Hubei and Hunan) and Shaanxi (into Shaanxi and Gansu). Two further commissioners were later added, one for the metropolitan province of Zhili 直隸 (today Hebei) and one for Xinjiang, resulting in a total number of 18 provincial administration commissioners during the late Qing period.

Together with the surveillance commission (anchasi 按察司) of the provinces, the 'provincial treasurers' counted to the "two commissions" (liang si 兩司), and together with the regional military commission (duzhi huishi si 都指揮使司, short dusi 都司) to the "three commissions" (san si 三司).

The institutions under the jurisdiction of the administration commission were the registry (jinglisi 經歷司, headed by registrars, jingli 經歷), the records office (zhaomosuo 照磨所, headed by proofreaders, jianjiao 檢校, and staffed with record keepers, zhaomo 照磨 and various clerks, dianli 典吏 and zandian 攢典), the judicial secretariat (liwensuo 理問所, headed by judicial secretaries, liwen 理問), the miscellaneous manufacture service (zazaoju 雜造局), and the provincial mint (baoquanju 寶泉局). The commissioner himself was assisted by two administration vice commissioners (zuo canzheng 左參政, you canzheng 右參政), and two transmission commissioners (zuo canyi 左參議, you canyi 右參議).

Sources:
Lü Zongli 呂宗力, ed. (1994). Zhongguo lidai guanzhi da cidian 中國歷代官制大辭典 (Beijing: Beijing chubansh), 213, 575.
Wang Chunyu 王春瑜 (1992). "Du, bu, an san si 都、布、按三司", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 187.