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

A Study of the Harmonious Purchase of Grains (Hedi) during the Tang Dynasty

Tung-hwa Lo

Department of History, National Cheng-chi University

The harmonious purchase of grains (hedi) was a system whereby the government collected grains from civilians through equitable purchasing measures. The original purpose was to supply rations and forage for military bases along the northwest frontier in the Tang dynasty. Later, the system was expanded to the Guanzhong and Jianghuai regions. The purposes of hedi  were expended to to obtain supplies for official use, to stabilize the prices of commodities, and to prevent famines. The actual implementation of hedi was clearly described in Dunhuang documents. Hedi gave rise to many falsified accounting records and cheating methods. Basically, hedi only involved the purchasing but not the selling of grains. As the government arranged for granaries to store grains and food flexibly and hedi was gradually turned into a civilian program, and its operations were adjusted accordingly. There were two major requirements for implementing hedi. First, that the government have enough capital, and second, that the civilians produced extra grain beyond their immediate needs. Furthermore, the amounts of the hedi capital were greatly influenced by the current political situation and taxation. The Tang government budgeted hedi until the reign of Emperor Xuan Zong. If the country’s financial capacity was not enough to implement hedi, it would sometimes create a special budget to deal with emergencies. Apart from government allocations, the extra grains from civilians were generally traded and transported by merchantsto create a balanced flow of commodities. However, the inconvenient transportation and incomplete governmental controlling measures in the Tang period limited the commercialization of hedi. Nonetheless, the government heavily relied on hedi as a supplementary financial policy. Unless there was insufficient funding for hedi, the Tang government would never considerabandoning the hedi system.


Keywords: Tang dynasty, Harmonious purchase of grains (hedi), Dunhuang, Department of Public Revenue, Board of Finance, commerce