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35 SICHUAN AND QING MIGRATION POLICY Robert Entenraann Harvard University Migration to Sichuan in the late seventeenth and eighteenth cen­ turies was one of the major population movements in Chinese history. Beginning in response to the near depopulation of the province during the Ming-Qing transition, resettlement allowed Sichuan to recover its lost population within a few decades. Large-scale immigration continued thereafter, even though unoccupied arable land became increasingly scarce and the population became less able to absorb newcomers. Thus Sichuan soon began to share the effects of China’s eighteenth-century population explosion. The Qing government did not have a single continuous and consistent policy toward migration to Sichuan but responded to changing conditions in the province and the empire as a whole. In the years following the Qing conquest, migration was a matter of little concern, because the new dynasty faced more immediate problems. The initial attempt to promote migration was based on military considerations. Later the government became more concerned with bringing the area back to prosperity and returning land to cultivation. The motive was primarily fiscal: land returned to cultivation would eventually yield taxes. Material incentives and short-term tax exemptions were used to accomplish this goal. How­ ever, administrative problems prevented the province from paying its share of tax revenues. 36 By the 1720s the province appears to have reached late Ming populatidn levels. Incentives were apparently no longer necessary to attract immigrants. The "pull" factors of free land and material aid became less important in causing immigration, although the myth of opportunity in Sichuan continued to have its appeal. Many migrants appear to have been nonagricultural liumin s%j (unemployed vagrants), coming because of "push" factors such as natural disaster, poverty and population pressure elsewhere. Material aid given them by the government became a relief measure more than an incentive for settling in Sichuan. As a result of the changed situation, strong attempts to control migration began in the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735). These attempts broke down in the 1740s as population pressure throughout the empire forced many from their homes. During the Qianlong period (1736-1795), local and provincial of­ ficials regarded migration into their province as a source of local social and political disorder and therefore advocated steps to regulate or even prohibit it. Unlike his predecessor, the Qianlong Emperor appears to have been willing to risk local social disruption to preserve a national equilibrium of population. To him, with a wider view of problems faced by the entire empire, migration to Sichuan was a "safety valve" for excess population in other provinces, particularly in the 1 Middle Yangtze and Lingnan macroregions. He therefore adopted a laissezfaire attitude toward population movements. Such a policy, however, could not provide a long-term solution to an unprecedented population crisis. 37 Although the population of Sichuan fell greatly because of the events of the 1640s and the following decades, the resettlement of the 2 province was not one of the immediate concerns of the new dynasty. A decade and a half of rebellion and invasion had left many pockets of deserted but arable land, in North China in particular. Memorials and edicts of the Shunzhi reign (1644-1661) reflect the governments concern about returning land to cultivation. However, Henan, which had suffered greatly during the rebellion of Li Zicheng, seems to have been the 3 province of greatest concern. Qing armies were not able to consolidate their control over Sichuan until the 1660s. Although a Qing army arrived in 1646 and quickly de­ feated the notorious Ming rebel Zhang Xianzhong, Sichuan continued to be a battleground for nearly two decades. Some of Zhangfs followers and other rebels declared their allegiance to the Southern Ming, which by 4 1648 controlled most of the province. The Ming remnants were driven out of Sichuan in the early 1650s, but independent armies, rebels, and bandits continued to fight the Qing army and each other. Non-Han popula­ tions expanded into areas previously occupied by Han Chinese, and tribes5 men raided Han settlements. The Qing did not win permanent possession of Chengdu, the provincial capital, until 1659, and only in 1664 did it 6 finally suppress the last of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3257
Print ISSN
0884-3236
Pages
pp. 35-54
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-14
Open Access
No
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