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Equal-field system

Equal-field system

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The Equal-field system (Also, Land-equalization system) land system was a historical system of land ownership and distribution in China used from the Six Dynasties
Six Dynasties
Six Dynasties is a collective noun for six Chinese dynasties during the periods of the Three Kingdoms , Jin Dynasty , and Southern and Northern Dynasties ....

 to Mid-Tang
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 dynasty.

By the time of the Han dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

, the well-field system
Well-field system
The well-field system was a Chinese land distribution method existing between the ninth century BCE to around the end of the Warring States Period...

 of land distribution had fallen out of use in China, though reformers like Emperor Wang Mang
Wang Mang
Wang Mang , courtesy name Jujun , was a Han Dynasty official who seized the throne from the Liu family and founded the Xin Dynasty , ruling AD 9–23. The Han dynasty was restored after his overthrow and his rule marks the separation between the Western Han Dynasty and Eastern Han Dynasty...

 tried to restore it. The Equal-field system was introduced into practice around 485 AD by Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei
Northern Wei
The Northern Wei Dynasty , also known as the Tuoba Wei , Later Wei , or Yuan Wei , was a dynasty which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 . It has been described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change"...

 Dynasty, a non-Han kingdom in North China, during the Northern and Southern Dynasties period. The system was eventually adopted by other kingdoms and its use continued through the Sui
Sui Dynasty
The Sui Dynasty was a powerful, but short-lived Imperial Chinese dynasty. Preceded by the Southern and Northern Dynasties, it ended nearly four centuries of division between rival regimes. It was followed by the Tang Dynasty....

 and Tang
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 dynasties.

Basis


The system worked on the basis that all land was owned by the government, which would then assign it to individual families. Every individual, including slaves, was entitled to a certain amount of land, the amount depending on their ability to supply labor. For example, able-bodied men received 40 mu of land (approx. 1.1 hectares or 2.7 acres), while women received less, and more land was granted per ox owned by the family. After death, the land would revert to the state to be reassigned, though provisions were allowed for inheritance of land that required long-term development, such as farms for mulberry
Mulberry
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....

 trees (for silkworms).

The system was intended to foster the development of land and ensure no agricultural land lie neglected, to prevent the aristocratic and powerful families from developing large power bases by monopolizing the fields, and to allow the common people to get a share of land to ensure their livelihood. From these, the government could develop a tax base and slow down the process of land accumulating into vast, untaxable estates of the powerful elites. This was also used by the Tang dynasties to break the Dynastic cycle. The dynastic cycle was the idea that all Dynasties will come to an end and this was going to stop it by having the people recive the land from the government this makes them feel like the government gave them something even though it never left.

The Fall Into Disuse


The system eventually began falling out of use after the An Lushan rebellion as the government began to lose centralized control over its territories. Though all land theoretically belonged to the government, the aristocratic families were able to legally acquire land, and were able to build up their holdings. Buddhist monasteries too, came to control vast estates of agricultural lands. Peasants often entered into the households of landlords and became tenant farmers or servants during times of natural disasters and conflict in order to ensure their own security. The gradual loss of taxable lands is a reason for the decline of the Tang dynasty. The pattern of landlords holding lands worked by tenant farmers would continue throughout the rest of Chinese history until the founding of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 in 1949.

Adoption in Japan


The equal-field system was adopted by Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 during the Nara Period
Nara period
The of the history of Japan covers the years from AD 710 to 794. Empress Gemmei established the capital of Heijō-kyō . Except for 5 years , when the capital was briefly moved again, it remained the capital of Japanese civilization until Emperor Kammu established a new capital, Nagaoka-kyō, in 784...

 (see Ritsuryo
Ritsuryo
is the historical law system based on the philosophies of Confucianism and Chinese Legalism in Japan. The political system in accord to Ritsuryō is called "Ritsuryō-sei"...

), though it is debatable to what degree it was actually implemented. Provinces close to the capital were more strictly regulated and taxed, prompting farmers to flee to outlying provinces. In Japan, too, the system fell out of use as land reverted to private ownership; decrees in 723 held that newly developed lands could be inherited for three generations while a later decree in 743 allowed for these developed lands to be held in perpetuity. By the year 800 AD the land redistribution scheme was practically abandoned as census and distribution became infrequent and irregular. Nonetheless, the system remained in existence, at least in theory, well after that.

See also

  • Well-field system
    Well-field system
    The well-field system was a Chinese land distribution method existing between the ninth century BCE to around the end of the Warring States Period...

  • Open field system
    Open field system
    The open field system was the prevalent agricultural system in much of Europe from the Middle Ages to as recently as the 20th century in some places, particularly Russia and Iran. Under this system, each manor or village had several very large fields, farmed in strips by individual families...

  • Agriculture in China
    Agriculture in China
    Agriculture is an important economic sector of China, employing over 300 million farmers. China ranks first in worldwide farm output, primarily producing rice, wheat, potatoes, sorghum, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, cotton, oilseed, pork, and fish.-History:...

  • Economy of the People's Republic of China
    Economy of the People's Republic of China
    The People's Republic of China ranks since 2010 as the world's second largest economy after the United States. It has been the world's fastest-growing major economy, with consistent growth rates of around 10% over the past 30 years. China is also the largest exporter and second largest importer of...

  • Economic history of China (Pre-1911)
  • Economic history of Modern China
    Economic history of modern China
    The economic history of modern China began with the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Following the Qing, China underwent a period of instability and disrupted economic activity. Under the Nanjing decade , China advanced several industries, in particular those related to the military, in an effort...