A CYCLE OF ECONOMIC CHANGE IN IMPERIAL CHINA: COAL AND IRON IN NORTHEAST CHINA, 750-1350 BY ROBERT HARTWELL (University of Chicago) The phrases "traditional Chinese economy" "traditional agrarian economy" 2), and "pre-modern Chinese economy" 3) have been used to categorize the economic system of two millenia of Imperial Chinese history. These concepts seem to refer to an agrarian based society characterized by tax-farming merchants engaged in the sale of govern- ment monopolized staples, the diversion of business profits to noneco- nomicuses, the absence of an acquisitive and capitalistic spirit, a non- development of rational business methods, the low status of the mer- chant, and bureaucratic interference in the running of commercial establishments 4). It is even suggested that only these conditions, determined the production and distribution of commodities in pre- twentieth century China, and that there were no important changes in economic organization for more than two thousand years 5). But periods of marked material progress, as well as times of stagnation and decline in different historical eras, geographical regions or sectors of the economy indicate that the allocation of resources during the Chinese past was not always as rigidly traditional as is sometimes suggested. The purpose of
Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1967
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