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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

The Toba therefore began to be impoverished


The

wars down to A.D. 440 had been large-scale wars of conquest, lightning campaigns that had brought in a great deal of booty. With their loot the Toba developed great magnificence and luxury. The campaigns that followed were hard and long-drawn-out struggles, especially against South China, where there was no booty, because the enemy retired so slowly that they could take everything with them. The Toba therefore began to be impoverished, because plunder was the main source of their wealth. In addition to this, their herds gradually deteriorated, for less and less use was made of them; for instance, horses were little required for the campaign against South China, and there was next to no fighting in the north. In contrast with the impoverishment of the Toba, the Chinese gentry grew not only more powerful but more wealthy.

The Toba seem to have tried to prevent this development by introducing the famous "land equalization system" (_chuen-t'ien_), one of their most important innovations. The direct purposes of this measure were to resettle uprooted farm population; to prevent further migrations of farmers; and to raise production and taxes. The founder of this system was Li An-shih, member of a Toba family and later husband of an imperial princess. The plan was basically accepted in 477, put into action in 485, and remained the land law until _c_. 750. Every man and every woman had a right to receive a certain amount of land for lifetime. After their

death, the land was redistributed. In addition to this "personal land" there was so-called "mulberry land" on which farmers could plant mulberries for silk production; but they also could plant other crops under the trees. This land could be inherited from father to son and was not redistributed. Incidentally we know many similar regulations for trees in the Near East and Central Asia. As the tax was levied upon the personal land in form of grain, and on the tree land in form of silk, this regulation stimulated the cultivation of diversified crops on the tree land which then was not taxable. The basic idea behind this law was, that all land belonged to the state, a concept for which the Toba could point to the ancient Chou but which also fitted well for a dynasty of conquest. The new "_chuen-t'ien_" system required a complete land and population survey which was done in the next years. We know from much later census fragments that the government tried to enforce this equalization law, but did not always succeed; we read statements such as "X has so and so much land; he has a claim on so and so much land and, therefore, has to get so and so much"; but there are no records that X ever received the land due to him.

One consequence of the new land law was a legal fixation of the social classes. Already during Han time (and perhaps even earlier) a distinction had been made between "free burghers" (_liang-min_) and "commoners" (_ch'ien-min_). This


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