The “Arteries and Veins” of the Imperial Body: The Nature of the Relay and Post Station Systems in the Ming Dynasty, 1368–1644

in Journal of Early Modern History
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The “arteries and veins” of the Ming Empire were the relay (驛 yi) and post station (急遞鋪 jidipu) systems, two networks that worked together to circulate people, information, and goods throughout the realm. The relay system was an infrastructure of stations, horses, carts, and other facilities provided at government expense for the transportation, accommodation, and provision of a select group of imperial officials, tribute-bearing foreign envoys, and messengers from other government offices on their journeys to the capital. The express post station network with its foot posts and mail handling procedures was the communications system of the Ming Empire. Together, the two systems helped the state consolidate control over the empire, allowed the emperor to manage his officials, supported the conduct of diplomatic relations, and facilitated the movement of people, goods, and information across the empire.

The “Arteries and Veins” of the Imperial Body: The Nature of the Relay and Post Station Systems in the Ming Dynasty, 1368–1644

in Journal of Early Modern History

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References

7

Colin Heywood“Some Turkish Archival Sources for the History of the Menzilhane Network in Rumeli during the Eighteenth Century,” in Writing Ottoman History: Documents and Interpretations ed. Colin Heywood (Burlington 2002) 39–54; Mark Brayshay “Royal Post-Horse Routes in England and Wales: The Evolution of the Network in the Later-Sixteenth and Early-Seventeenth Century” Journal of Historical Geography 17 no. 4 (1991): 373–389.

8

Irfan Habib“Postal Communications in Mughal India,” Proceedings Indian History Congress 46th Session (Delhi 1986): 236–252.

9

Anne Kolb“Transportation and Communication in the Roman State: The Cursus Publicus,” in Travel and Geography in the Roman Empire ed. Colin Adams and Ray Laurence (New York 2001) 95–105; Gustave Alef “The Origin and Development of the Muscovite Postal Service” Jarbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 15 no. 1 (March 1967): 1–15.

33

ZhangMing shi 75: 1839 1840 1843.

37

In 1438the Zhengtong Emperor strengthened oversight of the post station system by installing three post station masters at the two imperial capitals and an additional master at every provincial capital. Da Ming huidian 791 149: 540.

38

ZhangMing shi 75: 1852; Taizu shilu 29: 洪武元年正月庚子 (February 17 1368).

79

M.N. Boyer“A Day’s Journey in Medieval France,” Speculum 26 (1957): 597–606; Katsuhisa Moriya “Urban Networks and Information Networks” in Tokugawa Japan: The Social and Economic Antecedents of Modern Japan ed. Chie Nakane and Shinzaburo Oishi (Tokyo 1990) 108–11.

Figures

  • View in gallery
    Relay system routes in the Early Ming, 1368–1420. Scanned from Huang Bian 黃汴, Yitong lucheng tuji 一統路程圖記 (Comprehensive Illustrated Route Book) (1570).
  • View in gallery
    Map of Hengyang County (post stations highlighted).

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