Wei's agricultural system: Tuntian

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Wei's agricultural system: Tuntian

Unread postby Jiang Zhi » Sun Mar 19, 2006 4:44 am

Does anyone have more information about the "Tuntian" farming colonies or what-not since the only info I could find is on Wikipedia. Any English books/resources recommendations?

Also, the discussion question is: What impact does this organized agricultural system have on the Wei Kingdom's strength in terms of both military aspects and social aspects?

When I mentioned social aspects, I mean, were people put into forced-labour like they were under Qin?

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuntian

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The Tuntian or Duntian system (屯田制) was a system of government-encouraged agriculture in Imperial China, the most famous example of which was practiced by the warlord Cao Cao during the Three Kingdoms Period.

While the tuntian system was made famous by Cao Cao's administration, his own writings show that the system had been instituted as early as the Western Han Dynasty, under the rule of Emperor Wu, where soldiers on distant expeditions were set to work converting and farming the conquered land, both to provide food for the army and to convert the region into one based around agriculture - in effect, an economic conquest. After the death of Emperor Wu, however, the system was only used sporadically and therefore less effectively.

The ending years of the Eastern Han Dynasty witnessed great economic disruption and widespread devastation, particularly through the Yellow Turban Revolt of 184 AD; agricultural production in particular was severely disrupted, and population movements from warzones led to massive flows of refugees. It was under these circumstances that Cao Cao's usage of the tuntian system made its impact on the economic revival of China after the damage suffered previously.

The mechanism of the tuntian system had its basis in government organisation, encouragement and to some extent even coercion. Peasants without land, or refugees, or soldiers, were assigned to plots of land which they were to farm, while the implements required (like ploughs and even oxen) were provided by the government at a low price. In exchange for this, the peasant was to give over half of his harvest to the government.

Tuntian had its origins in the military, and for much of the Han Dynasty the land in question was farmed by soldiers on orders of the military authorities; in this case all of the crop harvested was to be kept by the military for supply uses. Cao Cao's innovation was the introduction of the 'civilian tuntian', whereby he successfully solved two great economic problems facing his administration: the large number of unemployed refugees, and the great tracts of land abandoned in the preceding chaos.

The tuntian system was to have far-reaching effects, both for Cao Cao himself and for the overall economy of China. Once the scheme had proven successful initially, Cao wasted no time in extending the scheme to all areas under his control; as a result the positive effects of this organised farming was soon felt all over northern China, which he reunified.

In the short-term, meanwhile, the tuntian system was also instrumental to the success of Cao Cao's campaigns, many of which were long-range offensives across the plains of northern China; with a massive and efficient agriculture to support his army, he was able to sustain these offensives and gain victory. Overall it can be said that the tuntian system, along with the repair of irrigation works, were amongst the foremost contributions of Cao Cao to the period's economy, and contributed to the enduring strength of the Kingdom of Wei which his son would found.

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Unread postby CaTigeReptile » Sun Mar 19, 2006 7:29 pm

If you read Dr. Rafe DeCrespigny's online publications, a few of them mention tuntian (I think Man from the Margin does in the most detail, but it's been a while so I don't remember). As far as the social aspects go, I don't believe it was forced labor, but rather it was incentive-based (the government would give you supplies such as oxen and tools, in return you would give them a share of the crops). It was a good system, it wasn't a bad one. It wasn't only for the military, I think that it was partly to subdue the hunger problem.
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Unread postby Lu Kang » Sun Mar 19, 2006 7:58 pm

It basically amounted to slavery. To quote Professor Luo Kai Yu in a compilation of the 25 historical texts, Zhong Hua Shu Ju

Tun Tian could be widely found in many areas under Wei’s control though mainly concentrated in Xing Yang, Luo Yang, Xu Chang, Ru Nan etc. As most of the farmers were rebels initially, there was bound to be some form of resistance in the process of farming. Consequently, the administrators would then be forced to employ brutal methods in governing to maintain the system. Indeed, though tun tian was largely done by the civilians initially, the system of governance remained military in nature. For instance, to prevent the tun tian farmers from attempting to escape. the government implemented the Shi Jia system. (Shi Jia was the name of the "new class of people" in tun tian while shi refers to the male farmers or head of the family) For those Shis who escaped, the wives will be executed while the rest of the family members be slaves for the officials. The daughters of Shis could only be married to Shis

When Cao Cao eradicated Yuan Shao forces and unified the north, he often made use of the chances presented during military expeditions to capture as many civilians as possible. For example, though Zhang Liao failed in his battle against Yuan Shang, he successfully captured Yin An upon retreat and moved the locals back to Wei. Similarly, in his attack of Jingzhou against Liu Biao, Cao Cao also transported large numbers of civilians in Jingzhou back. These civilians, who were forcibly deported, had statuses similar to war captives. (In fact, they were treated as war spoils and were used by generals as proof to claim their rewards.) These people were indeed viewed as highly suitable for tun tian. One such person who experienced the above was Deng Ai. Together with his mother, villagers and extended family, they were despatched from Jingzhou to Runan (some say Xiang Cheng) to partake in tun tian when Cao Cao conquered Jing Zhou. He was in fact only twelve to thirteen when he partook in such laborious activities.
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Unread postby evizaer » Sun Mar 19, 2006 8:56 pm

It looks like Cao Cao saw the huge displacement of people because of the wars and decided that if there were going to be people fleeing, he'd force other people to move in and stay. It gave him a strong underclass of workers to provide food for his war machine.

Very interesting. Thanks for posting this thread. :)
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Unread postby CaTigeReptile » Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:38 am

Well what do you know, learn something new every day. Wonder where that information came from. Though what interests me most is what is meant by generals using them as proof.

Though I can read that from Deng Ai having experienced this treatment, that meant that the tuntian farmers/captives/POWs could still have a chance to advance among military ranks or civilian status if they showed promise?
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