Silver, state and society : A monetary perspective on China's seventeenth century crisis
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis is an investigation of the extent and importance of China's dependence upon imported silver in the years leading up to the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644. The commercial expansion and fiscal reforms of the late Ming years had resulted in an increased demand for silver, yet very little of the metal was mined domestically and China relied on foreign sources to supply the increasing demand. It is this dependence upon foreign sources of supply, at a time when the demand for monetary media was continually increasing, which has led to the suggestion that the collapse of the Ming dynasty may have been a consequence, at least in part, of a decline in the volume of imported silver. The thesis gives a detailed consideration of this hypothesis. It also examines the suggestion that the changing pattern of money-use within the empire, the increasing use of silver, was associated with the rise of new social tensions, and that together these undermined the stability of the Ming administration. The evidence accumulated from the perusal of this monetary perspective will be balanced against what is known of the turmoil of these late Ming years so as to broaden an understanding of the crisis of state and society in the seventeenth century China.