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.
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Anne Kolb“Transportation and Communication in the Roman State: The Cursus Publicus,” in Travel and Geography in the Roman Empireed. 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.
In1438the 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.
M.N. Boyer“A Day’s Journey in Medieval France,”Speculum26 (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.