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.
In the 1939 New County Reforms, the Nationalist government made the baojia system the lowest level of self-government in the country. This decision was the result of more than ten years of discussion among Nationalist administrators and writers who were searching for a tutelary system to train the people in their political rights in preparation for constitutional rule. In the 1920s and 1930s, Nationalist writers claimed to be following Sun Zhongshan’s (Sun Yat-sen) philosophy by reinventing the baojia as a form of democracy. Harkening back to a reimagined national past, they “discovered” that the imperial baojia was not a system of local control, but a traditional model of bureaucratically-designed local self-government. Nationalist writers dovetailed this new baojia with Sun Zhongshan’s philosophy in order to rationalize its position as the foundation of the Three Principles of the People State. Once philosophically legitimized, Nationalist writers endorsed the baojia as a top-down bureaucratic system that would transform the political, social, and economic life of the country; it would become the core political unit of their state-making and nation-building projects. In so doing, the baojia came to represent the Nationalists’ deeply-held belief in the power of human agency to create state institutions capable of entirely remaking society and transforming the nation.
The Peking Gazette: A Reader in Nineteenth-Century Chinese History, Lane J. Harris offers an innovative text covering the extraordinary ruptures and remarkable continuities in the history of China’s long nineteenth century (1793-1912) by providing scholarly introductions to thematic chapters of translated primary sources from the government gazette of the Qing Empire.
The Peking Gazette is a unique collection of primary sources designed to help readers explore and understand the policies and attitudes of the Manchu emperors, the ideas and perspectives of Han officials, and the mentality and worldviews of several hundred million Han, Mongol, Manchu, Muslim, and Tibetan subjects of the Great Qing Empire as they discussed and debated the most important political, social, and cultural events of the long nineteenth century.