Alexandria Digital Research Library

Food redistribution during China's Qin and Han periods : accordance and discordance among ideologies, policies, and their implementation

Kim, Moonsil Lee
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. History
Degree Supervisor:
Anthony J. Barbieri-Low
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Law, History, Ancient, and History, Asia, Australia and Oceania
Food Redistribution
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2014

This dissertation analyzes the food redistribution systems of the Qin and Han periods, finding accordance and discordance among ideologies, policies, and their implementation. During the Qin and Han periods, food was given by the emperor to his subjects through various redistribution systems: salaries, rations, relief, gifts, and feasts. In chapters one to four, I introduce each form of food redistribution that directly or indirectly influenced food consumption and the dietary conditions of people of various statuses: officials, soldiers, elders, widows, victims of natural disaster, and convicts. Using recently excavated documents, received texts, and archaeological remains, I analyze what ancient Chinese people of various statuses experienced under the governmental food system, which pursued moral justification and political, social, and economic benefits both for the rulers and the ruled.

The first chapter investigates the regulations on grain storage in the central and local governments, using the Shuihudi Qin legal texts. The "Statutes on Granaries" and the "Statutes on Food rations at Conveyance Stations" are compared to administrative documents from Liye and Xuanquan to prove that there were significant discrepancies between these statutes and the actual distribution of food.

Chapter two examines the reconstructed salary list and the "Statutes on Bestowals" from Zhangjiashan to see how the idea of discriminatory distribution was reflected in the salary system of the Han and how the system was maintained in spite of the problem of too little salary for the lower officials. The military salary system, which was combined with the ration system, and imperial gift food are examined in the context of a solution to secure the food supply to military families on the frontier and to the lower salary-grade officials.

Chapter three concerns the food distributed to commoners, especially those in distress or danger. This chapter analyzes the welfare food distributions for the aged, female heads-of-household, and victims of natural disaster. I suggest that comfort-food and relief-food policies were actually geared toward pursuing social stability by saving able-bodied peasants and preventing social mobility, rather than having been designed simply to demonstrate filial piety in an emergency situation.

Chapter four deals with ancient Chinese feasting as a method of food redistribution. This chapter examines the two different styles of feasting, the yan [special characters omitted] feast and the pu [special characters omitted] feast, by applying current anthropological theories of feasts to the roles of ancient Chinese feasts. After theoretical examination, the economy of leftover food after ritualistic feasting is analyzed based on recently discovered documents from Liye. I argue that by using the leftovers and byproducts, the rulers fed people of inferior status who suffered from poor dietary conditions.

The food redistribution system in early imperial China was ideally designed to benefit all people under heaven "equally" within the framework of the social hierarchy, meanwhile providing extra resources to those of lower status and to people in distress. However, the ideology of the regulations and their actual implementation were frequently out of sync, as laws were applied flexibly and human greed worked every possible step of food redistribution.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (209 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Moonsil Kim
File Description
Access: Public access
Kim_ucsb_0035D_12246.pdf pdf (Portable Document Format)