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The Garrison System, Social Strategies, and Liaodong Military Households during the Mid and Late Ming Dynasty

Zoudan Ma

Pages 229 - 261

In the mid-fifteenth century, the garrison system, the only form of government in Ming Liaodong, began to shift its focus from narrowly defined military functions to civilian administration, overseeing the population and land with the primary goal of extracting resources from society. This article explores how the garrison system shaped the social behaviors of military households, which constituted the majority of Liaodong’s population. Through three case studies respectively covering land tax payment, horse rearing, and conflict resolution through litigation, it reveals that the social actors involved devised and implemented diverse strategies to navigate their interactions with the state. These strategies, characterized by recognition of the state’s legitimacy and a beggar-thy-neighbor mentality, raise questions about the Ming state’s role in fostering exploitative behaviors among its subjects.

Keywords: Ming Liaodong, garrison system, military households, social strategies


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