An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

taishou 太守, governor

Jun 15, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

Governors (taishou 太守, junshou 郡守) were the administrators of commanderies (jun 郡) between the late Warring States 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE) and the Sui 隋 (581-618) period. The Qin empire 秦 (221-206 BCE) encompassed 36 commanderies, in each of which a governor (shou 守), a commandant (wei 尉) and a *surveillor (jian 監) were appointed. From 148 BCE on the office was called taishou. The usurper Wang Mang 王莽 (r. 8-23 CE) renamed it dayin 大尹. The salary of a governor was 2,000 shi 石 of grain (see weights and measures), from the Three Dynasties period 三國 (220-280) on they had rank 5 (see nine ranks), in smaller commanderies also down to rank 7 (yet all with a salary of 2,000 shi). The Northern Wei 北魏 (386-534) and the Sui allotted governors to the ranks 4 to 6, from 607 on to the ranks 3B (upper-grade commanderies), 4A (mid-grade commanderies), and 4B (low-grade commanderies).

A governor was responsible for law and order, household registers, the collecting of taxes, and the local military. He had at hand an administrative staff with an aide (cheng 丞, in border regions called zhangshi 長史), a commander (duwei 都尉), a rectifier (zhongzheng 中正) for the selection of personnel, and in the lower levels clerks in the labour section (gongcao yuan 功曹掾) and miscellaneous clerks (wuguan yuan 五官掾), local inspectors (duyou 督郵), recorders (zhubu 主簿) and various administrators (yuanshi 掾史) of the administrative sections for household registers (hucao 戶曹), recruitment of personnel (bicao 比曹), seasonal work (shicao 時曹), field cadastres (tiancao 田曹), irrigation (shuicao 水曹), granaries (cangcao 倉曹), revenue (jincao 金曹), accounts (jicao 集曹), tribute grain (caocao 漕曹), criminal law (facao 法曹), military affairs (bingcao 兵曹), defense (weicao 尉曹), police actions (zeicao 賊曹), complaints (cicao 辭曹) and judicial matters (juecao 決曹). Governors were subordinated to regional governors (mu) and regional inspectors (cishi 剌史). From the very late 2nd century CE on the military aspect became more important, and quite a few governors were also generals or commandants (xiaowei 校尉).

In 603 the Sui dynasty transformed the local administration and replaced the commanderies by prefectures (zhou 州) that were administered by cishi. After some revivals of the commandery system, the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907) decided to keep the prefectural system, yet the title taishou was occasionally used again, for instance, in 742. It was fully abolished by the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279). The administrators of prefectures were from then on officially called first-rank prefects (zhifu 知府) and second-rank prefects (zhizhou 知州), even if the term taishou cropped up here and there until the end of the Qing period 清 (1644-1911).

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Zhou Fazeng 周發增, Chen Longtao 陳隆濤, Qi Jixiang 齊吉祥, ed. (1998). Zhongguo gudai zhengzhi zhidu shi cidian 中國古代政治制度史辭典 (Beijing: Shoudu shifan daxue chubanshe), 58.