2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Imperial Household Department and Merchants in the Chien-Lung Reign through a Study of Kao Pu’s Case

Hui-min Lai

Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica

In recent years, since the Ching Dynasty archives from Imperial Household Department have been released, there are many articles of interest. The illegal smuggling of jade by Kao Pu is one typical case. This article explores the Sinkiang and hinterlands’ jade trading activities under Ching Dynasty’s Emperor Kao Tsung. When Ching Dynasty conquered Sinkiang, merchants and craftsmen followed to continue this prosperous but illegal jade trading in Sinkiang and hinterland, to accumulate their fortunes. The merchant’s testimonies revealed how they raised funds, accumulated profits, and reclaimed trading routes, etc. Secondly, according to archives from Imperial Household Department, there were thousands of catties of jade paying tribute to the royal court each year, however, more than one hundred thousand catties of illegal smuggled jade were seized by the government in Kao Pu’s case. Merchants were prohibited from engaging in such fast trading practices of jade. Thus, when the jade market became a monopoly, it greatly raided the price of jade. As the silk fabric trade in Sinkiang and the entire area south of the Yangtze River became a thriving business, controlled by Imperial Household Department, merchants used Sinkiang jade in exchange for silk and china. This instigated dissent and competition between merchants and government. In Kao Pu’s case, Emperor Kao Tsung abolished the merchant trading routes. Hence, Kao Pu’s case not only highlights corruption depletion, but also the upheavals between a governmentally controlled economy and a market free economy.


Keywords: Imperial Household Department, merchant, jade, controlled economy, market free economy