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


Head-Count and Sign-up: A Study on Court Attendance Routine of Ming Central Bureaucrats

Chung-lin Ch’iu

Department of History, Tamkang University

This article is a close examination of work behavior of Ming central bureaucrats. By looking at their changing attitudes toward morning court attendance and their bureaucratic duties, this study enables us to better understand their work behavior and job devotion.

  The article is composed of six sections. The first section deals with the sign-up system and to “sick calls” of officials. The second and third sections describe the prevention of absence and punishment of absentees. Section four relates relaxing court attendance to the general degeneration of social mores. Section five studies the increasingly undisciplined court attendance of the Emperor himself that was reflected in the similarly carefree attitudes of the bureaucrats. Finally, the paper deals with the growing boisterous behavior of officials during court attendance. They felt free to make jokes, gossip, and poke fun at others during such occasions. One can observe that, after the mid-15th century, central bureaucrats tended to lose job discipline. This worsened during the 16th and the 17th centuries and was apparently reinforced by similar behavior of the Ming Emperors. Such a development marked the long cold war between the two parties.


Key Words: Ming, court attendance, officials, emperor, bureaucracy, bureaucratic culture