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qidi 旗地 or juandi 圈地, Banner land

Nov 24, 2015 © Ulrich Theobald

When the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911) conquered China, the imperial house allotted land as a reward to the members of the dynasty, the Manchu nobility, and each officer and common soldier of the Banner troops. As early as 1621 the Manchu khan Nurhaci 努爾哈赤 (r. 1616-1626) rewarded the troops that had conquered the region of Liaodong 遼東. He had distributed an amount of 300,000 shang 晌 (also written 垧; an area of 1 shang was about 5-6 mu 畝) of land, with a rate of 6 shang per head (of the whole Banner families). This territory was the so-called Banner land of Shengjing 盛京 (Shengjing qidi 盛京旗地), the early Manchu capital, also called "land of the Eight Banners" (baqi qidi 八旗旗地).

There were four types of Banner land, the first belonging to the ruling family or high state institutions and called "imperial estates" (huangzhuang 皇莊, Manchu tokso) or "official estates" (guanzhuang 官莊). The most important institutions owning Banner land were the Imperial Household Department (neiwufu guanzhuang 內務府官莊) as well as the ministries of Revenue (hubu 戶部), Rites (libu 禮部) and Works (gongbu 工部). The second type were princely estates (wangzhuang 王莊), the third officers land (guanyuan zhuangtian 官員莊田), and the last soldier land (fendi 份地). The last two types were also called "common Banner land" (yiban qidi 一般旗地). These Banner lands from the early phase of the Qing empire were also called "old estates" (lao juandi 老圈地), and were freed from levies, while Banner lands acquired in later times were taxes according to acreage. Estates were managed by a headman (zhuangtou 莊頭), a bondservant, was responsible for cultivation and revenue.

After the conquest of Beijing, between 1644 and 1685, three steps of distributing "rounded fields" (juandi 圈地) were carried out according to the "Banner land order" (juandi ling 圈地令), with a total size of more than 160,000 qing 頃 (1 qing [delhe in Manchurian] = 100 mu) of land. This was the Banner land of the Capital (Jingji qidi 京畿旗地). Similar, but smaller, allotments of arable land were carried out in all provinces, where Banner garrisons were established, called the provincial Banner land (zhufang qidi 駐防旗地). There were 50,000 qing of imperial, official and princely estates, and 140,000 qing of land for Banner officers and troops. Most of the confiscated land had formerly been owned by princes of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644), or by eunuchs serving the Ming, but there was also a lot of private or uncultivated land seized for this purpose. The size of land given to each Banner family differed from 60 to 240 mu.

The Bannermen, obliged to deliver military service as their 'natural' profession, did not personally work this land, but either sold it, or leased it to rent, as so-called country estates (tianzhuang 田莊). Only government institutions and imperial princes had a sufficient number of by slaves (Manchurian aha) called "strongmen" (zhuangding 壯丁) to cultivate the fields, but normal Bannermen were unable to care for their own land, and therefore either rented it out, pawned or sold it (dianmai 典賣). The relation between rent and land price averaged 1 : 10. In 1764 for instance, the rent for one mu of Banner land was about 9 fen and 9 li 九分九厘 (ca. 0.1 liang), but there were also much lower prices around the same time.

As more and more Bannermen sold their fields, the Kangxi Emperor 康熙 (r. 1661-1722) prohibited the sale of Banner land. His grandson, the Qianlong Emperor 乾隆 (r. 1735-1796), allowed the sale of land from one Banner to another. The sales prohibition was abolished in 1852 (regulated by the statutes Qi-min jiaochan zhangcheng 旗民交產章程) for territories in China, and in 1905 also for land in Manchuria. The status of the remainder of the Banner land was abolished in 1912 with a process of tax unification (tianfu huayi 田賦劃一).

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