Since the time that societies were stable and organized the system taxation has always played a crucial role with providing them with revenue and finances. On the other hand, tithing was also important for providing governing organizations with the income that they needed in order to carry out their work. Tithing and taxes in early China provided many rulers with the money that they needed to benefit their societies with public services and civil institutions. There were 83 dynasties in the history of China and the system of tithing and taxation will be explored through some of the major ruling dynasties within China’s history. The system of tithing appears on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during the seventh century BC.
The key dynasties in ancient China were the Xia 2070-1600, Shang 1523-1028, Zhou 1046-221, Qin 221-207 and the Han in 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. Each of these ancient Chinese dynasties had their own systems of taxation and tithing which helped China to prosper at different periods within its history.
China’s history begins with the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors and their rule lasted from 2852 to 2070 B.C. These early Chinese rulers were considered mythical beings by the Chinese people. Chinese society during this time period was based on agriculture and the people gave their rulers a percentage of their crops for the purpose of taxation. Many rice farms were established during this time period and Chinese nobles who controlled these fields were also taxed heavily by the emperors. Trade has always been a feature of China’s economy and this form of economic revenue also brought wealth to China’s government. Merchants and traders were often taxed for importing an exporting their goods within China’s borders. The economy was pretty much the same during the Xia era which was the first official dynasty of China after the era of the gods.
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Once the Shang Dynasty arrived around 1500 B.C. China’s society had begun to undergo some revolutionary changes. They developed bronze technology, organized their societies into structured classes, developed writing and used a standard form of currency. All of these developments helped to increase the Emperors ability to tax the people and to receive gifts or tithes from them as well. The Chinese people used a system of taxing plots by a number of fields that a person owned. In other words, if a person owned thirty fields one of them would automatically be used to pay taxes. So a person with thirty fields could grow twenty-nine of them for their own use while growing one of them strictly for the government. Sometimes Chinese officials demanded more than just one field and in some cases they would take almost half or maybe even more of a person’s crops if they felt they were justified with carrying out this action. There were many evil emperors during the Shang period and extreme taxation did happen.
Poorer people might have just one plot or field and they would have to give a certain percentage of the crops that they had grown to the emperor. Chinese society was extremely feudal during the Shang period and there were nobles, lords, serfs and peasants. Each one of these groups was responsible for providing taxes to the Chinese government. China also had slaves throughout its ancient history and these slaves were also given to the government in the form of taxation. They would then be used for public works and other forms of labor for the ruling class.
The next ruling dynasty after the Shang was the Zhou and they developed urban cities and lived in a rigid separation of social classes. Many of the rich and middle-class people lived inside of the main cities while the poorer people lived in the countryside. Agriculture was still the dominate means of income for Chinese rulers during this time period, but a merchant and skilled labor classes had become a standard feature of society as well. They also developed a standard form of money that was based on shells. All of these changes allowed China’s government to tax the people at a greater rate which means that the government had more economic power than it did in previous times. The Qin and then the Han dynasties followed after the Zhou and taxation had become more efficient and streamlined during these two eras. China enjoyed more prosperity than in the past though there were certain periods of time when the Chinese economy went into decline.
Tithing or gift giving in ancient China was done by emperors and other people as a sign of respect or honor. Many Asian kingdoms such as Japan and Korea paid tribute to China in the past and Chinese emperors had given them tithes. The emperors made sure that the tithes were seen as a gift and not as a tribute. The difference being is that a tribute represented the fact that a kingdom was a defeated nation or one that could not contend with a stronger power. The tithe was an act of good will and it showed that a kingdom was self-sufficient and independent of foreign power.