Substitute Silver for Labor Service

Inscriptions: 郿縣/差徭

Mei County (in Shaansi Province), Labor Service


In ancient times there were two forms of tax payment in China: grains and crop, and the labor service of adult males. The former was used to pay for the Land Tax, and the latter was for the Poll Tax.  Monetary payment of the Land Tax began to replace agricultural products during the Tang or Sung Dynasties, since the new form of payment was far easier to store and transport.

In the 9th year of the Wan-Li reign of the Ming Dynasty (1581 AD), the premier Chang Chu Zhen enacted a series of reforms to China's tax system; one of them was to collect the Poll Tax based on the amount of land owned by each taxpayer.  This resulted in the Land Tax and Poll Tax being applied to the same base, and the system was further simplified to allow both taxes to be satisfied by monetary payment.

The tax reform progressed even further in the Ching Dynasty, when the Land and Poll Taxes were merged during the 2nd year of the Yong Zhen reign (1724 AD). From then on, the two taxes could only be differentiated by name and were levied collectively. Silver from such tax levy was recast by the government and titled "Di Ding" (地丁), which means the "Land-and-Poll Tax".

Despite these reforms, there were a few local governments in remote regions which did not implement the merger of the two taxes and continued to collect them separately.

The specimen shown above is an example of a Poll Tax sycee of the Ching Dynasty cast from the substitute silver for labor service. This was cast in one of those districts which did not combine the Poll and Land tax payments.

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